Jamaica clearing a path – should Canada follow?
Jamaica’s new PM Portia Simpson wants to change the island country’s constitution. She wants to break ties with the monarchy and become a republic.
Right away this is a story that divides Canadians. Not just into two camps, but a series of splintered factions of monarchists, parliamentarians, republicans, and every other sub faction you can imagine. Everybody has an opinion on the best form of government and how aggressively each should be implemented or pursued.
Canadians honestly have to ask what is best for the country.
For Jamaica, a republic may make perfect sense. The monarchy still holds the scars of colonialism. In Canada, colonialism didn’t cut nearly as deep. The scars of colonialism aren’t nearly as apparent.
That doesn’t mean that a constitutional monarchy is the best system of government for Canada. In fact, it’s still a very flawed system as Canada has adapted it.
The upper house isn’t elected. Neither is the governor general.
Unfortunately, as Canadians we have a tendency to look at the United States as our great example of the flaws of a republic. But the United States has fostered those flaws and watched them grow across generations. Certainly Canadians are smart enough to learn from the mistakes of their big brother to the south.
And certainly Canadians are educated enough to know that there are options for greater democracy that don’t involve a devolution into the lobbyist infested swamp that is Washington.
The prospect of electing the Governor General has been broached. It’s a subject that’s bound to be divisive, but the Governor General is the head of state. Shouldn’t the entire country have a say in who represents them on the world stage? Even if the Governor General has been reduced to nothing more than a figure head?
Is there perhaps a middle ground? Could the Prime Minister create a short list of suitable candidates for the job, and then have the people choose one of those candidates? Is that not enough of a check on power? Or is it too much of a check?
As Canadians we cede a lot of power to the officials we do elect. Shouldn’t we be more willing, as Jamaica appears to be, to take more responsibility for the state of our government?
There are arguments to be made about our system being more stable than the US, or Great Britain, or France, or any number of countries. But that doesn’t make our current system perfect.
Early in Stephen Harper’s reign as Prime Minister he promised Canadians an elected Senate. As soon as he had the representation in the Senate necessary to pass such a significant constitutional reform we were told it would happen.
As of this week, Harper now has more than enough control over the Senate. roughly 60% of senators were appointed by Conservatives. In the next four years that number stands to climb. Whenever the country does elect a party other than the Conservatives there’s a very real possibility that every bill passed through the lower house will be rejected in the Senate for years to come. Is that acceptable to Canadians?
I’d honestly doubt that it is.
Canadians love a government that’s responsible and flexible and agile. Canadians like progress. Regardless of their party affiliation. Creating a blockade in the Senate will only make government futile.
Why elect a lower chamber if the upper chamber holds all the power and we as a country don’t have a say in their actions?
Maybe it’s time Canada looked at real change. Maybe it’s a republic. Maybe it’s not. But Canada needs to change something. Otherwise we’re just setting ourselves up for failure. And the only people to blame will be the citizens that didn’t ask for democratic rights.