Voters just can't get no satisfaction – from any level of government

Toula Foscolos
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The public deserves better from its elected officials

A recent study conducted by Samara, a non-profit organization aimed at improving political participation in this country, revealed that Canadians’ satisfaction with democracy has plummeted to new lows. Only 55 percent of us are satisfied with democracy; down a whopping 20 points from 2004.

Toula Foscolos

Many associate the staggering dip in confidence with the Conservative government and some of the rather – shall we say, undemocratic actions - it’s been accused of undertaking. Incidents, like the Robo-calls affair, (seen by many as attempted voter suppression), the G8 and F-35 fighter-jet spending extravaganzas, and attempts to muzzle the media certainly do nothing to assuage people’s concerns.

Here in Quebec, trust is at an all-time low as well, as we watch the new PQ government, voted in to enact change and clean house, do very little in that department. On the contrary, it has, so far, focused on predominantly symbolic gestures (attempting to remove the Canadian flag from the National Assembly, eliminating the student tuition fee increases, etc.), that will do nothing to right the real wrongs of previous governments or offer any concrete reform.  In what was probably the biggest about-face to date, it reneged on promises to maintain funding to universities, by just delivering a whopping $140M cut. But, hey… we’ve got a summit on higher education coming up, so we can all gather around and air our grievances then.

Add to that, the recent double appointments of André Boisclair as Quebec’s delegate-general in New York, with a salary starting at $170,000, and people are irked. This double appointment, - a first, by the way - has been called 'indecent' by La Presse’s Francois Cardinal and irked already-angry columnist Don Macpherson enough to refer to the appointment as part of 'The Pauline Marois Loyalty Plan.' (Boislair has since renounced his permanent employee status).

It didn’t help matters much when the PQ’s Jean-Francois Lisée, in an intellectually dishonest spin, attempted to justify the double appointment, by stating the government wanted to provide Boisclair with security because it was asking him for a personal sacrifice. A what? A highly prestigious, highly-paid position in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world constitutes a personal sacrifice? Where do I sign up?

A personal sacrifice is what the average Joe is being asked to make, as he looks at his ever-increasing municipal tax bill. As he watches former Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay feign ignorance or incompetence or a delightful combination of both and still walk away with $216,000 in severance pay. A personal sacrifice is what we’re asked to make as we drive around avoiding potholes and falling infrastructure while listening to the Charbonneau Commission reveal on a daily basis how many back-door dealings have taken place, how much of our hard-earned money has been squandered and/or handed over to crooks.

How many mayors have been forced to resign? How many scandals have broken out? How many questions remain unanswered and how many doubts have been raised? Is there anyone without their hand in the cookie jar?

How many mayors have been forced to resign? How many scandals have broken out? How many questions remain unanswered and how many doubts have been raised? Is there anyone without their hand in the cookie jar? How can anyone be expected to trust anyone in a position of authority anymore? Is it really that surprising that our confidence in politics and the status quo has been shaken? That this culture of suspicion reigns?

And irrelevant of how you feel about the Quebec student strike, there’s something jarring about watching Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois have to defend himself in front of a court of law to appeal a community- service sentence when so many real criminals committing real crimes have never and will never get to see the inside of a prison.

This malaise has expanded into pretty much everything (low voter turnout is a direct result) as we realize that no politician or political party really holds the key, and that the best we can hope for is a system that more accurately represents the wishes of the electorate. 

It’s high time we take a closer look at electoral and parliamentary reforms (and yes, that should include Senate reforms) so that we don’t continue to have a party with under 40 percent of the vote representing us. When the Harper government was voted in, part of its platform contained promises to review the system. Proportional voting was also on the PQ’s platform.

Of course, the Conservatives have done nothing about this, and I highly doubt the PQ government will touch the issue, either. After all, why would either change a system that got them elected in the first place?





Organizations: PQ, National Assembly, La Presse Charbonneau Commission Conservatives

Geographic location: Quebec, New York, Montreal

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