Tag Archives: Broken democracy

The party system is undemocratic – here’s why

(This is the latest in an ongoing series on the question of whether voting is worthwhile. If you’re interested, here’s parts one, two, and three.)

Political parties are such a firmly entrenched part of our political system that it’s almost absurd to suggest, but I’ll suggest it – what the hell good do they do anyway?

Here’s the situation as it stands. Every four years or so, in your city or town or rural area, three or four wannabe politicians, having gained the approval of their party’s local riding association and (most importantly) of their party leader, swear absolute fealty to an incredibly detailed party platform and contend for your vote. If elected, they hew to that party line absolutely, speak when they’re told to (which is rarely), vote how they’re told to, espouse the views their leader tells them to hold, and occasionally come back to your city/town/rural area and get their picture in the paper saying that they’re standing up for your interests in Ottawa.

And that’s true regardless of the party they represent.

The majority of MPs are irrelevant to the process of governing this country. The government needs its MPs to show up for votes (and vote the way they’re told), but other than that, the majority of the caucus may as well be composed of mannequins:

W.S. Gilbert put the present Canadian political reality succinctly; “I always voted at my party’s call and I never thought of thinking for myself at all”. Canadian members of Parliament are essentially passive observers in the formulation and administration of most national policy. Indeed, Sean Moore, editor of the Ottawa lobbyist magazine, The Lobby Digest, told a committee of MPs in early 1993 that they are rarely lobbied by the almost 3,000 reported lobbyists in the capital because “elected officials play a very minor role in governing”.

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