It's time to shake up Canadian politics
Recent research by public affairs firm Edelman shows trust among Canadians towards the government has dropped from 53 per cent to 43 per cent over the last year alone.
While it’s disappointing so many of us feel we can’t trust our government, the growing frustration among Canadians does present an opportunity to those of us who want less government in the first place. It’s an opportunity to shake things up and transfer more power back to the public and improve accountability in government.
The following ideas could help do just that:
First, governments could outlaw the practice of taking money from taxpayers and giving those dollars to businesses like Bombardier and other companies that regularly lobby governments for money. Imposing such a restriction would help force governments to focus on the basics – health care, fixing our roads, policing, etc.
Instead of giving away our tax dollars, the government could reduce taxes and allow you to decide what to do with your share of the savings. A political party that is truly serious about this policy could even enshrine it in its own constitution – automatically stripping any of its elected officials of their party membership (and thus their nomination) for voting to fund handouts to businesses.
Second, politicians could end the practice of governments spending millions of tax dollars on ads filled with propaganda. Instead, government ad campaigns, could, by law, be required to receive approval from opposition parties. Thus, governments could still advertise important activities, but opposition parties would ensure the ads are free of propaganda.
Next, why do we continue to hire politicians for four-year terms without an opportunity to dismiss them if they fail to perform or break their promises? British Columbia is the only province in Canada to address the problem by implementing recall legislation over 20 years ago (recall allows citizens to collect petition signatures and dismiss a politician if enough signatures are collected).
Other jurisdictions should follow B.C.’s lead, as it’s a tool that has not been abused by the public and has served as a deterrent for bad behaviour.
Speaking of more citizen power, referendums should be used more frequently. When our democracy was set-up 150 years ago, it would take many people hours or days to commute to polling stations and they couldn’t possibly stay informed of daily activities in Ottawa or provincial capitals.
Today, the prevalence of cars, transit, the Internet and mass media have made it much easier for the public to follow an issue and travel to a polling station to vote. Referendums should be used more frequently for major decisions – an Olympic bid, a major tax increase, electoral reform, etc.
Finally, let’s see an end to the large compensation gap between government employees and everyone else. This is an issue few governments have been willing to touch, but it could be done in a politically feasible way – as costly employees retire, make sure their replacements are paid on par with what those in business earn for doing similar work.
These are just a few ideas to address some of the frustration that’s likely fuelling a lack of trust in government. A pot of gold in votes might just be waiting for an elected official who acts on them.
- Colin Craig works for the Manning Centre and is the author of The Government Wears Prada
This column was published in Sun papers (Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Edmonton Sun and Calgary Sun) on March 7, 2017