Everyone who thinks politicians should be given more power, form a line to the right, please. And no budging.
C’mon, step right up. No waiting. Lots of room here for everybody. Uh, anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?
Oh, hang on, here’s a small group. Hello there, Mr. Harper. Nice to see you, Mr. Obama. And Mr. Mulcair, what a pleasant surprise (though this is the line for “more power;” you really should be in the “any kind of power, please please please” group, which is over there. Beside Elizabeth May).
And who’s this last straggler? Why, it’s Bill Gates!
Yep, whodathunkit? One of the world’s richest corporate souls (an oxymoron for the 2010s) says the U.S. president needs more powers to run his country. Gates suggests that the Yanks could learn a lot about governing from their good pals, the Brits and, by extension, us Canucks, since our system came from England’s Parliamentary traditions (as payback, we foisted Conrad Black off on them. Until they returned the “gift,” it was a pretty even trade, as neither side won).
Gates, like many Americans, is frustrated with a U.S. system that puts its president in charge of the government gas pedal, and his opponents in control of the brakes. The resulting screeching of the tires generates a lot of smoke, burns out the engine, drains the gas tank, and moves the country exactly nowhere.
The only real action seems to happen in the back seat, out of public view. And there somebody – the taxpayer, inevitably — ends up getting screwed.
But the problem here is not the car. It’s the passengers (how scary is it when those randy teens in the back are the ones making the best decisions?). For no matter what mode of transportation they’re given, politicians will always take us for a ride.
And that’s why Gates should rethink his position (and that useless Microsoft Bing search engine, while he’s at it). Our leaders don’t need more power to get things done. They need more restrictions on the things they do in the name of power.
So long as political parties see re-election as their sole purpose, we will continue to have stalemates. Our Canadian system – modelled after the British one so admired by Gates – is not immune.
We can have a minority government, which has been called by naïve optimists the ultimate check-and-balance. Yet the last one we had, a federalist party, looked to hop into the back seat with separatists to hold onto power.
Or we can have a majority government, which grants the prime minister powers that are unparalleled in western democracies. If the leader wants something to happen, the votes in the House make it so – no matter what citizens across Canada want. (Hello there, recognition of Quebec as its own nation.)
Either way, it’s vulnerable to abuse.
Until we figure out how to take the politics out of government, no system will ever work to the advantage of voters. And that’s why the line at the polling booth, like the line to give politicians more power, is rarely long.