As it stands today, Canada’s political parties operate in many ways as authoritarian institutions. It’s no surprise those attitudes are spreading out into our society.
Political parties love to cast external blame.
They focus our attention on who to ‘hate,’ whether it’s Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, Maxime Bernier, Erin O’Toole, Jagmeet Singh, and others.
They get their partisans to direct all their anger towards the designated ‘enemy,’ which serves as an effective way to distract attention from their own actions.
And yet, it seems there is a deeper problem that goes beyond any individual leader:
Canada’s political parties function more like authoritarian institutions than anything else.
Consider what we have seen in recent years.
Justin Trudeau boots out Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott.
Doug Ford boots out Tanya Granic Allen (after she played a big role in him winning the PC leadership), boots out Belinda Karahalios, and most recently Roman Baber.
The Conservatives disqualify Salim Mansur.
The NDP kicks out Erin Weir.
And these are only the biggest, most obvious examples.
In addition to all of this, we see that parties are increasingly organized around the idea that ‘the leader is always right,’ and any opposition is tantamount to betrayal and must be punished immediately and ruthlessly.
And we aren’t even talking about strong opposition. Literally having a slightly different perspective is now enough for someone to be removed.
Fear is used to keep people in line, and parties look like personality cults.
It’s inherently anti-democratic.
If Canada is to truly move beyond our rising political divisions and anger, we need parties to become about ideas, about openness to debate, and about respect for ideological diversity.
After all, how can we recommend that people get involved in politics when they can put in years of loyal service only to be crushed at the whim of the latest ‘leader cult?’
We keep talking about how Canada is a democracy, but how long can that remain the case if our parties are increasingly authoritarian? And if our parties are authoritarian, can we really even call Canada a democracy now?
We need to show trust in each other, trust that we can share ideas and disagree without tearing each other down, and embrace a politics that is about ideas, not centralizing power in the hands of a few at the top.