Canada’s Wait For Godot

Yesterday, Canadians voted in what was one of the country’s closest elections in decades. Poll trackers for the 43rd federal election put the Liberal and Conservative parties hovering somewhere around 33 percent of total votes, with the NDP at about 21 percent.

At one level, there are a few things still up for grabs as the coalition government emerges. The election will impact Canada’s policies towards the environment and global warming, with the Conservatives leaning towards the Trump school of thought. The election will also impact businesses, with the Liberal party traditionally inclined to regulate and tax more.

What isn’t up for discussion for the most part is the nature of Canadian democracy, the ontology of its government. Red, blue or whatever other colours assume the executive, Ottawa will remain unaccountable, broadly as unrepresentative as it has been while continuing to waste hard-earned taxes.

99.5% of Canada’s democracy is unelected - from police clerks and nurses to immigration officers. They are unaccountable to citizens, and in fact to nearly every of our elected MPs, who are oddly also unaccountable to us because they don’t determine the government’s resources, priorities or execution - all of which are done either by the PM’s office or senior civil servants. It’s nonsensical to hold somebody, aka an MP, accountable for something they can’t control.

The legislature, despite “because it’s 2015”, is still old, white and male. Ethnic minorities make up only 16.5 percent of the 338 MPs, in contrast to 21% of the population. There are only 92 female MPs, despite there being more women than men in Canada. And the more than 7 million adults aged 15 to 29 will have almost no representation in parliament. If it becomes more representative, it will not be dramatically so.

Finally, Canada will continue to host amongst the most overpaid public sector in the world, with high rates of absenteeism and disturbing numbers of project delays and cost overruns. Neither the Harper Conservative nor the Trudeau Liberal governments have been able to do much on this.

Despite the intensity of electoral fervour, the tragicomedy of Canada lies in the reality that the way Canadians manage their democracy, unlike perhaps their economy, continues to be neglected.

saqib qureshi