Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Canada's Watergate Will be Swept Under the Rug..."Democracy" Continues

I'm no conspiracy theorist. I am no radical. I am an educated person with a stable long-term career who makes investments in mutual funds and real estate like any other good capitalist. I'm no "left-wing nut-bar", as Kevin O'Leary rudely labels Chris Hedges at 3:30 of this video:

No, I consider myself part of the traditional establishment. I believe in the fundamentals of capitalism that have made the Western world so wealthy and have increased life expectancy and quality of life. And yet...I find myself growing ever more sceptical about the "system".

Two things about our current system make me very uncomfortable. The first is the modern approach to capitalism. Capitalism is supposed to provide opportunities for all through a free market. The success of sellers of goods and services that are bought and sold on that market is, in theory, to be determined by the quality of their products. If you sell a nicer loaf of bread that someone else does, then more people will buy your bread. Cost, of course, also has a large bearing on that success. If someone else undercuts your price and  their product is still acceptable to the consumers, then likely they will be more successful. That is how the system is supposed to work.

But in practice what we have is a market all driven by marketing, not by quality or price of products. Think about it. When you go to by a product, be it a new computer or a pair of shoes, how often do you consider buying a product from a manufacturer that you've never heard of? No, you buy a Toshiba, Sony, or some other major name-brand product. That is all fine, and the name-brand is supposed to assure you of a certain level of quality. But, where is the opportunity for the new fledgiling capitalist in the computer market. Someone who has significant skill in manufacturing high quality computers has zero chance of any success on the open market. The major manufacturers will out-market that individual, and if that doesn't work, then they'll simply buy up his company thereby making the individual very wealthy, and put an end to their competition. This is the real key to the problem in modern capitalism: complete lack of competition. How many choices do I have if I want a cell phone provider? Maybe three. How many choices do I have if I want to open a bank account? Maybe five in Canada (all with identical products and services). How many choices do I have if I want electricity to flow into my home? One.

The second thing that makes me uncomfortable about our current system is the process of democracy, or lack thereof. I don't even have time to get started on the problems in the United States, but what is going on in Canada is equally frightening. In the last federal election, in May 2011, the Conservative Party won a majority and have been in power since. Now, in the past few weeks, reports have surfaced indicating that tens of thousands of Canadians may have had their right to vote illegally tampered with. Many Canadians receive automated telephone calls prior to the election asking them what party they were likely to vote for. If they responded that they were likely to vote for anyone other than the Conservative Party, then they were often directed to false voting addresses thereby decreasing their chances of actually being able to vote. On top of that, the automated callers often falsely identified themselves as being from Elections Canada, an independant non-partisan body. This is, of course, all illegal in an election.

The normal reponse to these reports, one would assume, would be to assist a full investigation to find out exactly what happened. No matter what party one supports, surely everyone can agree that we want a fair election process. We want all the votes to count and we want everyone who wants to vote to have their say. Yet, the government's response to this scandal has been the exact opposite of aiding an investigation. First they dismissed a young twenty-something party supporter and claimed that it was all his fault and claimed that it was an isolated incident. As reports came in or more and more fraud in tens of electoral ridings all across the country and it became obvious that a single 24-year old was probably not capable of organizing this kind of fraud, the government then blamed the opposition parties. They claimed that the Liberal Party was responsible since they had hired an American company to manage some of their election phone calls and some of the fraudulent calls had been traced to an American company. Then, it was pointed out in debate in the House of Commons that the American company hired by the Liberal Party was not the same one used in the fraudulent calls, the Conservatives did not apologize but simply claimed that it was all part of a vast smear campaign against their party by the opposition parties who were sore losers in the election. Most recently, a Conservative dominated parliamentary committee voted not to give Elections Canada more power to investigate the issue properly.

Wouldn't the simple and right answer be to investigate this openly and fully and find out what actually happened? The Conservative Party, though they have yet to be found actually guilty of anything, are certainly behaving as though they don't want the scandal investigated openly and fully. Why not?

The implications of this are enormous. My prediction is that, given there are another 3 years or more until the next election, the whole issue will be swept under the rug and voters won't care by the time the next election rolls around. In the next election campaign, the Conservative Party will claim that it is all about the economy and that they are the best suited party to foster a strong economy (despite the fact they are running massive deficits leading Canada in the same failed path that countries like Greece, Spain, and even the United States are on). Voters will not care about some theoretical scandal that happened a few years ago. They just won't care.

And yet the implication is that the Conservative Party possibly never was actually elected. We will never know who actually should have won the 2011 Canadian federal election, just as we will never know who should have won the 2000 American presidential election. No one actually knows whether Gore or Bush won more electoral college votes because the Supreme Court stopped the recount. Republicans and Democrats alike will argue until they are blue in the face that they each should have won, but the truth is that no one will ever know. The same goes for the most recent election in Canada. No one will ever know how many seats the Conservative Party should have won, and whether they actually won a majority or not.

But, this whole scandal might help explain one thing: how during the election campaign, absolutely no one, except the leader of the Conservative Party, predicted a Conservative majority. What did he know that the rest of us didn't?

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