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2011 Election, Federal Politics

Andrew Coyne’s support for the Liberals: help bring “government to democratic heel”

Image Courtesy of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy

My previous comments about abuse of power and using media outlets to state voting intentions notwithstanding, I wanted to bring attention to Andrew Coyne’s article ‘A price must be paid – but by whom?’ in Maclean’s that came out today.

Coyne does a fantastic job exploring the debate between the two pillars of the campaign as he and I see them: the stable running of the economy vs. the overwhelming decay of our Parliamentary democracy. Or as he puts it:

For me there are two issues of overwhelming importance in this election. The first is the economy, not only in its own right but for what it means for our ability to finance the social programs we have created for ourselves. The second is the alarming state of our democracy: the decaying of Parliament’s ability to hold governments to account, and the decline, not unrelated, in Parliament’s own accountability to the people.

And even though I have reservations about looking at this in so binary a fashion – knowing as I do how inter-connected the economy is with how our democracy is run – it is a difficult mindset to move away from, given how stark the political choice is between the Conservatives and Liberals on the latter issue, and how minimal it is on the former.

But this is the meat and potatoes of elections: informing yourself, weighing your options, and trying to determine which issues are most important to you, and which party and which leader speak best to your passions. It never had to be an either/or situation, but given the nature of the way Stephen Harper so prioritizes the economy over democracy, I for one feel like the Conservatives have made this more black and white than either issues deserves to be.

Given lemons, I am making lemonade.

And so is Coyne. The “choice for me is between the Conservatives and the Liberals. And as I have wrestled with it, the ballot question that has occurred to me is this: would the Liberals do more harm to the economy than the Conservatives would do to democracy?” he asks. “Or perhaps: would the Liberals harm the economy more than the Conservatives would? Would re-electing the Conservatives do greater harm to our democracy than electing the Liberals? And: which concern should weigh more heavily in the balance?”

These are difficult questions to consider, and he gave me something to think about.

And I will leave you with something to think about, courtesy of Mr. Coyne. Please do read his article: it’s wordy, just like me, but well worth it….just like me.

We can afford a period of Liberal silliness. What we cannot afford is the continuing slide of Parliament, and parliamentary democracy, into disrepair. Conventions once discarded, habits of self-government once lost, are much harder to regain. If we return the Conservatives with a majority, if we let all that has gone on these past five years pass, then not only the Tories, but every party will draw the appropriate conclusions. But if we send them a different message, then maybe the work of bringing government to democratic heel, begun in the tumult of the last Parliament, can continue.

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


2 thoughts on “Andrew Coyne’s support for the Liberals: help bring “government to democratic heel”

  1. I liked the short snippet from the Coyne article. The idea that if we give the Conservatives a pass for their past behavior, then they and other parties will see what works and what they can get away with. Makes me want to go out a buy the original article (prit near, anyway). On a different subject, if Coyne can get paid for his thoughts, how far off are you to being rewarded for your thoughts? Just thinkin.

    Posted by JReeves | May 9, 2011, 4:23 pm
    • You’re right. This feels like one of those situations where once something is put on the table, it is hard to take it away. Income tax was first introduced in the First World War to help finance the war effort, and was subsequently kept around: Jean Chretien campaigned in 1993 on repealing the FTA and then broadened it into NAFTA in 1994. So I do worry that once parties see the things they can get away with that voters become acclimatized to, the process of taking a step backwards on contentious or destructive issues is all the harder to accomplish. And while I appreciate the encouragement, I am a LONG way off from being paid for this!

      Posted by awreeves | May 9, 2011, 4:30 pm

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