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Direct Democracy in Quebec
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Author:  michou [ Mon Jan 17, 2005 3:50 am ]
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DD was mentionned in Québec's latest Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reforms. The door was opened a crack but very little. Education of the electorate was the priority, implication of the citizenry came second and DD will eventually fall into place. <br /> It's a natural progression for democracy.

Author:  Marcarc [ Mon Jan 17, 2005 7:27 am ]
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I think that's a bit presumptious to assume that direct democracy is a natural progression. In the history on nations there are few 'natural' progressions, however, there are changes. Afghanistan was a functioning democracy in the sixties, as was Spain before Franco. Canada has seen few democratic changes, the system is much the same as it was over a hundred years ago and in many ways it can be seen to be becoming more oligarchic. The CCF made many issues front and center, however, most of those social progresses have now been severely curtailed and no real dent was made in the structure of governance, and this was during several periods of considerable social change.<br /> <br /> I saw next to nothing in those constitutional links that would indicate that it would be any better in Quebec. The word 'referendum' shows up only very sporadically, with no mention of the many issues which are involved in such an endevour to make it fair. The bulk of the document seems in fact more concerned with enshrining 'the system' of governance at the expense of the people in it. While there are mentions of specific rights all of them are subservient to 'the law of Quebec'. These would be appointed positions-the judiciary (unlike the states), the Prime Minister, and the only other real check in on the National Assembly which is made up of representatives. Only the government can initiate referenda, and it is enshrined that it will phrase the question (interesting that that is a similar tact the government of Canada used in the Clarity Act to rob Quebec of that privilege). So, if , say, the Gaspe wanted significant changes or even separation to join Atlantic Canada, they would be at the mercy of a nationalist Quebec with more powers than a federal Canada (although that I suppose can be debated since it wasn't covered much). <br /> <br /> The concern many have is one the 'Quebec constitution' does not allay and actually reinforces-that while Canada was built on giving considerable powers to the 'regions', Quebec's nationalism has no such 'problem'. This means a stronger federal government in Quebec, something which the authors are probably correct in their not wanting this to become a hot issue til after a successful referendum. Federalism is coming under attack from all sides in Canada, so it's probably not a good idea to state that a new Quebec will be an even more oligarchic system but much the same as Canada's.<br /> <br /> Of course there are things of interest in there that make it better than Canada's. Municipalities don't even have representation federally because they aren't even recognized in the charter. Quebec goes further than that, yet falls far short of alleviating any 'regionalist' within Quebec.<br /> <br /> Although it doesn't really concern me, I think those for the 'yes' side really should have a look at Switzerland's constitution. Because it is a loose federation of cantons, in Quebec one would think it a perfect fit (just as in Canada). By granting more powers to regions one would allay the concerns of the english minorities (who generally live in one region) and may even satisfy the wishes of Native Quebecers who would have pretty much native self government. By going in the opposite direction they only lead credence to the argument that the Quebec political elite will be the beneficiaries and the bulk of the risk will fall on average Quebecers who may or may not get a better country.<br /> <br /> Finally, I recognize that these were written by specific people, not parties or organizations so shouldn't be considered the standard.

Author:  gaulois [ Mon Jan 17, 2005 7:31 am ]
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marcarc: was DD not a natural progression in our Switzerland best reference case?

