Don Denton’s “Politicians, pay attention now” (Comment, Feb. 11) speaks for many people.
His core point – that democratic leadership depends upon the active consent of the governed – is unarguable. He calls for servant-leadership expressed in practice through the lives of a Tommy Douglas and currently by Denise Savoie.
The struggle for democracy has been a long and costly one. In ancient Athens about 20 per cent of inhabitants were citizens – women, children, slaves and foreigners were excluded. Active citizenship was seen as both a right and a responsibility. Those who did not carry out their citizen duties were termed idiots.
Aristotle, no fan of democracy, warned it would devolve into plutocracy, or rule by the rich. And sadly, he was prophetic. Here Elections B.C. reports that almost 80 per cent of Liberal party funds come from corporations while the NDP gathers about 80 per cent of its donations from individuals. There is no level playing field in such an unfair situation.
Today, as Don Denton rightly argues, cronyism, personal and corporate self-interest too often dominate. Massive tax breaks for large corporations from banks to oil companies prevail while our middle class dwindles and the numbers of working poor increase. The Senate is stuffed with party hacks and hangers-on who block progressive legislation from the elected House of Commons. Necessary improvements to the Canada Pension Plan for all are thwarted by parties tied to the interests of banks and insurance companies.
Denton calls for fair taxation that will support at-risk programs ranging from medical care, pensions and education. Thirty years ago we had no food banks – now they are commonplace. B.C. has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation for seven years. We have the highest cost of living in Canada and have the lowest minimum wage. Too many middle class post-secondary students accumulate huge tuition debts. StatsCan revealed only Atlantic Canada has higher unemployment than B.C., yet we are the only major province with no anti-poverty strategy.
Fair taxation is the membership dues of a just society. Continual corporate tax cuts by the federal and provincial government on the one hand and massive tax shifts from corporations onto individuals like the HST and the regressive Medical Service Plan bear witness to growing unfairness.
Those who worship at the altar of free market ideology have since the global financial crisis been proven to worship a god that failed. Rather, active citizenship and the demand for leadership that serves humanity and the environment are the way forward.