Radical Changes in Canadian Democracy for Ecology and the Public Good Featured

by on Thursday, 11 December 2014 Comments

The three major problems facing Canadian society today are the high degree of inequality of income and wealth, the continuing degradation of the environment and the fiscal crisis in the government sector. All three problems are interrelated but the failure to address them stems from an erosion in Canada's democracy. The paper defines democracy, describes its principles and its rationale which is the public good. The public good is a collection of the ends of society which are multiple, diverse and shared. Specifically they include the objectives of peace, security, health, a fair degree of inequality of income and wealth, a balance between work and leisure for social, cultural, recreational and other pursuits, democratic engagement, and the level and quality of environmental and ecological resources. They also include the absence of "social bads" such as the incidence of crime and family breakdown. Next the paper identifies and describes the problems with Canada's democracy: citizen disengagement, the rise of consumerism in politics, the rise of conservative propaganda, politicians untrained for their main job in legislatures, corruption of political parties, a partially undemocratic electoral system and the commercial media's limited focus on democratic discourse. Each of these problems tends to reinforce each other so as to prevent elected governments from addressing the above-mentioned problems. Instead elected governments have adopted gradually over the last 40 years a form of capitalism that has featured the paramount goal of economic growth and an increase in the inequality of income and wealth. Neither of these results is compatible with the public good as measured by social scientists' indicators of trends in well being. The concluding section of the paper comprises seven radical proposals for restoring Canada's democracy: compulsory voting, reforming electoral systems to incorporate the principle of proportional representation, refocusing public education on civics, the nature of economic systems and political science, training politicians for their legislative responsibilities for economic management, increasing financial support for all political parties, public funding of non commercial media engaged in high level democratic discourse and a Royal Commission on the Public Good and Social Progress.

Peter Venton

Peter Venton is an economist. He earned his BA in Economics in 1963 from the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada and his MA in Economics in 1966 from Queen's University in Kingston Canada.

For 24 years in the period from 1965 to 2000 he worked in the Ministry of Finance in the Government of the Province of Ontario as an economist and senior policy advisor in Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic Party administrations.

From 1979 to 1984, he was Vice President Administration and Finance at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada.

From 1985 to 1990 he was President of his private firm, JPV Associates, consulting in university finance government policy, strategic planning, government program evaluation and financial planning.

From 2001 to 2009 he was Bursar (Chief Financial Officer) at the University of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto from which he retired in December 2009.

Since his retirement he has been writing about democracy, capitalism, economic inequality, globalization, and environmental sustainability.

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