POLITICAL POWER SHIFT
Our combined strategies can be easily adapted to any Country and ensure that nothing can try to take away National jurisdiction within each of our Countries like the type of Global Governance being instilled by the corruption within the United Nations, the World Trade Organizations, Councils of Foreign Affairs and NATO.
IMPORTANT FYI to Canadians: Here is something very interesting for everyone to know and to consider…Even though the main POWER seems to be in the Federal Government, the true power in Canada still presently lies in the Provinces since the Provinces can dismantle the federal Government if the majority of the Provinces through referendum decide to dismantle it.
Vaughan Lyon’s POWER SHIFT strategy and the i-ACUSE visions together; with some minor tweaking and implementation, can and will change Canada, thus saving our Country and all of our future before we lose it altogether to a forced Globalization.
Tweaking: Removal of “Final Decision making Authority” for all levels of Governance and Representation – Returning Final Decision Making Authority to the Citizens and Indigenous Nations at all levels of Governance on each side of the TWO ROW WAMPUM TREATY since the Haudenosaune GREAT LAW of PEACE also instills a Pure Collaborative Direct Democracy.
Further tweaking and Implementation from other various sources such as: Collaborative Politics and the Universal Collaborative Model. A Simple Model for Global Peace by Nelson Guedes and these other strategies listed below would help in covering all of our bases and ensuring that we do not allow anyone or anything to take away our National jurisdiction within each of our Countries.
By connecting the Dots and being vigilant regarding the various works of many honest people and organizations, we can adjust and build a system that will enhance our power shift potential to customize our very own democratic systems by the people in each of our countries:
- The i-acuse Citizen’s Convention of Consent Declaration Contract Form.
- Political Professor Vaughan Lyon’s: Power shift from political elites to informed citizens Policy Democracy Constituency Parliaments strategy
- Gar Alperovitz and Ted Howard On Democracy Collaborative and Social Capitalism – Community Focused Economic Development
- The many works regarding democracy of French Economics and law Professor Étienne Chouard
- “The Advantages of Collaborative Democracy” and Collaborative Politics and the Universal Collaborative Model by Nelson Guedes
- The principled societies project and their “Local Economic Direct Democracy Association (LEDDA) framework ” initiatives.
- Direct Democracy Facts and Arguments about the Introduction of Initiative and Referendum by Jos Verhulst & Arjen Nijeboer with a contribution by Paul Carline
- Guidebook to Direct Democracy in Switzerland and Beyond.
- and the further works of many others like Michael Glennon Professor of International Law.
Together, we can achieve anything we set our hearts and minds too…we are no longer alone and lost within the quagmire of political bureaucracy, deception and corruption for global governance control and manipulation. We all have each other…it’s all what WE will make of it, a World we can truly be proud of.
What does the Convention of Consent Do?
Through the Citizen’s Convention of Consent Declaration and contract form , we can change our false democracy to a true direct democracy without having to beg the Mp’s and Mpp’s, premiers. ministers or the prime minister for permission…as Our Constitution or lack thereof as Canadians have had that right since 1931 and again since 1982, which does gives us the right to amend our constitution with changing the present faulty Electoral system.
Thus ensuring that the Parliamentary representatives always remain true Civil Servants guided by the People as they should have been since the inception of the Statute of Westminster 1931 which in reality gave us our Decolonization from the British Crown and then as stated by Pierre Elliot Trudeau during the repatriation of the 1982 Constitution that “Canadians can now amend their Constitution“…
So why were we not given these rights?
It is why it is so important to take proper action NOW!
1:About the POWER Shift
2: More about Us
Below, you will get a clear understanding of Vaughan Lyon’s vision and legacy that he has left to his family, to all Canadians and future generations.
To Vaughan Lyon and his family, we are grateful and in gratitude for his hard work and their patience as we all know how extremely hard it is to go against a system that has been entrenched so deeply into Canadians and the Indigenous Nations to the point of almost completely brainwashing them to the notion that we can’t do anything to change it.
That is wrong in so many ways!
As an FYI, we have also added “The Advantages of Collaborative Democracy” by Nelson Guedes below, as its strategies also needs to be incorporated to ensure that we are well protected.
- The total configuration, not bits and pieces, is what should concern Canadians as they seek to improve their system of government. ~Thomas Axworthy
- The quality of public services will require new and better mechanisms for engaging citizens and civil society in governance. A challenge of all governments is to find innovative ways to put citizens at the centre of the governing process, to engage youth in public enterprise, and to give voice to those who find themselves on the margins. ~ The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien
- Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will. ~ Frederick Douglass
We stand on the cusp of an historic democratic development—the adoption of a truly democratic mode of representation and governance. Insist on our long-held desire for constituency representation and we will break our dependence on seriously dysfunctional parties to represent and govern us. We will speak for ourselves and make government ours.
On the Cusp of True Democratic Representation
With policy democracy based on constituency parliaments, we would retain the right to elect our leaders but would also have the opportunity to participate directly in determining the policies those leaders implement between elections. Our government’s agenda would be set in deliberative discussions of citizens with elected members of the House of Commons and MPs with their colleagues in the Commons. Significant input into those discussions would come from the prime minister, his or her cabinet, and members of the bureaucracy. The myth that citizens issue policy mandates to governments with an “X” after the name of a party candidate on a ballot every few years would die with the existence of real popular mandates. For the first time ever, the government would be firmly rooted in the people it was elected to serve.
The adoption of policy democracy based on constituency parliaments would vault Canada into a leadership position among liberal democratic states. We would have added an advanced non-party model of representation and governance to the arsenal of democratic institutions.
Implementation of the collaboratively arrived-at policy agenda would be the responsibility of a team composed of citizens elected to constituency parliaments, parliamentarians, the political executive and the civil service. No longer fearful of damaging their competitive position, leaders could promptly adopt essential public policy endorsed by us and our representatives in the House of Commons – a Commons of citizen representatives that would have replaced the “House of Battling Parties,” each claiming to represent our interests. The coercion and manipulation of citizens needed now to build support for party policies would be unnecessary with our collective authority behind public policy. Access to information about our public affairs would be guaranteed. Civil servants could talk freely about their work with us as members of the governing team. Respect for, and trust in government would increase as we came as close to governing ourselves as is practical today. New opportunities to put government to our service would open up.
Most of the problems we encounter with the present political system would be overcome as the mode of representation was democratized. Our children and grandchildren will be spared dealing with those problems under what will undoubtedly be less propitious circumstances. They will have their own challenges to meet—policy democracy based on constituency parliaments is not the final stage in our quest for full democracy nor will its adoption ward off the tremendous challenges for humanity on the horizon. With a unifying, inclusive political system in place, however, future generations will be better able to meet them.
