Letter to the Editor: Myth of Representative Government

Has anyone else wondered why our political leaders at every level of government give lip service to representing the constituents they seek support from only when they are campaigning for office or forming the political opposition in the legislature?

Ritually, leaders of political parties promise and promise and promise some more during a campaign knowing all along the electorate has no legal recourse to enforce promises that turn out, after the election, to be lies.

Click to enlarge. (Source: Department of Finance Canada)

I recall reading that a court in a corner of our so-called democratic world (the UK, in fact) has already ruled that politicians cannot be held responsible/accountable for what they promise in a campaign “to represent” the people.

About a month ago, I telephoned my municipal councilor requesting him to introduce a motion, after first seeking out a seconder, calling upon the McNeil government to act on the Nova Scotia Liberal Party’s 2011 Annual General Meeting resolution to have the provincial auditor general audit the distribution of federal equalization payments.

I emailed my councilor that resolution and another from 2012 that dealt with what would be considered a related outcome if the federally-provided formula was used to calculate equalization distribution to eligible Nova Scotia municipalities. (That calculation calls for the distribution of 26% of total equalization payments. In 2017-18, with equalization payments to NS totaling $1.78 billion, the amount distributed would have been about $460 million.)

My councilor’s response was that he first would have to run this by his associates. I disagreed and asked him to do what I requested or nothing was going to happen. Since then, I have heard nothing further — only silence.

The NS provincial government’s equalization program distributes only $32 million to the 42 eligible municipalities. How is this meagre amount going to strengthen the federally identified fiscal weakness of the municipalities recognized by the yearly federally-provided $460 million? Where is the remainder of that federal funding ($460 – $32 = $428 million) being spent each year?

Our CBRM councilors, provincial MLAs and federal MPs are bearing silent witness to the accumulated, compound economic damages of underfunding to this municipality (and the others in this province) over the years through the indefensible and unconstitutional political manipulations of these equalization payments. Denying 42 economically disadvantaged municipalities the federally provided, constitutional funding to which they are legally entitled constitutes political corruption or theft.

Given the political parties’ shenanigans, it is understandable why, a few years ago in British Columbia, the Citizens Assembly, after almost a year of studying electoral reform, decided on STV (Single Transferable Vote), a form of proportional representation that reduces the power of political parties.

However, unless the general public demands this electoral reform, representative government will remain a myth.

Charles W. Sampson
Sydney Forks, NS