Alex Sangha: 10 reasons why Canada is not a democracy

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      Is Canada really a democracy? Do the citizens really control what is happening in this country? Who really controls the levers of power?

      After careful consideration of our political structure, never mind the influence of our economic elites, below are 10 reasons why I feel that Canada is not a democracy.

      1. Queen: We still have the remnants of a British colony as Queen Elizabeth II is still our unelected head of state.

      2. Governor general: The governor general is unelected.

      3. Prime minister: The prime minister is not directly elected by all the voting public.

      4. Supreme Court: The Supreme Court and all lower courts are completely unelected and/or do not have any sort of open and transparent selection process.

      5. Senate: The Senate is unelected.

      6. Premiers: All the provincial premiers and territorial leaders are not directly elected by all the voting public.

      7. Voting: There is no mandatory voting in Canada. Voter turnout is especially low in local elections.

      8. Representation: There is no proportional representation in Canada which means a majority government can be formed with a minority of the vote under our first past the post system.

      9. Referendum and recall: Referendum and recall initiatives are next to impossible to pass by the citizens.

      10. Opposition: Opposition MPs and backbenchers have little or no power in our political system where power is concentrated with the prime minister.

      There you go! Here are 10 reasons why I feel that Canada is not a democracy.

      To make matters worse, federal political parties no longer receive financial subsidies from the Canadian government. This essentially means that big money, corporate, and special interests are now officially a major part of the political process.

      Alex Sangha is an award-winning author and social worker based in Surrey, B.C. His latest social discussion book, Catalyst, was a finalist in the current events and social change category of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for 2014. For more information, check out



      Not Going to Happen

      Apr 7, 2015 at 12:35pm

      Okay, so it's been established that apparently we aren't a democracy. Not sure if I give a flying fuck because we've been this way from the start and we don't seem to be descending into anarchy and chaos. Most of the points are innocuous and there doesn't seem to be any reason to completely change the way we vote. Making voting mandatory is about as undemocratic as you get since democracy implies the will of the individual and if someone doesn't want to vote, then they shouldn't have to.

      However, Alex Sangha did a good job of outlining his idea in a very easy-to-understand matter and I'm thankful for that.

      oh no...

      Apr 7, 2015 at 1:05pm

      the author must be a NDP / sour grape...

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      Apr 7, 2015 at 1:28pm

      Go back to Poli Sci 101. The fact we have regularly scheduled elections that allow everyone age 18 and up to vote is enough to be labeled a democracy. France, the US, Italy and India are all democracies too despite the fact their systems are radically different. And those systems all have problems. You'd be hard pressed to find a system that doesn't. So just be grateful you live here and not Zimbabwe, mmm k?


      Apr 7, 2015 at 1:35pm

      11. Most Canadians don't care.

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      Jason Peil

      Apr 7, 2015 at 1:37pm

      We aren't descending into anarchy but we are descending in wealth as the rich game the system to destroy the working class (that includes 99.5 percent of all of us). Generations have now been in decline and it's being accelerated by the ruling minority.

      Perhaps if everyone had to vote they might actually get educated about the process. I actually don't think that the PM should be directly elected like a president because that would endorse the dictatorial powers that he has. Instead we should give most of his powers of appointments to parliament. The other reform that could improve things is to replace the Senate with regional councils who could number in the thousands. A small pay per vote and a rigorous qualifications process could select candidates for councils and these bodies would provide sober second thought for the hyper political parliament. This would provide the best directly democratic check on dictatorship as well as be much less cumbersome than plebiscite. All issues would have to pass a broad citizens poll in this way and anyone voting would have proven their worthiness to vote. A small incentive tied to the average income of all citizens would encourage participants. Obviously there should be representation by region and by proportional elections. Proportional in Parliament and regional senate councils of qualified electors.

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      James Inglis

      Apr 7, 2015 at 1:50pm

      Well, hate to be a kill joy, but the author should know Canada is actually a "constitutional monarchy" and makes no claim to be a democracy.