The political world would be so different with policy democracy in place that it challenges the imagination to think about it. But it is achievable, now.
What stands in the way of our making the change from party to citizen representation? The belief that “parties are inevitable” presents one hurdle. Firmly as that belief is currently held, however, it will gradually dissipate if we turn our attention to asking how a more vital democracy can be achieved and hope and plans for our political future replace the present despair.
A related hurdle is the belief that policy democracy can be achieved through incremental reforms in partyocracy. We have been socialized since birth to the notion that it’s normal in a democracy for citizens to delegate their democratic rights and responsibilities to our (party) professional politicians and their supporters. This pattern of delegation has encouraged most people to sit back, criticize politicians acting in response to the incentives and disincentives built into the party system, and wait for them to adopt incremental reforms. We hope the politicians’ incremental reforms will lead to a more responsive, citizen-inclusive system. Politicians have encouraged these unrealistic hopes by adopting and proposing a series of “reforms” that they have labelled as “democratic.”
The futility of the hope that our empowerment can be achieved in this “easy” way was shown in the several chapters in which we analysed reforms such as democratizing parties, public finance of parties, access to information, and others. We found that party leaders engaged in intense adversarial competition do adopt—and then often subvert—what they label as “reforms” or even “democratic reforms.” The reforms do not touch the party monopoly of our political lives. We remain as powerless as before they were adopted.
It is not the conscious intention of most of our leaders to deny citizens empowerment. But many of them have always equated partyocracy with “democracy.” For them, it follows that strengthening party rule is to extend democracy. Presented with a feasible model that really does empower us, we can hope that they will see the inadequacy of the incremental adjustment approach to change that they have been following. Continuing on this familiar path would be to ignore the truth that it has not staunched the steady rise in citizen alienation and withdrawal of support from government. Instead, the reforms have strengthened the party monopoly on representation and governance—the root cause of our political alienation.
Our challenge is to persuade our leaders that constituency representation is feasible. Most of these leaders are drawn from the pool of Canadians who are already convinced that constituency representation is the appropriate mode for a democracy. A failure to act on that view after they are fully aware of the feasibility of doing so would be a betrayal of their fellow citizens.
We need a citizen-inclusive, efficient, and responsive administration, one that we can trust and support. The failure of partyocracy to meet those conditions leads most citizens to put their primary trust in an amoral market to solve social and economic problems. This is ironic and compounds our difficulties because many of the problems faced by government are created by the functioning of that same market. Neo-conservative groups propose to deal with the political alienation by reducing the size and scope of the government, i.e., leaving even more power to the market, but that is unrealistic. Even under conservative administrations pledged to cut government, its growth, of necessity, continues.
The message is clear: strengthening a political system that evolved in the 19th century to meet the needs of men who fundamentally abhorred democracy is not the route to a truly representative popular democracy. It is hastening the inevitable crisis in relations between citizens and party government. An incipient crisis is already gathering momentum—declining voter turnouts and the progressive loss of confidence in our political leaders are two examples of this. The sensible time to enter into a serious discussion of a change in the mode of representation is before the existing system is overwhelmed by citizen indifference, if not revolt. (As mentioned earlier, political developments in Canada and elsewhere during the economic crisis of the 1930s were not favourable to democracy. In Canada, Quebec turned to Duplessis’s brand of quasi fascism and Alberta to Social Credit. In Europe the beneficiaries of the crisis were fascism and communism.)
A secure, stable democracy demands that citizens have the opportunity to exercise their rights and responsibilities to the fullest possible extent. (Many will, of course, choose not to take advantage of the opportunity. Their children, experiencing a different kind of political socialization, are more likely to, however.) Fortunately for us, conditions are now unprecedentedly favourable to the adoption of a truly democratic reform that would move us from our present system to the mode of representation we have long desired.
Circumstances Favouring Change Now
Conditions that have led us to the cusp of change have never been as demanding or as promising. “Demanding,” because party government has shown that it fails to inspire trust and confidence at a time when governments face increasingly challenging problems. “Promising,” because the conditions supporting fundamental change to constituency representation are already almost as strong as those supporting the status quo. Only the necessary organized and focussed public demand for it is missing. Consider the converging circumstances that support the move to a new level of democracy:
- Widespread support for constituency representation. The belief that representation should be based on constituency rather than party is already firmly established. It has been “lying in wait” for over a century for citizens to insist on having this more democratic form of representation. Discussion of how constituency representation could be implemented has to this point, however, been stifled by the party leaders who dominate the public dialogue and have an interest in preserving the system that has rewarded them with power.
- Escape from the dictatorship of no alternatives. Over the past century, we have been frustrated in realizing our desire for constituency representation by the absence of a realistic model of it around which we could rally. While our thinking has been “boxed in” by the belief that “parties are inevitable,” little thought has been given to alternative forms of representation. That vacuum has now been filled by the policy democracy based on constituency parliaments model. A major barrier to reform has been removed.
- Openness to reform. Prime ministers, leaders of opposition parties, members of parliament, political activists, students of politics, and citizens all recognize that the existing political system is functioning poorly—better than in many other countries, but far below what is needed to give us good government.
This diverse group of Canadians who are dissatisfied with the system are united in a general understanding of what change is required: the ties between citizens and government must be strengthened—dramatically. Former Prime Minister Chrétien’s words bear repeating: “A challenge of all governments is to find innovative ways to put citizens at the centre of the governing process…. ” Chrétien suggests that the challenge is to government, but its incremental reforms have proven to be a dead-end, a chimera. If we are to be at the centre of the governing process, party representatives must be replaced by our representatives. That point, though obvious, has been beyond the range of thinking of most political leaders deeply engaged in party politics. They have neglected the development of the citizen-government relationship for over a century, and now we must insist on bold moves to compensate.
- Many MPs are anxious to represent their constituents. It is particularly significant that many MPs are among those open to reform. In the present system they are required to follow the policy line laid down by their party. They would like to be able to represent the views of their constituents. The policy democracy/constituency parliament model would meet the aspirations of these MPs: they are important potential recruits to the cause of advancing Canadian democracy.
- Responsibility-ready citizens. Partyocracy evolved in the 19th century when most citizens were, for a host of reasons, poorly equipped to play a significant role in shaping public policy. Since that time, however, educational levels have risen rapidly, along with a parallel rise in the standard of living. To a great extent, leaders and led are now drawn from the same middle class. There is no natural governing elite any more. In every constituency there are a significant number of citizens able and anxious to contribute to shaping the policies of the country. Given time, with modern communications we can access most of the information available to our elected representatives. What progressive democracy can afford to brush aside the desire of citizens to be more engaged, on their terms, in the government of their country?
