Murray Dobbin's presentation to a packed audience at the Sechelt Indian Band Hall on March 22 showed how the undermining of democratic processes in Canada is ideologically driven and gathering momentum.
The evidence is sufficiently compelling to invite serious consideration of Dobbin's radical proposition that we should be "reinventing democracy to save Canada."
Dobbin does a good job in making the connections between the remarkable success of neo-conservative and neo-liberal political agendas, stemming from the era of Thatcher and Reagan, and the demise of democratic processes. He provides a thought-provoking critique of the way democratic values have been lost with the widespread privatization of our public services through deregulation and stealthy backroom deals, the assault on trade unions, the advancement of business corporate interests at the expense of community needs and the enthronement of marketplace criteria that define us as consumers, not as citizens.
From this standpoint, Margaret Thatcher's mantra that "there is no alternative" has virtually side-lined effective oppositional discourse and even the consideration of practical alternatives to neo-liberal politics. Is it time then to reinforce the diminishing discourse on practical alternatives?
Clearly, a lot of people at the session agreed with the outline of a democratic process where community-based initiatives take precedence over the agendas of the political class in identifying needs. A reassessment of the roles of career politicians regardless of party and at all levels of government might be on the cards given widespread disillusion with the political class. It is not so much a matter of "reinventing democracy" as Dobbin suggests. Rather, we can learn democracy in ways that are already imagined and put into practice. We are still learning from the Occupy and Idle No More initiatives where emphasis is on participatory democracy that puts decision-making in the hands of the people.
Michael Collins, Halfmoon Bay
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