Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Proud to be a Free Canadian. Election Day.

I am Canadian (the rant). This is Canada’s federal election day. The values and priorities of voters will be reflected by X marks. I view today as an awesome privilege.

Democracy first appeared in ancient Greek political thought. Plato contrasted the rule by the governed (democracy) with alternative systems of rule by an individual (monarchy), or rule by the élite (oligarchy), or rule by the rich and famous (timocracy).

Throughout 2008 Nova Scotia has been commemorating its unique place in Canadian history with the theme, 'Celebrating 250 Years of Democracy.' It was in Nova Scotia that Canada’s First Parliamentary Democracy was established.

Let’s not become prematurely bloated about our democracy. It evolved through struggles. Early elections were based on the practice of 18th-century Britain. The ability to vote was not universally available. It was restricted first to loyal British subjects, specifically men of property. The franchise was constantly scrutinized to insure that the wrong type of people did not acquire it. For example, in Prince Edward Island, the governor of 1773 allowed a representative assembly to be formed only when enough Protestant Scots had arrived to counterbalance the earlier Acadian (French) settlers. Throughout the pre-Confederation period (1867), in every Canadian colony there was a series of exclusions against non-British. Catholics were soon enough accommodated; however, in the 1810s, recent American immigrants were seen as a threat in Upper Canada (Ontario); in the 1860s in British Colombia, it was Chinese immigrants and aboriginals, and later, "Hindus" and Japanese; before and during World War I, prairie settlers of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian origin were the menace. In all those cases and others, efforts were made to keep these groups from voting. The restrictions were long-lasting. Racial and religious exclusions waited until after World War II to be lifted completely. With regard to the women's vote, Quebec lagged behind the rest of the country in allowing women to vote and not until 1940 were they allowed to vote in provincial elections, though they could vote in federal elections earlier. In 1867 voting was oral and public in all provinces but New Brunswick. The necessity of a voter standing on a platform and declaring his preference to the world allowed plenty of scope for intimidation, at, before, or after the poll. The secret ballot was resisted as contrary to the "manly spirit of the British people" and as contrary to the realities of electioneering. Changes came slowly. Canada committed to an open political process with the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 in which the rights of Canadian citizens to vote and stand for office in federal and provincial elections was guaranteed.

My schedule of activities as a retiree has changed but clearly marked on this day is my trip down the street to the polling station. I am entitled. My freedom is the underlying principle of democracy. Currently, there are 123 countries that are democratic and the trend is increasing (up from 40 in 1972). The map shows blue countries as democratic.

Just for kicks watch this consummate poetry of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Democracy is coming to the USA’ on this Youtube video.

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