- New possibilities for organizing citizen support for change. Modern communications technology allows formerly isolated and powerless citizens to reach out to others and bypass leaders committed to maintaining the existing distribution of political power. The widespread access to and use of the social media for the exchange of political ideas and information has made the rapid organization of citizens around ideas possible, particularly those ideas they already support in the abstract. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this dynamic new factor in political life.
- The possibility of party-supported change.Throughout the book I emphasize the importance of not depending on a party to initiate fundamental reform. That position is unchanged; a powerful tide of demand for change is necessary if we are to break out of the political stalemate that exists today. We are alienated from “our” government: we are not pressing powerholders to make the feasible changes in the representative system that we want and need. That stalemate must be broken: the forces of change would be strengthened with the help of one or more parties. Party against the party system? While we should not depend on it, that development is possible.
There are circumstances in which a party or parties, with their organizational apparatus, could support a change to constituency representation. It might do this despite the fact that it would be weakening or, more likely, supplanting the l9th-century party system in which it is participating—perhaps reluctantly since it is the only avenue available.
There are realists, in minor parties particularly, who can see that their only way to contribute to government policy now is to pressure other parties, and particularly the governing party, to adopt their policies. A party in this situation, believing that its ideas are broadly in tune with those of the public, has much to gain in supporting a challenge to the party mode of representation. Working from the ground up, i.e., through constituency parliaments, the party’s members, along with other citizens, would have a better chance of having their policies adopted—if they, indeed, proved to be consistent with the policy preferences of the wider community—than they would battling in the existing House of Commons. Renouncing the pursuit of power, a party could achieve its policy objectives through policy democracy.
In breaking the grip of the parties on our politics, the minor party’s members would earn the respect and appreciation of now inarticulate Canadians. Once it showed that it was successfully mobilizing the now-latent public support for constituency representation, the party in office might choose to endorse it, too, rather than suffer the humiliation of going down to defeat fighting against the extension of Canadian democracy.
With this set of propitious circumstances, we stand on the verge of change that goes far beyond incremental adjustment. We have been in this position before. In the l960s, there was wide support for Trudeau’s illdefined “participatory democracy.” The idea was popular, and support for change was mobilized, but the moment passed because no thought had been given by either the prime minister or citizens to how participatory democracy could be responsibly organized. The primary objective of the Liberal Party was to achieve power for its leader by riding on the widespread desire for change. A citizens’ movement for constituency representation, with or without party backing, would have only one objective, i.e., creating the institutional framework that would would allow citizens to become a significant force in shaping public policy.
Conclusion: Our Challenge
The challenge of moving a now (barely) tolerable political system to a better place is formidable. Under normal circumstances, most people will want to devote their energies to objectives, private and public, that seem more attainable. But conditions are not normal. They are unusually favourable to change: change to the vibrant polity needed to meet the exceptionally difficult national and global challenges our country and others face. The investment in real political reform now promises huge social and economic returns for us and future generations.
Canadians did not choose to be represented and governed by parties. Rather, most were born into a country with an entrenched political system and socialized to accept it as “democratic.” That 19th-century system has proven unable to meet the challenges of the very different world of the 21st century. It is past time that citizens had the opportunity to adopt their preferred form of representation, with the new powers and social responsibilities its adoption would entail for them. It is past time, too, that MPs promising and wishing to represent their constituents were given the appropriate means to do so. Moving a well-entrenched political system to a higher, more democratic level is an enormous challenge, even when conditions demand it and circumstances are very favourable. While most Canadians endorse constituency representation at an intellectual level, for many, actually taking the plunge, i.e., becoming active supporters, will involve personal courage.
Opponents of the new model will cry that if constituency representation is implemented, “the sky will fall.”2 Reviewing the rhetoric predicting disaster if working men and, later, women were given the vote, is instructive on whether the result of further empowering citizens would be positive. Note too, that nearly all the “reforms” introduced by party elites purport to open up the system to more participation or, in the case of voting, maintain what little there is. Their proponents know what is needed but find it hard to accept it on their watch. As a result, their reforms stop short of challenging the basis of our political malaise, i.e., the delegation of our political rights and responsibilities to parties and, particularly, to party leaders.
Other opponents will feel that it is un-Canadian for us to initiate a richer form of democracy. They believe, in the best colonial tradition, that Canadians should continue to look to the United States or the United Kingdom for political models. But we need a system that meets our unique values and challenges. Further, along with anger and frustration, there is comfort for some in the familiar, albeit malfunctioning, system to which they will cling. But, surely, our concern for our children and grandchildren who will live in a more difficult world than we have experienced will not allow most of us to do that.
The effort Canadians would have to put forward to achieve policy democracy, to overcome these fears and reservations, would be infinitely worthwhile. Success would tip the balance of power from party politicians and interest groups to an organized citizenry. Resentful citizens would no longer tell pollsters that they feel “powerless.” We would no longer have to wait years, or perhaps a lifetime, for good people, acting on our behalf, to pressure reluctant governments to adopt economically feasible and socially desirable measures opposed by a powerful few. Citizens, as “governors,” could consider and act on social and economic projects that must remain just dreams with our present system, where citizens are set against each other and so many do not trust government.
The other “democracies” of the world, also stalled at “electoral democracy,” their citizens often having to take to the streets to be heard, would benefit from an awareness that there is an alternative to 19th-century partyocracy. A “Quiet Canadian Democratic Revolution” would be the unifying project that would reverse the ongoing political fragmentation of our country. With its success, the pettiness and sterility of the divide-and-exploit politics of the parties would be set aside. Party priorities would be replaced by those we developed in collaboration with our elected representatives and civil servants. In a very real sense, we would be sovereign: the transition from monarchs ruling by divine right to government by the people would be as close to reality as is feasible today. Our investment in a more democratic future for Canada would be rewarded by the knowledge that we have done something truly creative, courageous, and enormously significant with a part of our lives. Most of us aspire to make a difference. We now have that opportunity.
There is no greater power on earth than an idea whose time has come. ~ Victor Hugo
Initially, the constituency parliament (CP) might meet full-time for a period of approximately one month per year. For this regular annual session, the CP would set its own agenda. It could both respond to issues before the Commons that it selected for local consideration and initiate action on others that its members thought should be put before the House of Commons.
A one-month-long session might appear too brief for serious local deliberation. Until recently, however, when most provincial legislators promoted themselves from part- to full-time status, the elected representatives in even our largest province met for only two to three months a year to transact business. The CP as a representing body would not be charged with adopting legislation or becoming engaged in many of the activities of senior parliamentarians. Additional constituency parliament meetings could be scheduled by the local parliament itself, by its MP, or by the government, as required.
