A concrete proposal to improve Canadian democracy through constituency representation.
In this substantive work, Lyon (Emeritus, Political Science/Trent Univ.) advocates for an elected constituency parliament in each of Canada’s 308 constituencies. Working alongside these ordinary yet empowered citizens to discuss local and national matters, MPs would then represent these shared views in the House of Commons, increasing the civic participation of the general electorate as well as traditionally underrepresented groups: “the economically marginalized, the aboriginal population, women, the young and old, some ethnic minorities, and others.” The author persuasively argues that Canada now functions as a “partyocracy,” where party interests dominate political discourse and employ divisive maneuvers to achieve shortsighted gains in elections. He usually avoids attacking individual politicians and instead questions tactics and policy, taking the time to analyze specific policy failures regarding child care, climate change and the tobacco industry, for example. Lyon skillfully blends academic rigor with an accessible writing style that sometimes allows for moments of humor and exasperation, as when he mentions a survey of respected occupations that ranked MPs “just ahead of the bottom categories: car dealers and telemarketers.” The author likens piecemeal reform efforts to patching a ship that has served a great purpose but is no longer seaworthy. Furthermore, he argues that Canadians are uniquely positioned to pursue this collaborative endeavor of civic engagement, as approximately 80 percent of the population already resides in urban settings, and technological advances make communication easier for the other 20 percent. Finally, Lyon cites extensive polling data to suggest that most Canadians, including the MPs themselves, are ready to make the move from “exploitation of division and grievance by competing parties” to constituency representation, i.e., “the next logical step in our democratic evolution.”
A blueprint for political reform that can serve as a resource for Canadians; also suitable for a broader audience interested in the dynamics of representative government.