Jack Layton’s death has left a hole in the Canadian political landscape. As leader of the Official Opposition he was our country’s first line of defence against a Bush-inspired shift of Canadian policy to the far right.
I do not believe that Canadian values are reflected in a law-and-order mandate, generous corporate benefits and cuts to the environment.
With the election of a Conservative MP last May, despite the fact that two-thirds of the Yukon vote went to the Liberal, Green and NDP candidates, the Yukon was prevented from signalling nationally that we embrace a compassionate democracy.
The upcoming territorial election provides the people of the Yukon with the opportunity to right that impression.
People need to look beyond the candidate and promises of local perks and benefits. This election is not just about the Yukon. It is bigger than that. It is about the representation of a political philosophy that is to be voiced and promoted at the national level.
The last decade has seen a move towards, what is called “executive federalism,” a system where decisions are made at a table composed of cabinet ministers from each jurisdiction. These joint federal/provincial/territorial meetings are increasingly the place of real influence.
Yukon’s representation at these meetings is one voice in 13, a far more meaningful representation than Ryan Leef’s one amongst 308 parliamentarians, or one amongst 166 Conservative MPs.
The upcoming Yukon election will determine who and what set of political values are represented at those meetings.
Though Leef’s voice may be hobbled in Parliament, Harper’s influence is not. We could be setting upon precarious times. Right now, the traditional set of checks and balances built into the Canadian parliamentary system is not operating as designed.
Consider the following:
1) Layton, the energetic leader of the Official Opposition, has died;
2) MPs from both the NDP and the Liberal party are preoccupied in their search for their respective future leaders;
3) The Prime Minster’s Office (PMO) operates with the benefit of 20 years of accumulated and concentrated power (which accelerated the move towards a less democratic Canada);
4) the Senate, created for their wisdom and experience, has become a place of partisanship and collusion with the Conservative majority (including our very own Danny Lang’s vote to defeat the Climate Change Accountability Act in 2010); and
5) Governor General David Johnston is the very man who made the recommendations to Harper regarding the shape of the public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, stymieing truth-seekers once again.
These events, each one in and of itself, would not set off alarms bells, but their convergence signals a need for public vigilance.
So look past what the Yukon Party might do for you, and look towards what a compassionate Yukon government could present in national forums Ã a clear alternative to the federal Conservatives that conveys that our values are not Harper’s values and that our concerns are not just for ourselves and our families, but that we care that our country is inclusive and shaped by compassion for others who are different or less fortunate than ourselves.