- If a wide consultation of informed public opinion on any issue was deemed desirable by the national government, the network of elected constituency parliaments would be there, with a real mandate to represent Canadians. They could provide an informed, responsible view on developments that come up suddenly, such as proposals that Canada participate in peacekeeping missions or that it adopt certain measures to deal with an economic emergency.
A public consultation, based on constituency parliaments, could be seen as a form of referendum. Unlike a conventional referendum, however, it could be quickly arranged; offer more informed, responsible, and nuanced advice; and be less subject to manipulation. The existence of constituency parliaments would minimize the need for expensive polling and other forms of consultation. The financial savings from this alone might meet most or all of the cost of CPs (see below).
The existing gap between us, our elected representatives, and government would be bridged by CPs. “Heavy traffic”— information, proposals, ideas— would travel back and forth over that bridge from all parts of the country and from all segments of the population. Local parliamentarians could establish direct contacts on common concerns with members of similar bodies across provincial, regional, linguistic, and other divides. A system emphasizing those concerns, rather than those of competing parties, would promote social cohesiveness and national unity.
Role of elected representatives
- Demands are frequently made by diverse groups and individuals and by backbench MPs themselves that they be given a more significant role in developing public policy. They would find that role in organizing and playing a major part in the deliberations of the local constituency parliament. In addition to performing the usual constituency duties, the MP would help CP members to become informed. They would share ideas and in-depth information on current issues with their constituency parliament’s members. The MPs would be accountable to these citizens, who would be in a good position to assess their performance in the constituency, and also in Ottawa acting as their spokesperson in the House of Commons. The latter role would assume new importance, since the MP carrying the mandate of his or her constituents would no longer be subject to control by party whips. Political executives could no longer take his or her support for granted.
An MP could chair CP sessions, unless members of the local assembly decided it would be better for the MP to be free to participate more fully in discussions. One of the local parliament’s members could then be elected its speaker.
Integration with senior government. Politics are now centered on the ongoing party competition for our support that climaxes on election day. But in policy democracy, the primary focus of Canadians would be on the ongoing development of public policy at the local and national levels. Policy message(s) would be conveyed to Ottawa between elections from constituency parliaments through their MPs. The ballot would be used almost exclusively to choose between candidates for office. Particular policies would “really” be mandated by citizens as they were considered in constituency parliaments, or in the Commons alone when they did not “make it” to the agenda of constituency parliaments. It is proposed that the CPs would select only a few significant policy issues to consider.
The Alternative to Party Representation and Government
Candidate(s) in general elections in policy democracy would be nominated by the constituency parliaments, run as independents or as party candidates in the unlikely event that parties survived after the new system of representation was adopted. General elections would lose much of their significance in policy democracy. If an MP were working closely and effectively with the local constituency parliament, what reason would voters have to remove him or her from office?
If individual cabinet ministers, or the executive as a whole, were efficiently implementing the program developed collaboratively with CP members and the Commons, why would either be replaced? If it were necessary to “refresh” the executive with new or superior talent, its members individually or collectively could be replaced at any time by MPs to whom they would be responsible, in more than just theory. There would be no need to wait for, or use, an election to change political leadership and, at the same time, possibly impose an inexperienced governing team on the country with all the uncertainty that causes.
With the new constituency parliament model, many citizens would miss the melodramatic aspects of competitive party politics with its heightened theatrics during election campaigns. The struggle of party leaders for power is exciting and interesting. It does reward the advertising industry with higher profits. But I think most citizens would gladly trade all the sound and fury involved in elections, and competitive party politics generally, for a representative system that gave them a significant role in directing the actions of what would be their government.
The cabinet’s role would also be different in a system where the House of Commons, truly representing the citizenry, was a major power centre. The workload of cabinet members would still be extremely heavy. It would be unreasonable to expect them to add to their other responsibilities by acting as chairpersons of, or even just participants in, their constituency parliaments. If we decided to continue the present practice of having some constituency MPs serve as cabinet ministers, there are at least three ways to avoid burdening them with CP responsibilities.
Each candidate for the office of MP could run with an alternate,
- a practice now followed in several countries. In the event that an MP’s term was interrupted by death, resignation, or appointment to the cabinet, the alternate would assume his or her responsibilities. In the latter case, the minister would continue to sit in the House and participate in the debates as a member of the executive but would not have a vote.
An even better Canadian solution, one which would enhance
- the status of constituency parliaments, would be for the local assembly to elect one of its members to replace an MP serving in the cabinet.
We could follow the American model some distance and • have cabinet members chosen from the community by MPs consulting with their CPs. The PM might be chosen first and be given a voice in the composition of the executive team he was to lead.
Meetings of the constituency parliaments would need to be coordinated with sessions of the House of Commons. To accomplish this, it would be desirable, although not immediately essential, to alter some House of Commons procedures. Most of those that would be affected are already recognized by parliamentarians as in need of change.
The cabinet could, for example, be required to introduce its legislative and spending proposals in the early weeks of a parliamentary session. The only exception would be emergency bills, the nature of which would be carefully spelled out. Then legislation would be submitted to thorough committee scrutiny in the House of Commons. After the scrutiny, parliament would adjourn, and with all the information collected by the Commons committees available to them, the CP members, along with their MP, would meet to consider the legislation of interest to them and the matters for which they feel action should be proposed. Following these deliberations, the MP would return to the Commons, participate in further discussions with colleagues, and cast final deciding votes. With this procedure in place, the constituency parliament would be an integral part of the legislative process and could have a major impact on policy.
Power and the constituency parliament. The election of constituency parliaments would give their members a unique degree of legitimacy among bodies seeking to influence public policy. But the void that now exists between us and our elected representatives would not be filled satisfactorily if CPs only have influence. We need more than this if we are to shift the balance of political power from party to citizen.
The obvious way of ensuring that a power shift takes place would be to make it mandatory for MPs to vote as directed by their CPs—but this would not be desirable or feasible. The local groups would focus their attention on only a few issues and leave others to their MP’s judgment. Further, MPs returning to Ottawa from meetings with their CPs should listen and respond to the views of colleagues from other parts of the country. Those views, and others, should all be factored into their final voting decision. The House of Commons cannot be a real forum for the discussion and negotiation of public questions if the members arrive at sessions with fixed positions on issues that were established elsewhere.
