0908 - Because of the nature of news today—the ten-second
clip, the short un-contextualized so called in-depth story and the perverted view that everyone’s opinion is suddenly fact, means people generally are being poorly served by what is happening to our structures of democracy. People get shallow analysis
when comprehensive explanation is needed. And our political leaders or other society leaders have seldom helped.
The evolution (all the way back to Athens and Rome, and the ideas of Montesquieu in the early enlightenment) of our democracy of a parliament,
an executive and a judiciary seems to many today to be a well balanced machine. They fail to see the ominous signs of change within the system . That is the gradual erosion of parliamentary authority, the people’s house; this authority moving to the
Executive and the Judiciary .
In Canada, we have seen the growth of the Prime Minister Office where prime ministerial assistants and bureaucrats wield as much power as ministers. Back as far as 1999 Donald J Savoie wrote a book titled "The Rise
of Court Government In Canada". The following statement is made in describing the book:
"The article challenges long-established conventions about how Canada's federal government works. It argues that Cabinet has joined Parliament as an institution
being bypassed. In the late 1990s, political power is in the hands of the prime minister and a small group of carefully selected courtiers rather than with the prime minister acting in concert with his elected cabinet colleagues."
The change is
very subtle but real and people who have interfaced with various government departments over the years know what I am talking about. Many lobbyists are always ascertaining where the centres of power reside as strong individuals move from one area of government
to another. But one thing is certain, it is now more the First Minister and his minions and less of Cabinet and Parliament. At the same time with this shift we see the role of an MP being diminished as the Executive controls the party apparatus in Parliament.
There is less room for the individual MP to express a contrary view without being ostracized.
As this has been happening the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms opened the door to more judicial activism — more court decisions
where parliament's authority once resided. This was subtle and because law and the judiciary is more complicated it tended to evade the eye of ordinary citizen.
But now with the recent ruling of the Federal Court of Appeal many people are seeing
for the first time how three unelected judges are ruling on what is essentially an area on which elected MPs should be deciding. Who are the judges to decide on the level and kind of consultation and matters of science?
Although the U.S. system
is different with more authority at the Executive level, the increasing use of executive orders is a serious issue. Additionally, in that country the manner in which the judiciary manipulated jurisprudence on Obamacare is still hotly debated. In both cases
the Congress is diminished.
The other area that is pressing down on parliamentary authority is in trade. It is generally thought that trade means the exchange of goods and services . That the matter of a country’s sovereignty was off limits.
But over time new trade agreements are infringing upon national sovereignty. One of the reasons for Brexit is the fact that the country’s sovereignty was being eroded, replaced by multinational bureaucratic panels. Many people, given Britain’s
history , (Magna Carta etc) objected to that. Many other European nations are also concerned about the erosion of their sovereignty within the EU and one of the reasons for the dramatic rise of new political parties. Witness Greece, Italy, Germany, Austria,
and now this week even in the failed paradise of Sweden.
President Trump is severely criticized for removing his country from the Trans Pacific Partnership. But one of the reasons for this is the fact that there were areas where American sovereignty
was at risk. And the people were not informed.
Perhaps the most glaring example of Parliamentary authority being not only ignored but the system being seriously undermined, was when the American Government signed the Iran deal without reference
to the Congress. It was a treaty and everyone knew it and as such needed Congressional approval. None was sought. And this was a treaty with an anti western, global sponsor of terror. For anyone willing to "see" the results are obvious.
at stake is the erosion of parliamentary democracy as it has been defined and practised; and, in trade, the very existence of the nation state. We only need to watch the Olympics or the World Cup to realize the importance that nationality still commands.
In both the rise of the executive and the judiciary with the concomitant reduction of parliamentary power, it has occurred largely by stealth. It was never explained to the people that in trade we may loose some of our independence — it was just
the positives that were emphasized.
In Canada the gradual rise of the judiciary was applauded since one was only told about the positives. No one thought by enshrining rights and freedoms there was also the opportunity for rights of the parliament
to be diminished. And when some lawyer or concerned person mentioned it, the matter was summarily dismissed as being against the law itself. Even a recent article by national columnist Andrew Coyne continues to obfuscate on this important issue –praising
the law rather than dealing with who makes it and how it should be applied in public policy matters.
On the world stage there is this uncriticized global chorus for multi-national entities without the citizenry being fully informed of what the tradeoff
is likely to be, especially on trade. That tradeoff is often sovereignty.
What evidence do we have when such multi-national organizations arise?
One example is the EU. Does anyone really want to see this replicated? Starting out as an
economic enterprise it has grown into a behemoth of political concentration and regulation dominated by the the big boys who have, for example, imposed an immigration policy which has seen the rise of forces who no longer view the separation of church and
state as a pre-requisite for stable and enlightened governance. Witness Germany, Belgium, France , Britain, or Sweden — the increase in rapes, bombing and knife attacks, and no-go zones. Of course, in political correct areas like Sweden such areas are
euphemistically called "vulnerable areas" of which there are now 61 in that country. A new system of laws at the local level are being passed which are the antithesis of western values and undermine fundamental freedoms.
How ironic that the terrorists
behind the famous Paris bombings lived in the EU headquarters of Brussels? How can a country be considered democratic if there exist no-go zones? That’s tyranny not democracy. Why is that according to Freedom House, democracy and freedom are on the decline;
this at a time when there are more trade agreements and more of the UN, alleged by their proponents that they make the world a better place?
And then there is the UN, the other example of a multi-national institution. Who would want more of this?
Where anti-semitism is promoted in their human rights council and continues unabated, where through its Palestinian Agency money is provided that actually goes to public schools that promote anti-Israeli concepts. Where corruption on a large scale was exposed
in its oil for food program. I have personal experience with its program of international aid where entrenched European interests could play the game of having Canadian interests prevented from even being considered.
The evidence is substantial
that freedom is on the decline. Note Freedom House's conclusion in their 2017 report :
"Seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains. This marked the 12th consecutive year
of decline in global freedom."
And we all know that global freedom is directly linked to legitimate parliamentary democracy. Once power moves from Parliament to other forms of governance, erosion of freedom is likely to follow.
there's still a need for the three forms of governance in a democracy: the Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary. But the Parliament, the representatives of the people, must be the ultimate authority. Not only in theory but in functional application.
What is needed now is robust public debate in Western democracies about the re-balancing of powers of governance to ensure that Parliament and the people are still the final arbiters of public policy. Simultaneously, international debate should be
engaged on the role and nature of the nation state versus the role and nature of multi-national organizations and agreements and how they should co-exist.
Cannot nation states exist and trade agreements abound? Athens prospered as an independent
state and had extensive trade. The Hanseatic League prospered amid numerous states and principalities from Bergen to Genoa during he Middle Ages!
Cannot the the arms of governance exist and function well, but with the Parliament still supreme?
Internationalists have been successful in spinning a vague concept of Globalization and all its positives, thereby implying of the lesser importance of nation states in the modern world.
It is unclear to me whether greater political integration
is really a worthy goal. Homogenization and the fusing of peoples of different histories and cultures seems to me to lead to sameness, stifling the imagination, mitigating the creativity necessary for a Homer, a Dante, Raphael, a Mozart, a Shakespeare or a
Louis Armstrong to flourish and be an integral component of society.
Rather the pursuit of more modest goals of economic co-operation among nations, the important ongoing role of the individual, of property rights, more accountable international
humanitarian efforts without the bureaucracy, and a real functioning "parliamentary" democracy in definable nation states, is more my idea of the future.
Brian Peckford is the former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, now living in Nanaimo,