Democracy, as we have all recently seen, is a very fragile thing. It needs to be protected.
At a time when increasing numbers of people — young people, in particular — aren’t voting, democracy is placed in jeopardy. At a time when dictatorships like China and Russia are growing more belligerent and bellicose, democracy is placed at yet more risk.
At a time when scandals are seemingly everywhere — like the near-weekly scandals that beset the Justin Trudeau Liberals — democracy is seen as deeply flawed.
So, what to do about it?
Well, for starters, we shouldn’t be messing with electoral boundaries and ridings, making it even harder for people to participate in democracy — like what is happening in one Toronto riding that is going to literally be erased sometime soon.
The riding is Don Valley East. It, alone among the area’s 25 ridings, is slated to disappear soon.
Surprised by that? If you are one of the 100,000 who live there, you likely will be. No one has really told you yet.
It’s a problem.
Don Valley East, found near the centre of one of the fastest-growing cities in the civilized world, is going to be absorbed by two neighbouring ridings. Maybe that makes sense, maybe it doesn’t. But to do it with effectively no notice, no outreach, to the people of Don Valley East?
That’s not very democratic.
Ironically, the body ultimately in charge of all of this has acknowledged it isn’t all that democratic, some 10 years ago. In their 2012 report on electoral boundaries and democracy in Ontario, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission wrote that eliminating ridings “reveals an inherent flaw” in the process.
Wrote the commission: “This Commission holds the view that those communities were effectively denied due process. They were not afforded the opportunity to consider or advise the previous commission of their views on the extent, if any, to which they had a community of interest with or historical attachment to other communities in the electoral districts to which they were ultimately assigned.”
They weren’t talking about Don Valley East, there, but they could’ve been. Because Don Valley East has been taken out to the curb, like so much garbage.
The riding’s sitting MP, Michael Coteau — a friend of this writer, full disclosure — has raised his voice about the change. And it’s not about him.
Coteau would have no problem getting elected anywhere (believe me). But he’s alarmed that such a big change is being pushed through with virtually no notice or consultation.
Coteau points out that, when the boundaries commission dealt with the issue last year, Don Valley East “wasn’t even on the table.” And the public, he notes, was therefore given no opportunity — zero, zippo, zilch — to offer their view.
Which, again, doesn’t seem very democratic, does it?
Says Coteau: “The process is flawed. There are no more public hearings and no more opportunities for public input. The commission simply put out a release on a Friday. Our community doesn’t even know they have been eliminated. ”
Coteau — who has also been a school trustee, a member of Ontario’s legislature, and a cabinet minister — is aware that Canadians from outside Toronto aren’t always sympathetic to Toronto. But he notes what is happening there can — and does — happen elsewhere.
In Don Valley East, and anywhere else the shadowy boundaries commission is proposing to carve up democratic boundaries, the people always need to be fully consulted, he says.
Democracy is not eternal. It can wither and die. It can be damaged.
In Don Valley East, and anywhere else in Canada, electoral boundaries should never be erased without the full and frequent involvement of the real bosses.
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