While not legally bound, an MP would be morally obligated to convey the views of constituents on the issues that the CP had taken a position on— and on others for which he or she could reasonably anticipate what the CP’s response would be. In most cases, the MP would also support that position with his or her vote. However, if the MP, after making the position of his or her constituency clear, then decided to express a different position in voting, he or she might later be able to convince constituency parliament members that the deviation from their viewpoint was justified. If the representative failed in this, the MP would not necessarily lose the general confidence of the CP. People who respect one another can often agree to disagree and continue a good relationship.
On the other hand, the MP might articulate views that differed significantly from those of the CP members on many issues or on one or more of great importance to local parliamentarians. In this circumstance, the constituency parliament members could demand the MP’s resignation as the constituency’s representative. If it were not tendered, they could decide to urge voters to defeat the MP at the next election. Or perhaps the constituency parliament should be able to initiate a recall election of the MP in those circumstances.
It is possible that an MP criticized by his or her CP might win a recallforced or general election. The member could then argue that his or her representation of the constituency was superior to that of the CP. The election would then be tantamount to a vote of lack of confidence in the CP or the majority of its members. Voters would have reason to consider carefully who they elected in the next CP election. Obviously, every CP will not always perfectly represent the considered views of the citizens it is supposed to represent. The views of all CPs, as aggregated in the Commons, will, however, provide an excellent overall representation of informed opinion in the country.
A study of the role of MPs in the Commons identifies two challenges that must be met by advocates, like myself, of a “semi-delegate” role for them: “They face the challenge of providing a convincing account of how individual representatives can serve as credible proxies for highly pluralistic publics, in which there may be no clear consensus on individual issues, and they also need to explain how a system of riding delegates can be responsive to the needs of groups that are not territorially based, including national, religious, ethnic, linguistic and social minorities.”11
In the policy democracy/constituency parliament model, the majority view of that pluralist public would be identified through “deliberative discussion” and voting. The needs of groups that are not territorially based would be provided for by not tying MPs strictly to a delegate role, i.e., by supplementing local deliberations with the freedom to consider and act in the Commons on the needs of non-territorially based interests. The absence of parties, if that proves the case, would not stop the current practice of MPs organizing lobbies to press particular causes.
In my discussions with MPs about constituency parliaments, some expressed the view that the role proposed for them would be demeaning— making them mere “letter-carriers” from the CP to the House of Commons.
Some of the same people who loyally reflect the views of their party leaders in the Commons believe it would be demeaning to act as spokespersons for an informed body of their constituents! Do lawyers find it humiliating to represent their clients?
Unlike that of some MPs, the general reaction of citizens to whom I have talked about policy democracy based on constituency parliaments has been enthusiastic. The prospect of the MP carrying forward the views of informed representatives of the constituency to the House of Commons, and then working with colleagues and the executive to govern the country, was seen as natural—the way it should be. This view confirmed polling on the subject of political representation. At the same time, however, those citizens were sceptical about the possibility of achieving constituency representation in the face of opposition from entrenched interests, an issue that will be discussed in later chapters.
Support for Constituency Deliberation
The authority of CPs must be bolstered beyond the election of its members by providing them with two important resources, time and information. To ensure that their views cannot be dismissed as uninformed, members of constituency parliaments must be able to analyse public policy issues in depth.
- Constituency parliament members would be informed from several sources, with House of Commons committees being the most important. Members would need to have access to the same information available to MPs if they are to be confident and assertive in their relations with them. MPs must not be able to play the if-you-knew-what-I-know-you would-agree-with-me game with the local representatives.
The information sharing would be an important step in countering the “culture of secrecy” described by the now-disbanded Economic Council of Canada, which still exists, despite freedom-of-information laws: “At present, public involvement in policy-making suffers under a large handicap. By and large, the general public does not know, even after the fact, the arguments and evaluations on which public decisions are based.”
The party in office often believes it improves its competitive position to keep significant information from parliament, the media, and us, and it often relies on exclusions in the Access to Information Act to do so! It would, however, be disadvantageous for the country’s executive to refuse to release information if MPs and CP members were empowered, and their support was necessary if the executives’ policy recommendations were to be adopted.
As background for their deliberations, the constituency parliament members could have complete transcripts and/or tapes and videos of all the evidence provided to parliamentary committees. They could, in addition, hear direct representations from nationally and locally based interest groups, experts, and concerned citizens. Each constituency parliament would be an empowered study group. After deliberation based on all this input, the constituency parliament’s members could be as fully informed as its MP. Even with the best and fullest information sources, there will, of course, be important but very complex issues on which, like the cabinet itself, constituency parliament members will defer to the judgment of experts.
- The constituency parliament model could not succeed if its members were expected to serve on a volunteer basis any more than the senior parliament could. If members of the CP were not remunerated many people would be unable to stand for election weakening the claim of the CP to be the authentic voice of the constituency. Further, its members need time to study and discuss issues in depth if their views are to be taken seriously by the MP who is to carry them forward to the House of Commons.
I fear that, with current feelings about government being so negative, some will be inclined to dismiss out-of-hand the idea of an extension of government to include significant citizen participation by paid representatives between elections. As readers follow the critique of the existing system in the following chapters, however, and see how the addition of constituency parliaments would deal with the system’s weaknesses, they may change their minds. But to meet cost concerns head on let me note now how I think the adoption of the constituency parliament model might be adequately financed.
The financing issue, like other important details relating to the organization of constituency parliaments, would, of course, be subject to change by citizens once the principle of constituency parliaments was accepted and work begun on its implementation. My calculations, based on figures published by Elections Canada, are intended only to show what could be the cost to individual Canadians.
It would, I think, be appropriate to tie the remuneration of constituency parliament members to that of their Ottawa colleagues. The basic salary of an MP is $157,731 (2011) for what is a full time, 12-month position for most. Meeting for one month a year, the members of constituency parliaments might be paid one twelfth of the MPs salary — $13,144 in salary plus $2500 for information and other general CP expenses for total of $15,644. Each of the 308 constituency parliaments would represent an average of 77,707 registered voters. (23,933,743 total reg. voters ÷308 constituencies).
The individual constituency parliament’s 77,707 registered voters would, on the basis of one CP member for each thousand citizens, have to support an overall CP cost of $1,220,232. (78 CP members × $15,644. salary plus expenses=1,220,232.) The constituency would have, on average, 77,707 registered voters sharing this cost/tax. Assuming a common tax rate, the cost to each of these registered voters, you and me, would be $15.70 per year. ($1,220,232 ÷ 77,707 =15.70) That cost figure, and much more, could easily be offset by improvements in government as a result of increased citizen involvement.
