Saturday, August 7, 2010

Provincial Elections

New Brunswick has Canada's second most tedious politics. (The leader is PEI.) Only two parties, Liberal and Conservative, have enough money to be able to put on serious campaigns. Both parties get the greater part of their money from Big Business in New Brunswick. Big Business does not donate money to political parties out of any patriotic love for the democratic system. It expects something, plenty, back.

I don't know of another province in Canada in which it is so obvious that big business owns the government. And the opposition.

Both parties,despite having different names, are really the same. Indeed, I doubt very much that any Liberals or Conservatives actually know what the words liberal and conservative mean. Seriously. I challenge any Liberal or Conservative respond to this (if they're not afraid they'll be reported for responding to a blog) to tell us what those two words mean, and how the principles of those words guide their policies.

The NDP and the Green Party don't have enough money to mount a serious campaign. Big business never liked the NDP, and it doesn't give a damn about the environment. Even if the NDP and the Greens did mount an interesting campaign, it would never get reported accurately (or at all) in 90% of the NB news media. Guess why.

The People's Alliance? No way. They don't get corporate money either. In any case, their idea of  MLAs  voting on each issue is a very old idea. It's been put forward in both Canada and the US, and even tried on occasion. In Canada, it was called direct democracy, and was a hot item in 1930s Alberta. It doesn't work.
Quite apart from the logistical problems and costs that would come up with getting a measure of local opinion in every riding for every bill that comes up would be impossible. And there's an even bigger problem.

Many bills are complex matters that require expert opinion. Getting that expert opinion means spending every day studying reports, some of them hundreds of pages long. It would also require every citizen to be an expert in economics, sociology, law and a dozen other subjects. Not many people are going to sit up every night reading reports. And if they did - remember that this is a province in which almost half the population is functionally illiterate.

There is no party that looks at the fundamental problem of politics in New Brunswick (and not just in New Brunswick.) Even the People's Alliance misses it. The problem is not that the government doesn't listen to the people. They problem is that it does listen to big business. We have a legislature of puppets.

What this province needs is to take a hard look at the funding of political parties. It needs to cut down on corporate control of the election system. Now, how one can get that message across, I don't know. To get the message out, you need news coverage. And there is no chance of getting honest and complete coverage from a good 90% of the province's news media.

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