Home CommentaryOpinions A little transparency please…

A little transparency please…

by Archives October 23, 2007

With the recent Throne Speech presented by the Conservative government, I couldn’t help but reflect on the state of our political system here in the West.
For all intents and purposes we refer to it as democracy, but is this really the case?
Take the United States for example. Every four years there’s an election to determine the next president, but there really isn’t a whole lot of choices as far as candidates go.
Democrat or Republican; there really is no middle ground – that is unless you consider Ross Perot or Ralph Nader. Let’s be honest though, in reality neither of them ever had a chance…
In fact, for over 140 years there has not been a single U.S. President elected from any party other than the Democrats or the Republicans. One of the reasons is the astronomical amount of money that these two parties raise for elections.
In the 1996 U.S. Presidential election, Democratic and Republican candidates spent a combined $448.9 million. In 2000 that number had jumped to $649.5 million, and to $1.01 billion in 2004. It would be almost impossible for any other party to begin to compete with figures like these, and the upcoming U.S. election in 2008 will almost certainly surpass this.
What’s worse is that even though there are laws in place to supposedly prevent donations by private interest groups and corporations (both of whom lobby for their own interests and causes), they still manage to get around them. Money that is given to a political party but is not given specifically to support a particular candidate is perfectly legal. This so-called ‘soft money’ allows them to contribute as much as they wish in order to further their own interests. It also taints the entire process with a stench of corruption.
How can we hope for the world to change when we’re being hand-fed more of the same types of candidates in every election? Large corporations don’t want a Green Party candidate to get elected (even though their policies make sense for a sustainable future) because it wouldn’t be good for business. So they continue to donate money to the Democratic and Republican parties in order to ensure the status quo.
As a result, Democrats and Republicans are too afraid to do anything radical for fear of angering the very groups who put them in power in the first place.
And it’s not much different here in Canada. It’s true that we have a little bit more variety here, with the Conservatives, Liberals and the NDP. However, the candidates selected are all there to serve the interests of a select few fundraisers and interest groups. This is how they become leaders of their parties, get funding for elections, and eventually hold the office that shapes the direction of the nation.
I’m not trying to trump our electoral system in the West; we are in a very enviable situation when compared with a country like Myanmar. But just because we’re better off than they are politically, are we really living in a democratic society?
While we have the privilege of heading to the polls every few years to elect a new ‘status-quo’ candidate who promises radical change, but never really seems to come through, it seems as though the entire system has been hijacked in the name of unbridled capitalism – a sort of ‘gettin while the gettin’s good’ mentality. As far as I’m concerned, for the West’s electoral system to truly be considered democratic, there should be a limit on the amount of money parties and candidates can raise and spend. Create a system whereby there is a hard cap on fundraising, so that other parties and voices (outside of the realm of the rich and privileged) have at least some say in the way the country is governed.
As long as parties like the Democrats and Republicans, or even the Liberals and Conservatives, are allowed to continue spending obscenely large amounts of money on hijacking elections, then things will never change.
Remember that the next time you vote, and give other lesser known parties a second look. They just might have something worth listening to.

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