Mainstream media keep telling Canadians the big issue in this election is the economy. But more prominent in my riding, at least for residents with any foresight, are immediate concerns about ocean-going tankers carrying bitumen and trains carrying unidentified hazardous goods along an unstable and densely-populated coastal route. If there were an accident or natural disaster, the impacts of a bitumen spill or train derailment on safety, health, coastal communities, and ecosystems could be irreparable, including the loss or elimination of thousands of jobs in tourism, retail, and fisheries—all in the name of the economy.
In any case, our ability to make the right choices when it comes to the economy, tankers, trains, or any other issue is entirely dependent on the health of our democracy. Parliament has become a partisan shouting match, with no consequence for contempt or cabinet ministers who admit they told lies. There is no substantive debate of blockbuster Omnibus bills. If we can't “save democracy from politics” as Elizabeth May says, Canada's elected representatives simply cannot represent us, no matter how good their intentions.
One of the reasons I chose to run for the Green Party is its long-standing policy to allow MPs free voting in Parliament. If elected, I will be able to represent my constituents instead of being whipped into voting according to the party leader's will. Other parties may promise free voting prior to an election, but neither their policies nor past practices support those promises.
Even more troubling than dictatorial party leaders and partisanship in the House, is our government's increasing tendency to avoid putting important questions to a vote at all. When the Harper government shifted the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan into active combat and the longest-running war in Canadian history, thousands more men and women were sent to risk their lives without any vote in Parliament. Unfortunately, there were no Green Party MPs in Parliament to speak out.
In 2014, Canada's sovereignty was crucially undermined under the guise of another "free trade" agreement. The FIPA, an Investor-State Treaty with China, was negotiated and signed in almost complete secrecy, with no parliamentary or senate committees to weigh its benefits and risks, and no debate or vote in Parliament. Announced quietly and hardly mentioned in the news, FIPA binds Canada until 2045, giving foreign investors the right to sue our federal, provincial or municipal governments for billions in estimated lost profits if our elected representatives try to protect our safety, quality of life or environment from an industrial threat.
FIPA also specifies that whatever fines our governments pay can never be divulged to taxpayers. An associated outcome is that governments, especially municipalities, will be intimidated into simply not passing legislation that protects us.
A similar agreement is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which the Conservatives are continuing to negotiate during this election even though Parliament has been dissolved. Even if they did have the authority to negotiate, what gives any party in power the right to bargain away our great-grandchildren's constitutional rights in secrecy and without due process?
A related concern is the Conservatives' penchant for squelching dissenting voices, censoring scientists, and destroying research data needed to make informed decisions. Without knowledge of the facts, elected representatives are kept in the dark, conveniently more vulnerable to being educated by lobbyists and corporate-controlled media.
Our challenge in this election is to convince voters that our disabled democracy is a much greater threat to their safety, security and quality of life than ISIS. We need to bring back representative democracy before we can do anything else.