Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Democracy's Great Flaw 

With the possible exception of the Nordic countries, democracies around the world are crippled by a debilitating flaw. Public governance is financed by private donors. In most instances, the lion's share of money to elect people to public office comes from large private corporations, wealthy individuals or families and, to some extent, from large labour unions. The end result of all this is that our governments are controlled by the few, those who are very wealthy, and, therefore, powerful. Elected people are beholden to those with enough money to finance election campaigns. He who pays the piper calls the tune. In Canada, this phenomenon applies to all levels of government.

But, in democracies, government is supposed to be of, for, and by all the people. Mr. Chretien has made a breakthrough with his recent federal electoral reform act. However, it has many flaws, i.e., it still concentrates wealth in the party with the largest majority, giving that party an advantage at the ensuing election. At the provincial level, here in Alberta, the PC's have a huge war chest for the next election. Opposition parties have serious debts, or are greatly underfunded. And, our first-past-the-post electoral system tends to grossly disort the number of seats gained relative to the number of votes cast for the party that wins an election. In the last election, with less than a sixty percent voter turnout, the winning party had about twice the vote of the opposition parties, but gained a nearly ten to one advantage in seats. (Graham Thompson, The Edmonton Journal, 2003/12/27.) Furthermore, the public is becoming more and more disillusioned by our governmental systems as voter participation rates continue to drop. In Alberta, we really need electoral reform of the way our political parties are financed so, for example, public governance is publicly financed, and in how our our electoral system works so that each vote has meaning.

In British Columbia, an astounding thing has happened in regard to these kinds of issues. They have established a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. It is made up of citizens selected at random (two from each of its seventy-nine ridings) to study these issues, to get public input on them, and to make recommendations. Those recommendations will go to a public, binding, referendum in the spring of 2005. If passed, the new form of governance will come into effect in the spring of 2009. We desperately need such a Citizens' Assembly here in Alberta. Learn more about the B.C. initiative, then talk to your friends, your MLA and to Mr. Klein. To learn more about the Citizens' Assembly click here.

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