Parliamentary system flawed, but more sound than referenda

Now that an Alliance Member of Parliament has been elected  in Kamloops, we should take a serious look at some of  Alliance’s  guiding principles.

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Principle 1) If governments would just get out of the way,  private enterprise could do things much better.  Public  electricity utilities are a good example.  If they were sold  to private companies and the industry de-regulated, costs to  the consumer would go down.  Free market competition keeps  electricity prices low.

The implementation of this principle ran into problems in  New Zealand, but you don’t have to go that far to see the  results of deregulation. The province of Alberta privatized  its electric utilities, but now the idea has run into a bit  of a snag.

The private utilities have proposed price increases of $180  per year for electricity.   Albertans are understandably  upset, especially when those increases are added to the  rising cost of natural gas price.  The government of Alberta  has a solution — regulate the deregulated industry.  Keep  the cost to voters low.  At least until after the next  provincial election, that is, which is expected next spring.

In comparison, B.C.’s publicly owned utility, B C Hydro, has  kept the cost of electricity lower than Alberta.  In fact,  it’s lower than most of North America.  The price of  electricity has been frozen until December of this year.   As a result, consumers’ costs have declined by 13 per cent  since 1993, in constant dollars.

Incidentally,  BC Hydro made millions of dollars this year  selling electricity to California, capitalizing on their hot  weather.  Imagine if the same regulations were applied to  natural gas.  Canadians would have cheap natural gas and we  would still realize a profit on international sales.

But this idea runs counter to the principle of government  interference in the marketplace.  And even if it didn’t, the  Americans would cry foul under NAFTA, claiming that our  cheap natural gas was an unfair advantage.

Principle 2) Grass roots democracy will return power to  citizens.  If we had a direct say in government through  referenda, we could overcome party politics and corrupt  politicians.  We could even correct the injustices of the  court system which gives more consideration to the accused  than the victim.

Nothing focuses the need for direct democracy than the  brutal murder of a little girl.  She has been sexually  assaulted and killed.  The killer lived in the  neighbourhood.  Police have solid forensic evidence and the  prosecutors have a good case.  A cry of justice is heard in  the land.  The killer’s lawyer plans for an extended trail  — it could go on for years.

Imagine this. Capital punishment has been abolished, but  many call for its return. Dozens of Canadians volunteer  to throw the switch that would administer swift justice to the  killer by lethal drug injection.  A referendum is held on  capital punishment with the execution of the killer as a  test case.

The trial is broadcast on TV, with the killer strapped to a  chair and intravenous tubes attached to his arm, ready to  inject lethal drugs should he be found guilty.  Canadians  vote in front of their TVs using a remote control that has  two buttons, one for yes and one for no.  Each voter has a  unique identification code.

The voting begins, with a tally on the screen.  As soon as  the number voting yes exceeds those voting no by 100,000,  a  switch is automatically activated. The first drug paralyses  his body so there will be no violent thrashing about.  The  second causes a painful but quick death. The killer has a  oddly serene expression as the TV screen fades to black.

Ten years pass and undisputed evidence finds the executed  killer to be innocent, as Guy-Paul Morin was found  innocent of the murder of the eight-year old girl next door,  Christine Jessop.  An inquiry is called. Votes are  recounted. Some blame the technology, some say the question  was unclear.

Canada’s parliamentary system is not perfect but it serves  to buffer the impulses of the moment.  The problem with  referenda is that they are often centred around an  emotionally charged issue.  Canadians get involved most when  the impulse is strong and passions are high.    go back to my Columns in the  Kamloops Daily News

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