Aborted democracy

By Nicole Kobie

As any junior high choir teacher can tell you, you don’t get harmony if everybody sings the same note. You also don’t get change, or protection of minority rights.

Many people think democracy is about majority rule. An election or an issue comes along, and whoever cares enough to vote, does. Whatever candidate gets the most votes, wins. Whatever the result is on the issue, stands. That’s democracy, right? Wrong. That’s dictatorship of the masses, something Aristotle warned us against.

Just because I don’t agree with the majority doesn’t mean I have to live by their rules, or agree with them. My opinion doesn’t change if it doesn’t match that of the masses. Just because a party loses doesn’t mean they should change their platform or their ideology. Take abortion, for example. Even if 50 per cent plus one of the people in this country don’t want abortions, I should still have the right to have one. If you don’t want one, don’t have one; just don’t steal my right to choose to have an abortion.

And what if the majority is wrong? There was a time in the United States when the majority of voters wanted slavery. Does that make slavery right? The masses don’t always know what’s right, which is exactly why minority rights are so important. What’s considered a basic right now, such as universal suffrage, was once the opinion of the minority.

Citizen-initiated referendums have become an issue in this federal election, and have caused much name-calling directed towards the Alliance. Referendums are not an entirely bad idea. They allow politicians to discover what people, as a group, feel about an issue. They have the ablilty to create discussion–just don’t assume every argument is correct. If 51 per cent of Quebec voted to separate, should we let them? Would you be willing to accept the economic and social consequences of a fractured Canada? If 100 per cent of the country voted to abolish taxes, should we? If it was put to a referendum, how would you vote?

Decisions do need to be made to keep the majority happy. That’s how elections are won. Democracy does legitimize the beliefs of the majority, but we need to remember that those aren’t the only valid opinions. And, there are some issues so contentious and so personal that the government, and the rest of the country, just don’t have the right to decide.

We elect men and women to represent us in parliament. Sure, they don’t do a very good job sometimes. However, this lack of real, effective representation could be better resolved by a minority government, a triple-E senate or a parliament not bound by party lines, without obliterating the right to choose and the right to be in the minority in this country.


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