Author:  Marcarc [ Mon Jan 17, 2005 8:57 am ]
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Not at all, if Direct Democracy were a 'natural progression' then most countries would have it. When Switzerland instituted DD it was after a civil war. The Swiss, like Canada, are essentially a multicultural society with three prominent linguistic groups rather than two. However, the choice was exactly that-a choice. Peoples, like individuals make such choices all the time, and a democratic form of governance isn't necessarily the outcome. If it were, then it's beginnings in ancient Greece would have continued from there. It did not, and in fact there were periods within it's history when oligarchies essentially 'took over' the democracy. An interesting study is Sparta, which many researchers believe to have been even more democratic than Athens. In fact, Athens would not have survived as a democracy had not Sparta intervened.<br /> <br /> There may be something though to what you say. When people are making these decisions for themselves and 'progressing' it may be natural to assume that they will opt for a future they can control rather than be controlled. I've been studying Canadian history pretty intensely lately, partly because it was never covered in public education. One thing that I have noticed is that whenever there has been considerable desire and action for political change in Canada there has been a 'crisis'-like two world wars (which also explains the nations hurry to get involved in them). In fact, one interesting idea is that since the advent of Quebec nationalism in the late sixties almost all media and elitist attention has been focused on that. Through propaganda it has reinforced the idea of Canada to other parts of the country, even within Quebec.<br /> <br /> Plato predicted that democracy always leads to tyranny, however, the only evidence he had of that was Athens itself, and perhaps a few other greek states. However, to be more pertinent, it really is no trouble to enshrine democratic principles in a constitution-to most people that is the only benefit of having such a document. The government is the entity with all the power and essentially functions as such. Laws it doesn't like it simply avoids, since it controls the judiciary, if not directly, then financially. Meaning that you simply deny the defendant the ability to defend themselves by various bureaucratic mechanisms.

Author:  Marcarc [ Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:04 am ]
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Sorry, that last paragraph was not clear. My point is that the government does not need a constitution to enshrine it's power-it already possesses it. To my mind a constitution should enshrine the mechanisms by which people put a check on that authority. Saying things like 'we'll have a president, and a prime minister, and a judiciary, and a national assembly' isn't really 'a constitution', however, the powers and checks on those powers is. This is the point that I've been making that I have seen relatively little thought given in Canada or Quebec. You could argue that the charter of rights does that, but if you look at the history of the charter since 82 and the judicial interpretation of it, you will note that the legislative activity which needed to accompany it was noticeably absent (leading it to be interpreted by the courts).

Author:  gaulois [ Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:28 am ]
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marcarc: thanks for these excellent posts (once again); if DD is in fact not a natural evolution of Democracy, then would it be possible that Canada, First Nations and Quebec substantially increased sovereingties would be best achieved via DD?<br /> <br /> I am still struggling myself with how will DD deal with the basic fact of People apathy; the tyranny of the majority is really IMHO apathy rather than hatred amongst different groups. The majority of People are too lazy to do simple things like staying fit, eating properly, learning a 2nd language, engaging into community activities, etc... I still have doubts that they will be sufficiently motivated to further engage into Democracy. Will People in Quebec be less apathetic than elsewhere? I do have doubts but would wish to be proven wrong. If a group ever do it in Canada, I would bet that they would be the one.

Author:  michou [ Mon Jan 17, 2005 11:10 am ]
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I'm going to play the parrot here and repeat gaulois's assessment. Thanks for the information Marcarc.<br /> <br /> You are right to say it was presumptious of me to say DD is a natural progression. My wishful thinking got the best of me. I should have written that it SHOULD be a natural progression.<br /> <br /> I also share your concerns gaulois in regards to citizen apathy. Québécers are true North Americans and as such, they have the same fascination with the mighty $$$ and it blinds them to other community priorities.<br /> <br /> The arrival of Option Citoyenne and its merger with the Union des Forces Progressistes is a plus for Québec. That's my personal opinion (for those who think I speak on behalf of Québec, I'm not. I'm just michou). This is a political party which I believe will speak for the citizens of this nation-province and who will not be held accountable to corporations and those who run them.<br /> <br /> [QUOTE by = gaulois] If a group ever do it in Canada, I would bet that they would be the one.[/QUOTE]<br /> I so hope you're right gaulois. Don't they say that necessity is the mother of invention...or something like that ? <br /> As mentionned in the article I posted, the people must be involved, and at all levels, in the creation of a new constitution and a new system of governance. How often do we get a chance like that, to rethink and implement a new democracy and a new nation ? The domino effect of a winning referendum on the ROC is not negligeable either. If it ever happens, be opportunists and use it to change and improve its old antiquated system. <br />

