Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party, was in the Yukon last week on a mission to save democracy from politics.
She spoke in Whitehorse Friday evening and in Carcross and Dawson on Saturday.
Federal politics today is an “effective dictatorship,” she told the News Friday afternoon. “You couldn’t really call it a democracy.”
A concentration of power in the prime minister’s office has been built up by successive governments, most notably the reigning Harper Conservatives, she said.
May talked about the muzzling of scientists and the elimination of the long-form census as examples of the government’s attempts to take evidence out of the decision-making process.
She also spoke to the removal of protection between partisan politics and the civil service.
It used to be that civil servants with real expertise would put together evidence, and politicians would make decisions based on that evidence, said May.
That was “evidence-based decision making,” she said. “What we have right now is decision-based evidence making, and the bullying of civil servants at all levels of rank.”
On top of that, politicians elected to represent their constituents are being asked to toe the party line rather than speak their minds in Parliament, said May.
“It’s horrible to see what happens to people who are elected to Parliament who are really good people, who have had a whole lifetime of experience, many of whom were at the peak of their careers, got dragged into politics, next thing they know they’re elected and they think, ‘OK now I want to be able to stand up in the House of Commons and say all those things I’ve always cared about.’ And instead, in every party, they’re handed their talking points and that’s what they have to say. That’s really tragic.”
How to you solve a problem like the concentration of power when it is in the interest of those in power to maintain it?
May’s plan is to get enough Canadians talking about democracy and parliamentary reform to make it an election issue.
Perhaps she can get the NDP and the Liberals to agree on some things, and even push Harper to change his tune, she said.
Even Conservatives should be on board with this plan, said May.
“The message I want to share with people who voted Conservative is, ‘You may think it’s OK if Stephen Harper has these kinds of powers now, but the government will change, there will be a different prime minister, and unless Canadians understand how dangerous this is, the next prime minister for a party you didn’t vote for is also going to be able to be a dictator and control absolutely everything.’”
The other part of the plan is to get more Green MPs into the House of Commons.
May, representing Saanich-Gulf Islands, is currently the only Green MP.
“Even with 12 MPs in the House of Commons, we could change everything, because Canadians could then see, ‘Oh, wow, why are the other parties whipped? That party seems to be doing just fine letting their MPs stand up and speak for their constituents. We want more of that.’ And that just might lead to the other parties loosening their control over their MPs.”
John Streicker, currently a Whitehorse city councillor, ran for the Greens here in the Yukon in the 2011 federal election.
He came in third, earning 19 per cent of the popular vote.
To what extent Yukon becomes a target for the Green Party in the next election will depend greatly on whether or not Streicker chooses to run again, said May.
“It’s up to him to decide. If he doesn’t want to re-offer us the federal Green candidate, I think we have enough of a base here that we’ll definitely be competitive no matter what. But I would love to have John Streicker in the House of Commons with me.
I think he’d just be magnificent there.”
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at firstname.lastname@example.org