One of the best investigative journalists in the English-speaking world is George Monbiot of The Guardian newspaper in England.

He has written several articles recently on the death of democracy. 

Although he has no “magic formula” for the many problems we have created for ourselves, he makes several cogent suggestions that, I think, would help us at every level of government in Canada.

1. Campaign financing. He starts off with the premise that the “dirtiest companies” spend the most on politics to avoid being regulated out of existence. This applies not only to fossil fuel companies, but banks, pharmaceuticals, gambling, junk food companies, etc.

His proposal is simple: “Every party would be entitled to charge the same small fee for membership . . . (perhaps $25) matched by the state, with a fixed multiple.

“Any other political funding, direct or indirect, would be illegal.”

Help voters make informed choices. He uses several European models (Canada and the United States don’t serve as good examples), but particularly Switzerland, which has a “Smartvote” system, which “presents a list of policy choices with which you can agree or disagree, then compares your answers to the policies of the parties and candidates contesting the election.

Unfortunately, this caters only to those voters who are actually interested in politics.

3. A change in the voting system. In this, Monbiot recommends the proportional representation system, which has been the choice of other countries, and could be used in Canada as well.

4. Ballot initiatives. Of the kind used in the U.S. in which, if you gather enough signatures, you can demand a vote.

For example, if you get enough signatures against a council decision to demolish a building, a provincial desire to build a road, or a federal mandate to favour a pipeline, this would be enough to counter any decision to the contrary.

It could also serve as a source of direction for any level of government.

As Monbiot says, “change happens when we decide what we want, rather than what we think we might get.”

Frank Martens, Summerland

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