Author:  Marcarc [ Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:56 pm ]
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One of the reasons why I have actually supported quebec separation is that I do somewhat share the optimism of Michou. I think that in the creation of a new country you would animate the 'apathy' of the populace in a big way. However, I once again have to disagree with the notion that the public is apathetic. The apathy I have noticed only extends to the political sphere, where people already know they have no power. However, at many other levels people are very involved-in the education of their kids, in healthcare, in industry (keep in mind we are a very overworked society). Also, keep in mind that the PURPOSE of a media dominated by corporations (and government I might add) is to isolate people, to make you think that only you think that way and everybody else is stupid, lazy or apathetic-or somehow not worth the bother of getting involved and organizing.<br /> <br /> However, after a lot of study of the canadian political scene I think native reservations will be the first place you'll find direct democracy. In fact, some places you will see it's seeds. This is why I recommend people pay attention to native issues and check out their websites, join their boycotts and really find out what's going on. The people our governments have been oppressing for ages are the only ones (at a governmental level) who are looking out for our environment and what are considered canadian 'ideals'. <br /> <br />

Author:  gaulois [ Mon Jan 17, 2005 11:22 pm ]
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Marcarc: I am as keen as you are too see progress with DD but I see an apathetic majority that cannot look after themselves (rf. fitness, nutrition, basic commmunity activities, etc..) and cannot see how they can look after their state. I note that Swiss are fit, eat properly, engage in community activities, etc... Perhaps DD is a natural progression once people start to be able to look after themselves, then they can look after their democracy. In fact I would suggest that our public officials and our bureaucracies perfectly reflect the population and not the other way around). Sorry to be on the dark side tonight. But perhaps some light can come out of this?

Author:  Marcarc [ Tue Jan 18, 2005 6:30 am ]
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As far as fitness goes you have to realize in just how many ways government (and business) regulate what we do. We are hardly masters of our own destiny. Unless you go agrarian and move out to a farm, grow and eat your own produce, use your own water, etc., you're entire well being is beyond your control.<br /> In New Brunswick we have an activist (only one) who has been protesting and advocating study of ritalin in schoolchildren. It's pretty much epidemic. Our lethargic lifestyle begins as children where a horrible school system keeps children chained to desks, with vending machines, sugar and junk food in all the food they supply them. There is hardly any physical activity. Then look at our 'educated' workforce-educated simply means you don't use your body for work, you use your mind, and sit at a desk. Those who do work with their bodies are restricted from working in winter (not always). Then look at your local municipality, the big thing nowadays is using toxic human sludge (now called 'biosolids') which are usually mixed with industrial wastes, and applied to farmland. We are literally eating ourselves to death. People don't realize that these are all decisions made by the government and completely within our control. Our previous ontario government had implemented a 60 hour work week! In France it is 25 hours less per week with a guaranteed one month holiday. We are a business run society, we exist to serve employers, NOT vice versa (this is about the only thing that becomes obvious in studying canadian history). <br /> <br /> So that 'apathy' is nothing of the sort. People are wage slaves and have zero political power and know it-even though if you are attuned to media you are constantly reminded of how horrible the world is and how lucky you are to live in a place like canada. But also keep in mind that physical well being has nothing to do with political awareness. The irish in the 1800's were dirt poor subsistent level farmers yet were far more politically active than the population of England. Just because your out of shape physically does not mean you are unable to make political decisions.

Author:  gaulois [ Tue Jan 18, 2005 9:33 am ]
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Apathy runs low on an empty stomach. It does not seem to mind a hollow mind though. <img align=absmiddle src='images/smilies/frown.gif' alt='Frown'>

Author:  Guest [ Wed Jan 19, 2005 11:43 am ]
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DD ready to take an organized run at the B.C, provincial election?<br /> Dennis Baker

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