Some members of the constituency parliaments would find their $l3,144 salary attractive while, for others, it would represent a financial sacrifice, as is the case with members of the House of Commons. Looked at from a strictly cost point of view, the Constituency Parliaments could be seen as a bargain. But, for most of us, a significant advance of popular democracy, with all the values it incorporates, cannot be measured in monetary terms. Currently, we invest significant public funds in maintaining our dysfunctional system of representation but virtually nothing in citizens to ensure that arrangements are in place so that they/we can be truly represented. Change in political institutions is dramatically lagging behind social and economic developments – as we shall discuss.
Constituency Parliaments and Other Political Actors
The establishment of constituency parliaments would precipitate adjustments in the structure and functioning of existing formal and informal representative agencies. I will consider these in subsequent chapters. To round out the description of the CP model in this chapter, however, some preliminary comment on these probable changes might be helpful.
- In my discussions of the policy democracy/constituency parliament proposal with other citizens, they frequently suggest that parties would extend their pattern of top-down control to local assemblies, undermining their credibility as spokespersons for their constituents. They assume that with constituency parliaments established, parties would survive in their present form, with their leaders enjoying their current ability to manage MPs.
In a policy democracy based on constituency parliaments, however, the really important relationship for MPs would be with their constituency parliament, not with a party. Voters cannot compete for a party MP’s loyalty now because they are not organized. But with the establishment of a constituency parliament, it would be virtually mandatory for the MP to represent the views of constituents.
In the very unlikely event that parties survived, the MP would be directly faced with a serious decision, i.e., whether to respect the views of his or her neighbours and colleagues in the constituency parliament or to follow the direction of an autocratic party leader. At the very least, the cross-pressures on all MPs up to and including party leaders from fellow citizens and party would force a relaxation of party discipline, enabling members to respond to local opinion.
Again, assuming the survival of parties, politicians now join them because of what the party can do for them, i.e., provide an election organization, offer positions in the Commons hierarchy, and other perks. None of these would be relevant to a candidate for a seat in a constituency parliament. He or she could personally contact all his or her voters easily without financial or other help from a party.
We accept parties as a necessary evil in federal and provincial elections because we are conditioned to believe that we must have them to have democracy. Individuals seeking public office accept them and their discipline because (a) they are the “only show in town,” and (b) because they need party support to organize and finance a campaign. However, parties are seen as an electoral handicap where the system can work without them, i.e., in most local government, in Nunavut, and in almost all large “democratic” organizations. Commenting on Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, political scientist Nelson Wiseman notes, “they have constructively demonstrated contrary to conventional wisdom that representation, electoral democracy, and the Westminster model can move forward without parties.”
Parties are more likely to disappear in a policy democracy than they are to be a continuing force that would take control of constituency parliaments. MPs would break free of party control, and constituency parliament members would never be subject to it.
- The impact of constituency parliaments on parliament would be significant. Responsible cabinet government would be brought into line with the idealized vision we now hold of it. It is recognized as largely myth that the cabinet is responsible to the House of Commons and the Commons to the people. The familiar reality is that the prime minister, relying on the support in the House of a disciplined party team, manages his or her MPs. We are left significantly unrepresented. Leaders of opposition parties control their MPs, too, but less firmly.
With the input of empowered citizens, represented in Ottawa by their MP, the present top-down distribution of power would be largely reversed. In the absence of parties to provide leadership to the government, the members of the Commons, consulting with their CPs, would elect a prime minister and cabinet from their ranks; from outside the ranks of elected members, as in the United States; or a combination of both.
A variety of executive arrangements is found in the liberal democracies, and we would adopt one that fit with the policy democracy/constituency parliament model.18 Demands and support would flow from us, through constituency parliaments, to MPs in the Commons, and from them to the executive headed by the PM. MPs, with a secure base in their constituencies,would be in a position to insist that the cabinet be really responsible to them. The arbitrary powers of the prime minister would be checked. Under our current system, we have no formal means through which we can hold MPs or governments accountable, other than an election—a crude and disruptive tool. With constituency parliaments in place, we would have the means to hold both continuously accountable.
A government based on constituency representation would, of course, still require strong executive leadership. The character of that leadership would be fundamentally different in policy democracy, however. The executive would be implementing an agenda developed in collaboration with our representatives rather than imposing its own. And it would be directing a bureaucracy that would truly be a public service, rather than one that was required to further the interests of the party in office as a byproduct of its work.
- Along with parties, interest groups unsatisfactorily fill the representational vacuum that now exists between us and our governors. In policy democracy, interest groups of whatever kind will no longer be able to claim that they speak for us, because we will have the means to speak for ourselves.
Many special interests will find they must lobby through constituency parliaments—a new and important power centre—to influence policy. Depending on access to a small group of policy makers will no longer be effective. Public-interest groups will find that the upward flow of power from citizens to the executive means that they have significant access to national policy makers through constituency parliaments.
Refocusing interest-group activity and bringing some of the now-behind the-scenes pressure out into the open would have a powerful educative effect on more than just constituency parliament members. Lobbyists, and those they represent, would have to learn more about and would have to respond to public concerns in order to be effective.
- The media’s reports on politics focus heavily on party leaders and, particularly, on the prime minister, because that is where power lies. With the redistribution of that power occasioned by the introduction of constituency parliaments, the number of power holders and sites would be substantially increased. Discussions in the Commons and its committees would gain new significance when MPs are no longer team players following the directions of their party’s leadership. Constituency parliaments would also constitute an important new locus of power and a forum for the local discussion of national and international issues. Local media, often parochial in their orientation, would be drawn into devoting time and space to a wider range of issues as they reported on their community’s CP sessions.
Constituency parliaments and policy democracy would affect the media in two less obvious ways. First, to the extent that the CPs raised the general level of political sophistication, the media would face a more critical audience and need to adjust their coverage to it. Second, the power wielded by a small number of corporate media owners has been a long-standing subject of concern and the topic of two post World War II commissions of enquiry. People with extensive media experience were members of both. In the face of hostile media owners in a strong position to protect their interests, elected governments quickly shelved their commissions’ significant recommendations. Electoral democracy does not generate the level of trust and support the party in office needs if it is to make highly sensitive decisions touching on freedom of the press—or of media owners, depending on one’s political perspective. Unorganized, we citizens were in no position to provide countervailing support to government had it wished to act on the recommendations of the commissions—although these were important to the health of our democracy.
In a policy democracy, citizens could decide on the most appropriate model of ownership and control of the mass media. At the same time, ownership would be less important, since a large number of citizens would be participating directly in government. They would not be as dependent as they are now on the media for information and opinion.
Most of us agree that the present political system is obsolete. We tell those who ask that we want our MP to represent us, free of party control. Policy democracy based on constituency parliaments would, responsibly, provide that mode of representation. It would give government roots in the citizenry, from which it could draw support, as it pursued the public interest as we defined it.
