That is an ‘interesting’ perspective on democracy. Are we supposed to just keep our heads down and let the government do whatever it wants?
The ongoing China election-interference scandal has further revealed a concerning mindset among a portion of the political/media establishment. They seem to believe that Canadians should refrain from calling into question the honesty of our leaders and ’eminent’ figures, and that doing so is damaging to Canadian democracy.
However, the opposite argument could be made. The whole point of democracy is that our public officeholders and ’eminent’ figures are still subject to the same rules as everyone else, and must be held accountable like everyone else. Trust isn’t just given, it must be earned. And it must be earned over and over again. The entire reason we have regular elections is because governments often lose the trust of the population and must be replaced.
Democracy is also more than just elections. It’s the entire structure of accountability and citizen participation that keeps our institutions in check. That’s why freedom of the press is so important, and that’s why the press is supposed to have an adversarial relationship with the government. It’s also why foreign election interference – particularly from a totalitarian state like China – is such a danger.
If Canadians are not the ones who have influence over our institutions, or if that influence is eroded by a foreign power, then Canada’s democracy will also be eroded. And since our rights and freedoms depend upon being able to restrain the power of the government, Canada cannot remain a free nation if our institutions are co-opted.
The problem we face is that many of our institutions are already so closely-tied together, and have been so influenced by the Chinese Communist Party that their own self interest – even in the absence of actual co-ordination – pushes them to protect each other rather than protect Canadian democracy.
Consider this recent column by former Trudeau Foundation ‘Mentor’ Susan Delacourt. She argues that politics works best when no one is watching:
As aptly noted by Norman Spector, this seems to be an abandonment of the “watchdog” role of the press:
“I’m old enough to remember when the House of Commons held the Government accountable and when the parliamentary press gallery ‘watchdogs’ made sure of that”
I’m old enough to remember when the House of Commons held the Government accountable and when the parliamentary press gallery ‘watchdogs’ made sure of that #cdnpoli #cdnmedia #justinjournalism pic.twitter.com/UlxkpBeWJp
— Norman Spector (@nspector4) March 19, 2023
The idea that things should be decided behind closed doors without the ‘pesky’ public watching seems antithetical to the spirit of democracy and accountability. We are supposed to be watching, we are supposed to be holding the government accountable, and we are supposed to be active participants in our government – not silent bystanders.
Sadly, it’s not exactly surprising to see that kind of mindset being promoted by someone affiliated with the Trudeau Foundation. It would certainly be in the interest of the Trudeau Foundation for the Liberals & NDP to continue their pact, as that would mitigate any serious investigation of China’s election interference – and thus mitigate an investigation into the Trudeau Foundation’s potential role in that interference.
But without a full investigation, we cannot restore trust in our democratic institutions. We shouldn’t be telling people to look the other way or let things happen in secret. Instead, we should be encouraging political engagement and involvement, and demand full accountability so Canadians can know that our institutions are being shaped by our fellow citizens, rather than a hostile foreign power.