Parliament: From Glorious Revolution to Puppet Show #Cdnpoli

Thanks to Canada’s Constitution Act 1867 Canada inherited the Westminister model of Parliament and the evolutionary process that created it and sustains it. It has been done using salami tactics, slice by slice. Like any system of democratic government it can not survive without an informed and engaged citizenry. As can be seen below my own understanding is limited.

The earliest move from glorified tribal chieftain to democracy was a small step called the Magna Carta. It is more about the aristocracy not being treated by the King the way they were treating their own serfs. The Magna Carta was agreed upon in a parliament or conference and took several tries to get it as the law of England.

The next step in the evolution was the result of the Renaissance and Reformation. England’s split from the Catholic Church had consequences during the Tudor and Stuart reigns. The first attempts to remove a monarch may have been rooted in Catholic/Protestant schism but it will lead to more power for us common people. Tudor’s and early Stuart’s were tyrants but with an ever decreasing grasp of power.

It is to me astonishing to see people in Guy Fawkes masks it is a bit like dressing up like Al Queda or some other current religious extremist group. The gunpowder plot would have killed King James the First (Sixth of Scotland), the House of Lords and most of the elected members of Parliament. A Catholic extremist movement was behind Fawkes and meant to replace government with Spanish puppets who would allow in the Inquisition.

Charles I ascended to the throne and found he would need to ask Parliament for money each year. This started a chain of events ending in the English Civil War. Spending public money without Parliament’s consent, more religious turmoil, violations of Parliamentary privilege and general stubbornness on both sides lead to Oliver Cromwell and a Puritan dictatorship. During the Commonwealth saying God bless to someone who had sneezed was punishable by time in the stocks and Christmas was considered a banned Pagan festival. It  all ended with a few more men being allowed a say in Parliament.

After the Restoration of Charles II England’s Parliament got on with banning Catholics from holding any post. The Bi-polar system common around the world today was born, Whigs and Tories. James II came to the throne and made his Declaration of Indulgence for Nonconformists to undo the anti-Catholic laws. He went so far as to recruit friendly MPs. After putting bishops on trial for not backing his declaration and invitation was sent to his Son-in-Law to invade from the Netherlands. The Glorious Revolution it is called when William of Orange invaded, forcing James II to flee and Parliament deciding to give William III and Mary II a joint crown. Queen Anne was the last monarch to use the veto power in 1708. After the Stuart line ended Parliament invited George I over from Hanover to be King. This period saw Britain’s first Bill of Rights enacted.

By the reign of William IV and Victoria Parliamentary power were secure. The Canadian influenced Responsible Government ideal influences Canadian and British Parliamentary evolution with reform acts, the British North America act and reduced roles for the Monarch and Lords. The British system was adopted by Canadians because of the only other example of democratic government was in the aftermath of a bloody civil war. Walter Bagehot and Sir John A. MacDonald were two advocates of the system England had evolved, Bagehot was the theorist writing about the English Constitution and MacDonald was putting it into practice.

Canada’s Parliament has evolved differently from Britain’s and luckily it hasn’t had to fight a civil war or execute a sitting head of state. So why the Puppet Show it is now? Parliament evolved to democracy using salami tactics and is devolving the same way. The process is being accelerated by the current Harper Government but they have had much to build on in their descent to tyranny. It is the blame of every citizen for allowing this. We accept the reduction from citizen to mere voter or taxpayer, just a means to an end for those seeking power. It is a symptom of our times, the rampant Careerism that pervades politics as much as any profession. The link is about how such careerism is effecting the United States Armed Forces but it applies everywhere. Instead of treating psychopaths we are voting for them.

Restoration of Canada’s Parliament will not be easy. The people who caused the problem, Canadians, will need to fix it. It starts at home with more engagement and passing an ethos of engagement on to future generations. It starts at school with not letting students graduate from high school until they know our system inside out. It starts with parties cutting leaders out from the nomination process, give it to the party president. It starts with MPs reminding the executive they are the master not the servant. It starts with mandatory voting, in person, with effort expended, no insecure technologies just a stubby pencil and a papper ballot.

Here is a really good historic resource about the evolution.

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