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      Tony C

      Apr 7, 2015 at 1:58pm

      6. Again, the premiers are chief ministers of their provinces and they are answerable to the lieutenant governors, their parties and the provincial legislative bodies. Tell me how many presidents and governors elected under popular vote systems have ever had impeachment or recall votes succeed? Under our system, bad leaders are removed swiftly by either his party or in a vote of confidence in the legislature.

      7. Mandatory voting? You would like people who know nothing of foreign policy or even who their current PM is to be forced to vote? Nobody has the right to have an uninformed opinion. I would much rather that people who know nothing about the political process not vote. Would you let your neighbour who does not know anything about your family’s medical history to have a say about what medical treatments you should get?

      8. Proportional representation is popular vote taken to its extreme limit. It sounds good in theory but it either ends up with the majority having its way all the time or in the absence of a clear majority, ruling coalitions having to enlist fringe parties with single issues and thus having the whole political process getting high-jacked by the few. I like to think that under the current system there is room for the majority of opinions and the minority of opinions too. Advanced democracies do not advocate winner-take-all attitude but rather promote integration and compromise.

      9. I agree that referendum and recall processes need refining but would you call Switzerland’s extreme use of referenda a good governance strategy? Thanks to their putting every policy to the popular vote, women did not get the right to vote there until 1971! Banks there did not allow women to open bank accounts on their own until the 1980’s. Are we going to have referenda on human rights issues and personal freedoms?

      10. Yes, maybe the backbenchers and opposition need to have a little more say but they already have a lot of tools at their disposal to keep the government in check. The PM consults his caucus on policy and the opposition has a shadow government that keeps track of all the government’s movements.

      If we had a little less ill-informed cynicism and actually paid attention to the real workings of government and actually participate in the political process, we will have the government that we like. In any system, people generally get the governme

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      Darren T.

      Apr 7, 2015 at 2:12pm

      Easy solution: move to the US! They elect just about everyone from President down to dog catcher (including lots of judges!), they have endless referendums and recalls, and the minority party can often block the majority from accomplishing anything. By your definition of democracy, it's nirvana down there!

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      Tony C2

      Apr 7, 2015 at 2:16pm

      Mr. Sangha is using populist and knee-jerk arguments that are not based on a historical understanding of the institutions and governance of advanced democracies.

      1. The constitutional monarchy system has served well for the UK for centuries and Canada for more than 100 years so why should we change that? The monarchy ensures continuity of institutions and traditions and moderates the populist tendencies of the executive branch of the government and what is wrong with that?
      2. The governor general is the representative of our head of state and he or she is not chosen without merit. They are exemplary citizens and they act as arbitrators in times of conflict and crises. Is it such a bad thing that a cooler headed citizen than people who are constantly worried about electioneering overlooks the actions of the parliament?
      3. The PM is not directly elected by popular vote but he is an MP and as such he has to appear in the parliament regularly and has to answer to all of the MP’s. He rules more by consensus of his party and the parliament in general than most republican systems. His office is entirely answerable to the head of state and the parliament. Would you rather have an executive president who is also the head of state who can rule by decree according to the political flavour of the month and who only sees the legislature when he pleases?
      4. Part of a well-run democracy is to have an independent judiciary which regulates itself based on jurisprudence and vetting of peers. We need a judiciary that is free from politicking and electioneering. What would happen if all the judges are elected by popular vote? We will subject rulings about human rights and individual freedoms to the popular opinion of the day. If the populist opinion says there should be vigilante lynchings, do you think elected judges will be able to resist that impulse?
      5. Yes, nobody can dispute that the senate needs to be reformed. Is that a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Advanced democracy is about refining policies and making changes incrementally; I do not think it is about having a revolution every other day.

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      Jon Q. Publik

      Apr 7, 2015 at 2:34pm

      The author doesn't even bother giving what he believes a democracy to be - there is no true consensus definition of one and at even the most basic it is still an ideal that we should strive for but in reality is truly unattainable. Canada isn't perfect but it is still a hell of a lot more democratic than the vast majority of countries out there so I respectfully must disagree with this author's opinion.

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