April 2013 – Do We Need Politicians?

ballotOur April meeting discussion looked at politicians, with a view to improving the political process in keeping with humanist values.

Concerns with the current political process – primarily, but not exclusively in Canada – included:

  • an increasing negative public view of politicians in general, for example considering them untrustworthy, dishonest, out of touch, or incompetent.
  • a lack of representation of the majority of voters under current first-past-the-post electoral systems
  • emphasis on party loyalty as opposed to constituent representation
  • the cost of maintaining a politician in office, including salaries, staff, and pensions
  • a preponderance of politicians who are financially very well off, not of the middle class
  • corporate and union funding of politicians
  • insufficiently regulated lobbying
  • reduced engagement by the public as shown by declining voter turn-out, especially among youth

The discussion touched on a broad range of topics, including the different approach to democracy in Nordic states, the speed of technological change and its impact on governance, the impact of the move to the political right in the 1970s, and the complexity of assessing political situations.

The question of evolutionary versus revolutionary change was raised, as were the possibility of any change being influenced by First Nations, instigated by disenfranchised youth or through charismatic leadership. The need for greater transparency throughout government was stressed.

Suggested improvements included elimination of the party system (or at least changes to the way parties are funded), stronger lobbying restrictions, changes to ministerial spending authority, citizen’s assemblies, limits on periods in office, and replacement of the current electoral system with a different system such as proportional representation.