Thursday, March 26, 2015

Samara on democracy: doubling down on the political parties

Samara, the charitable organisation concerned with Canadian democracy and citizen participation, has released Democracy 360, based on a large survey of attitudes to government and democracy.  They assess democracy by "communication, participation, and political leadership -- talking, acting, and leading" ("accountability" still not a criterion). They give Canadian democracy a letter grade: C.

Their surveys find, among other things, that only 40% of survey respondents trust MPs "to do what is right" and only 42% place "some trust" in political parties. 62% feel candidates and parties only want their votes, not their involvement.

Samara recommends that "party leaders and MPs should work together toward more balanced relationships... that enable MPs to better fulfil their jobs as representatives," which is a good deal less assertive than even the watered-down Reform Act that MPs recently passed. Mostly Samara still thinks it's up to us citizens to fix things -- by doing even more for these parties that we do not trust and that do not want our involvement. Alison Loat, a Samara principal, recommends that citizens "find a campaign and become a volunteer."

But isn't this just encouraging the parties to continue subverting the goals Samara seeks? People are right to believe the parties don't want their involvement. They may want us to give money or to pound signs in a campaign, but who believes that serving a party campaign will give anyone a role in "making change" or "making their voices heard"?

Wouldn't we all be better to starve the beast, to withhold our money and our participation from these parties, until MPs begin to see some value in working around them, making their own links with citizens and rejecting the bosses the parties have foisted on them?

Read Samara's report for some grim statistics. But instead of promoting service to party, we'd be better off concluding that the parties as currently operating mostly corrupt Canadian democracy, and it is not ethical for either MPs or citizens -- or charitable organizations -- to encourage them.
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