The model proposed in this chapter recognizes that adequate institutional means must be provided to support wider political participation. Constituency parliaments would provide those means. Elected CP members would be given the required status, time, and information—all at little cost— so that they could execute their role effectively.
The policy democracy/constituency parliament proposal is conservative in that it simply realizes in practical terms the mode of representation that the vast majority of us already believe is appropriate in a democracy. But it is radical in that the local parliaments would fundamentally alter the existing distribution of political power. Party representation supporting party government would give way to constituency representation supporting citizen-based government. Power would be devolved from a small party elite to a popular base of constituency parliament members. Without resorting to much hyperbole, we could say that power was shifted to the people. Popular input to policy, added to the existing system of electing representatives, would move the system to a new level of democracy. Social and economic achievements would then be possible that we can only dream of now, while we are preoccupied with keeping the existing archaic political system functioning.
Postscript: Edmund Burke, Champion of Constituency Parliaments?
No discussion of representation is complete without reference to the ideas of Edmund Burke, the eloquent 18th-century spokesperson of British conservatism. Burke is commonly cited as support for opposition to the idea that the member of the Commons should reflect the views of constituents. He expressed his opposition over two centuries ago in a world as different from our own as “chalk from cheese.” But that does not stop people relying still on his criticisms of delegate representation.
In his time, Burke argued that it would be wrong for constituents to make their MP a delegate, because they would then (a) deprive themselves of the benefit of his judgment and (b) cause decisions made in parliament to be based on the opinions of people hundreds of miles away, who were ignorant of the issues and did not bear responsibility for the well-being of the nation. He extolled the merits of a trustee role, i.e., one where the MP acted on the basis of his best judgment of the interests of the country. When he was writing, however, disciplined parties curbing the independent views of MPs; a well-educated, assertive population with easy access to a vast amount of current information; and large, intrusive government were all far off.
With constituency parliaments in place, while the MP would adopt a semi-delegate role, his or her constituents would gain the benefit of the MP’s independent advice, expressed in a local forum. The country would similarly gain from its expression, enriched by that local discussion, in the House of Commons. The pressure from party leaders to parrot a party line or be a party delegate would be effectively countered by the insistence of CP members that their MP contribute their and his or her critical thinking to the policy-making process at the local and national levels. Further, with the establishment of CPs, the views the MP would be expected to represent would be informed. As office-holders in government, CP members would be expected to accept their share of responsibility for the consequences flowing from Ottawa’s policies.
First the trustee and now the current party delegate roles have been made dysfunctional by political developments. Today, Burke would likely recognize the need for (necessarily) large governments to have a strong base of citizen support to function effectively. Indeed, if he were alive today to respond to changes in the political world, Burke might well be a strong supporter of an institutional arrangement, such as policy democracy based on constituency parliaments, that would bring leaders and led into a close, mutually respectful working relationship.
The Advantages of Collaborative Democracy
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” — Richard Buckminster Fuller
Every day there seems to be a new protest, a new revolution, or a new coup d’état. As the People of Earth struggles against the centralized hierarchical governments and corporations that dominate and control our lives, it is clear that we must break away from the illegitimate systems that have been designed to repress us and justify the control exerted by the plutocratic elite. While we are revolting against the systems, so long as we fight, rise to power and replace the current elite, we ultimately only end up with a new elite. Egypt has been a good example of that trap. That is because the system of top-down control remains, and it is dysfunctional regardless of which party holds the power. It becomes crucial, then, to break away from the patterns of domination that we have grown accustomed to. We need a new system that works from the bottom-up.
One of such systems is Direct Democracy. While Direct Democracy is far superior to Representative Democracy in many ways, it still has its troubles. Direct Democracy is actually not a new system. It has been used before, in ancient times, and it had its issues. In Greece, it still required a lot of management year-round, even when issues were not being discussed. It also only worked well with a relatively small population. As population grew, management became harder and corruption more likely. Direct Democracy has a trilemma, where the ideal system would have to include high levels of participation, deliberation and equality, which are very difficult to provide together. There are other issues that Direct Democracy doesn’t address. For instance, democracy in general is a fallacy of population. Only because a majority makes a decision together, that does not imply that such decision is the optimal one. As such, democracy does not work in practice unless the population is educated on the issues and possess the critical thinking skills required to solve them. Direct Democracy is also limited to government and does not directly influence the realm of businesses and corporations, which are a major threat to democracy. Furthermore, Direct Democracy generally still relies on majority rule, which is inferior to consensus and not necessary reflective of the needs of voters.
While Direct Democracy is a good option, today we have the technology and the knowledge to create a superior form of participatory democracy, a “Collaborative Democracy”. The fundamental principle of Collaborative Democracy is that every person who is affected by a decision made must be involved in the making of that decision. In other words, if a decision needs to be made and the person is affected by that decision, they must be involved in the process. What makes Collaborative Democracy superior, in this sense, is the fact that there are no artificial boundaries to limit participation and the boundaries that do exist limit participation only to those who are affected, which makes the whole population involved smaller and more meaningful. If you feel a decision can affect you and you can prove that it will affect you, you are allowed to bring your needs to the table and be involved. Such approval process can easily be facilitated by citizenship rights in all organizations that affect the citizen. From this first principle, legitimacy and accountability are naturally derived based on the relationship between decision-makers and the influence the decisions exert on them. Natural Legitimacy is achieved because those who are making the decisions are those who will be affected and, thus, they are the ones who are most qualified to be involved. In contrast, under the current systems, legitimacy is derived by a single vote once every few years and the claimed “expertise” of the politician, which is hardly legitimate. Natural Accountability is derived from the simple fact that nobody would ever make a decision against their own well being for their own benefit, unlike the corrupt systems that we have now, where decision-makers are rarely affected by the decisions they make. Therefore, from the principles of Natural Legitimacy and Natural Accountability, Natural Sovereignty is achieved on an individual level and within the whole affected community of Citizens.
Another superior aspect of Collaborative Democracy is the fact that it is consensus based and directly related to the needs of the decision-makers. A consensus is reached, not by debates and voting, but by a sharing and reconciliation of perspectives and needs through a process regulated by a combination of Dynamic Facilitation and Non-Violent Communication. By sharing needs and perspectives openly, participants are able to reconcile their views and find solutions that work for every affected party. As such, a consensus is ultimately reached. Because of the consensus that is reached, all parties are actively involved and interested in the implementation of the solutions, which they themselves can be further improved by the same process. The process also includes all elements of critical thinking and it is based on the evidence provided by all parties, but unlike any other process, the goal is not to prove one side is wrong and another is right, the goal is to reconcile all information for the benefit of everyone involved.
