Saturday, July 30, 2005

Is Liberal Democracy Failing?

One of the pet complaints of politicians in Canada is the so-called "Democratic Deficit". The sense that the Federal Liberals have been in power for far too long, and have lost sight of the needs of the nation as a whole is strong and pervasive.

Yet, at the same time, we seem to be starved for alternatives. Emerging parties are held in a stranglehold by a first-past-the-post system of candidate selection that makes elections more about brand recognition than actual policies.

In the United States, the inherent conflict between the various divisions of government seem to be increasingly prominent, and increasingly significant - almost to the point of driving the agenda. An article hinting that Bush may appoint John Bolton as ambassador to the UN while the Congress is recessed this summer is perhaps one of the more disturbing little chestnuts I've seen out of Washington lately. A reporter was recently jailed for refusing to reveal sources for a story she was investigating to a Grand Jury. Along with the renewal of the "Patriot Act", it seems that the very key liberties that make a democracy work are being eroded south of the border.

Ah - but we are in Canada, so what does it matter that the US democracy is crumbling? Directly, it probably doesn't matter a lot. But it does matter. Yesterday's arrest of the leader of the B.C.-based Marijuana Party is troubling if one looks at it as a political event.

Essentially, I see two problems here. First, are the implications of foreign law enforcement officials demanding that Canadian law enforcement conduct arrest and search warrants on their behalf. Especially in areas where our laws don't seem to align very well. (Yes - I am quite aware of the fact that there are legal issues relating to treaties and other international agreements involved) There is a deeply troubling sense that comes to me from having the American "War on Drugs" being waged by the DEA through Canadian proxy.

The second, more worrisome aspect of it, is the political implications of subjecting the leader of a political party to criminal proceedings in a foreign country. One can begin to suspect that we have American policy and law being imposed upon a Canadian Citizen, largely for his political beliefs. (The US has been deeply opposed to any liberalization of the "Pot Laws" in Canada)

Frankly, selling Marijuana seeds - in Canada or the US was a stupid thing to do, and I'm not particularly sympathetic to Emery's plight in that regard. A quick search on Google for "Marijuana Seed" turns up more than a few on-line brokers of pot seeds. Emery is far from the only broker of such seeds. Which leads me to suspect that the US DEA action is at least partially political in its roots. The US wants to make sure that its neighbor doesn't liberalize it's drug laws. (After all, we just slapped the Bushite crowd in the face pretty hard with changes to marriage law - and that's after the millions of dollars that US lobby groups such as "Focus on the Family" pumped into this country over the last year or so.)

So...what do we have - a government in the United States that is doing everything it can to erode the rights of its citizens, is planning to circumvent its own processes because the executive can't get "it's way", and now seems not only determined to drag its policy wars into Canada, but is intent on shutting down a part of Canada's political dialogue.

Worried yet?


Anonymous said...

The Emery affair is interesting in that it shows just how little the American authorities understand Canada. If the goal is to get us to toughen up our drug laws, this was exactly the wrong thing to do. They've essentially made Emery a martyr to the cause of Canadian sovernty. Now every fence sitter (on the subject of decriminalizing marajuana) in the country has joined the decriminalize side because if there is one thing Canadians can all agree upon it's that the American government should stick to running their own country.

This will be a personal tragedy for Mr. Emery (who will be shortly spending a lot of time in a US prison) and a huge victory for the Marajuana Party (Who've just had the biggest PR push in their history, and are now closer to their goal then they ever have been before).


Grog said...

Well said.