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Parties are Irresponsible, Undemocratic: Democracy Watch

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Issue: 20 Section: Canadian News Geography: Canada Topics: democracy

July 21, 2004

Parties are Irresponsible, Undemocratic: Democracy Watch

Democracy Watch has recently released its "Report Card on the Democratic Reform and Corporate Responsibility Election Platforms" of the five main political parties that were involved in the June federal election. Its main finding is that voter apathy, low voter turnout, and minority governments will remain until all parties and politicians become serious on the topics of honesty, integrity, openness, efficiency, responsiveness, and accountability within the federal government.

The report assigned a letter grade to each of the parties, and none received better than a C, for the following reasons. No party promised an "honesty in politics" law, even though this was obviously a top concern among voters. No party promised a "meaningful public consultation" law that would make it easier for Canadians to voice concerns. No party clearly promised to limit the influence of elite lobbying, even though polls showed this as well was an important voter concern. Only one party promised full disclosure of donations to the party, and only one party proposed to implement citizen watchdog groups to guard against corporate wrongdoing.

Democracy Watch points out that progress has been very slow in democratizing the Canadian federal political scene. Some examples include it taking about 20 years to finalize ethics rules for all MPs and senators, it taking only two years of parliamentary debate in 2001 for MPs' pay to increase, and then only another two hours of debate for MPs' health benefits to increase in 2004. 20 cabinet ministers have broken ethics rules, yet only two have been penalized. Democracy Watch offers a final example of the Liberals deciding to increase party funding from $1.50 to $1.75 per vote in the recent election so that their party would have a chance at receiving more money with less votes.

However, Democracy Watch is somewhat hopeful. Four out of the five main parties promised better ethics enforcement, an increase in parliament's role in reviewing some of the approximately 3,000 appointments that are solely made by the Prime Minister, a strengthening of the access-to-information system in some ways, and an increase in corporate responsibility measures. However, flaws in the current system will make all of these promises somewhat difficult to implement.

--Mark Parker

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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