Collaborative Democracy is also not limited to governments. It can be used within co-operatives and other organizations. It can even be used to facilitate resolution to a regional conflict, whenever it is needed. It is not defined by any time or space, it emerges when needed and subsides when it is not needed. It is not tied to location, it is tied directly to issues. It is very dynamic, organic and open. Those who participate in the process, regardless of their position in the process, rather they are customers, co-owners or citizens, their needs are taken into account.
Decisions are made by all those who are affected by them
Natural Legitimacy, Natural Accountability and Natural Sovereignty
Addresses everyone’s needs
Uses Dynamic Facilitation and Non-violent Communication
Uses logic, critical thinking and evidence
Not artificially limited by time or location
Dynamic, organic and open
Effectively facilitates and co-ordinates
Collaborative Democracy fosters a higher degree of ownership, trust and collaboration between people. This higher degree of trust and collaboration leads to a greater cohesiveness in society, a flattening of organizations and a greater distribution of wealth and power among all people, decreasing the amount of inequality worldwide. Collaboration ultimately reconciles the needs of each individual with the needs of the entire planet.
Finally, Collaborative Democracy can be combined with technology, making it easy to implement, replicate, spread and scale. This makes it a powerful tool for global change. To learn more, please visit www.openearthproject.org and www.collaboralism.org (coming soon).
Nelson Guedes is a Systems Savant, Interaction Analyst, Interaction Designer and Philosopher from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has a very diverse background that includes a wide range of subjects from Philosophy to Economics and his ultimate goal is to reconcile Human Systems with Natural Systems. He is currently working on his book, The Code: A Simple Theory of Everything and The Open Earth Project, a system to facilitate and co-ordinate global collaboration.
This article was first published at: https://medium.com/@nelsonguedes/the-advantages-of-collaborative-democracy-9f9800da4aef
Other interesting Links:
- Peter H. Russell, Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People?
- Constitutional Failure or Constitutional Odyssey? What Can We Learn From Comparative Law? by Giuseppe Martinico*
- Professor Peter Russell “Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canada become a Sovereign People?”
CONSTITUTIONAL ODYSSEY: CAN CANADIANS BE A SOVEREIGN PEOPLE?
by Peter H. Russell; Toronto University Press; 240 pages; paperback.
BOOK REVIEW : Reviewed by David Johnston.
Peter Russell traces Canada’s constitutional history from Confederation to the recent Canada Round and the Charlottetown Accord. He begins by discussing the process of Confederation itself, the question of provincial rights and the evolution of Canada as an autonomous community. He then provides an account of the country’s constitutional saga over the past 25 years. He proposes that the central question, which informs the whole book, is “Can Canadians become a sovereign people?”
In Russell’s opinion, Canadians have gradually evolved from imperial sovereignty to popular sovereignty as their governing constitutional principle. Moreover, he argues that the vote on the Charlottetown Accord is the first time in the history of the country that the people of Canada have been asked to agree upon being constituted a sovereign people. He contrasts this with the formulation of the BNA Act, now known as the Constitution Act 1867, that legally created the Dominion of Canada and which had as its final custodian the imperial Parliament in London, not the Canadian people. The author believes that our negative response to the Accord indicates that we may fail as a people.
A pivotal factor in Canada’s constitutional odyssey is that until now the country, perhaps unconsciously, has been following the political philosophy of Edmond Burke in its approach to constitution-making and constitutional change. Burke believed in an organic process, whereby rights and obligations grow out of social conventions and understandings that hold society together. The social contract, in this light, is not so much one between present-day individuals but between generations, with one generation passing on to the next the product of its collective wisdom.
Such a view contrasts sharply from that of John Locke, who argues that a legitimate government needs to respect a set conditions by which the current governed people consent to its authority. His political philosophy is based on the assumption that each individual is basically rational and has the capacity to discern fundamental political truths. Russell contends that a Burkean notion suits the British, with their long uninterrupted constitutional history, but that it no longer resonates well with contemporary Canadians. For Canadians to become a sovereign people, he argues, they need to re-establish the country by way of a Lockean social contract on a model similar to that which informs the American constitution.
But times are different and there are complexities today that did not exist during the signing of the American constitution. By the Canada Round it became clear that the people’s contract must accommodate at least four divergent aspirations: Quebec nationalism, aboriginal self-government, regionalism and Canadian nationalism. All were reflected in the constitutional proposals we were asked to vote on.
Russell does a remarkable job in clarifying what is at stake and providing a perspective on the country’s constitutional trials and deliberations. Should the people of Canada have been capable of accepting the proposed asymmetrical federalism, according to Russell, they would have become a truly federal people with a country organised in a highly pragmatic political fashion. For various reasons we voted against it, one being that many voters felt the country would be “Locked” into an inflexible amending formula. In that sense, in my opinion, the people acted wisely. A pragmatic federalism by definition must allow, even encourage collective wisdom to be passed on from generation to generation.
For Canadians to embark on a purely Lockean model of social contract would be an error that can only create problems in the future. The fact that Canada has followed a Burkean approach since its inception may simply be a statement of the country’s basic nature. Although there may well be a need for a Lockean style social contract between members of this generation of Canadians, it is surely preferable for it to be reconciled with a Burkean style contract, which allows for intelligent organic evolution. Although Russell does not seem to appreciate this, his book can serve as an excellent catalyst for our so far ineffectual intellectuals to undertake a very necessary debate on the basic principles underlying this country. Only then can we properly forge a constitution.
The i-ACUSE – Indigenous And Civil Unified Sovereign Enactment conclusion and stance:
Click on the Photo to link to the Pre-registration page.
To read more, please purchase Vaughan Lyon’s book POWER SHIFT: From Party Elites to Informed Citizens
Power Shift is the start of what Lyon calls a “quiet Canadian democratic revolution” — citizen-inspired change. Canadians are tired of party representation, and Lyon has outlined a strategy to change it in a way that would shift power from parties to informed citizens.
Power Shift: from Party Elites to Informed Citizens
By Vaughan Lyon
ISBN: 978-1-4620-3763-6 (sc); 978-1-46203-765-0 (hc); 978-1-46203-764-3 (e)
Approximately 321 pages
Available at amazon.com,barnesandnoble.com and chapters.ca
About the author
Vaughan Lyon was educated in Winnipeg and Vancouver. After working for a decade in labor relations, he earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of British Columbia. He then began teaching, researching and writing about Canadian politics at Trent University, where he was named Professor Emeritus of political science. For more information about Vaughan Lyon and his work, visit www.democracynow.ca