Thursday, April 14, 2011

Watch Carefully, My American Friends

Canada is in the midst of a federal election, and I hope that my American friends are watching.  There's always a lot going on in the Excited States of America - these days always with an eye on the upcoming presidential election in 2012.  Our six-week federal stump up here may be boring in comparison but it illustrates that the U.S. doesn't have a lock on "democracy".  What we all should realize is that the American electoral system was devised by The Founding Fathers as a reaction against the nascent British system of the 1700's - overburdened as it was at the time (and still is, some would argue) with royal homage and hereditary seats.  But in 1776 the pendulum perhaps swung too far the other way, as TFF tried to distance their new form of government from the British model.  As argued previously in this space ("U.S. Democracy Run Amok?"), there really is no need to elect the dog-catcher, have an electoral college, elect your judges, hold mid-term elections, or use electronic voting machines (don't get me started on this last one).  In 1867 Canada had the benefit of looking at the two most successful democracies in the world and took the best from both although admittedly leaning toward the British parliamentary system.  There is no perfect democratic system (all democracies are messy) - and Buddha knows I certainly wouldn't claim that Canada's is without fault (let me count the ways) - but an admission by Americans that different forms of democracy are as valid as theirs and can get the job done would be refreshing.  At any rate, our 6-week election campaign will soon be over, we will mark our ballots with a simple pencilled-in "x", the votes will be hand-counted in polling stations across the country by temporarily-hired election staff watched over by scrutineers from each candidate, and the results will be phoned in.  The winner will appoint his cabinet about ten days later, they'll all be sworn in, and go back to work the next day.  Slam, bam, thank you M'am.  No hanging chads, no lame duck period, no showy inauguration, no muss, no fuss.  Just no-frills democracy in action.  As I said, it ain't perfect but it works.  Watch carefully.