Pro-Democracy protests anywhere in the world? Sure, we will support the protesters against tyrannical governments who deny their citizens the right to free and fair elections. Canadians are taking it to the streets in Toronto and other cities, and some are on the ground in Hong Kong. There are not many people who will openly oppose a pro-Democracy movement. We feel good to be standing up for the people of any nation who are fighting for Democracy. After all, we live in a Democratic society and it's so good that we wish every country in the world had such an advanced democratic political system. It may be a bit condescending but it is justified; most countries have a lot to learn from us. Or do they?
Let's look at what pro-Democracy groups say about our own political system. How free and fair are our elections at municipal, provincial and federal levels?
The protests in Hong Kong are fuelled by the request of local voters to be able to elect their own leader. Beijing currently has the power to hand-pick Candidates. That doesn't sound very democratic indeed. But this sounds very similar to what we have here in Canada! The "Fair Elections Act" Bill C-23 failed to resolve an old glitch of our electoral system that gives the Party Leaders absolute discretion when it comes to selecting Candidates in an Electoral District.
There are many other provisions that are being considered at least questionable by pro-Democracy groups. Numerous reports such as Duff Conachers's have flagged them in the press, through Elections Canada and also shared with the Senate Committee for Legal and Constitutional Affairs during the consultations that took place in April this year in regards to the Fair Elections Act. I had the privilege to be called as Witness and I also had the opportunity to point out some of the problems in person. But given the Conservative majority, the Harper government had no interest to listen to any critics.
Talking about the Conservative majority; our 'first-past-the-post' elections system is another major flaw of our democratic system. The Conservative party has a majority in the House of Commons having won just under 25 per cent of the voters' support cast in 2011 General elections (38% of the votes actually cast).
Moving on to Provincial and Municipal governments, we find the same major flaws: the 'first-past-the-post' system, the political financing rules that give an unfair advantage to the bigger parties but also there are a few shocking provisions that most Canadians are not aware of. Did you know that Toronto Mayoral Candidates can spend more than 1 million dollars in the elections campaign and that there's no limit in regards to how much each candidate can contribute with their own money? This means that a Candidate can spend 1 million dollars and likely 'buy' the mayoral seat! That doesn't sound very democratic either. As a Mayoral Candidate who made an effort to put together a great Platform and present excellent credentials, I feel in a huge disadvantage in the race against Candidates with deep pockets such as multi-millionaires Doug Ford and John Tory. Another Candidate David Soknacki has spent $300,000 of his own money and he only managed to get up to 6 per cent in the polls.
The Ontario Provincial government is working on their promise to allow municipalities to use Ranked Ballots in the 2018 elections 'as an option' which would be a timid step in the right direction. However, Toronto Mayoral lead Candidate John Tory is opposed to the idea and yet, that doesn't seem to have an impact on his polling numbers.
Back to the Hong Kong protests; it is commendable that Canadians are showing support for the pro-Democracy protests elsewhere, but where is their support for our own pro-Democracy groups here in Canada? And why do we keep voting for Candidates who are openly opposed to reforming our electoral system to make it more democratic.
Hong Kong protesters are asking for something we don't even have here in Canada, which is the right to elect our electoral district representatives without intervention from Ottawa. As an example, Justin Trudeau has used his power recently to block a nomination. Let's fix our Democracy first and then our support for pro-Democracy protests elsewhere will mean a lot more.
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