The Democratic Deficit In The Municipal Politics Of The ‘Free World’ – OpEd


‘In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant.’ — Charles de Gaulle

In most federal polities around the planet, the democratic will of the people is exercised through its elected representatives using three different levels of government. All three have different jurisdictions, powers and budgets. Often these differences are validated by a popularly approved constitution. Such constitutional arrangements can be changed only with the greatest of care and through massive popular support for any amendments.

In Canada, for some reason, the farther the level of government is from the people, the more interest it attracts. This ends up making local government the ‘poor sister’. Elections are poorly attended both in the media and by electors themselves.

Yet, of all three levels of government, the municipal or local government is the nexus of what affects us in our daily existence. It attracts lucrative developers, real estate moguls and corrupt officials since it is at the local level where projects are approved. The fact that national and state or provincial attention is not attracted only makes the ‘poor sister’ an even more valuable target for legions of money hungry scoundrels. The popular will does not exert itself with the same vigor as in ‘higher’ level considerations. The result is a glaring democratic deficit in government that has most direct consequences for the daily life of its citizens.

These considerations hit home when, last year, the house where I raised my three children in the Pointe-Claire village of Montréal was savagely bulldozed without a permit from the City. This ‘illegal’ action by the developer was a fitting end to a story of corruption and graft the likes of which Pointe-Claire residents have become used to. Little and uneducated men are unilaterally reshaping the face and heart of Pointe-Claire.

Meanwhile the current political administration spies on its own citizens to ascertain whether they support or oppose development projects like the Pioneer demolition, a cultural icon in the village. Rumors of dubious and unscrupulous practices abound and honest citizens do not know who to trust anymore. I have seen examples of the above with my own eyes.

Developers, like the one who bulldozed the ‘pink house’ without a permit, are confident they can navigate with impunity given a welcoming political administration at City Hall, which maintains an underground network of moles and soothsayers designed to thwart any opposition to its dictates. Deny the obvious and rely on the big lie appears to be the strategy at the top. Clamors about a development freeze in the midst of multiple cranes and bulldozers are ludicrous as developers rape the village of Pointe-Claire, house by house.

Citizens of Pointe-Claire – there is a cancer growing on the City and no one will be immune to it. Who will be bulldozed next?

The November election is a chance to right the ship, change its course and begin to address the democratic deficit in Pointe-Claire.

Bruce Mabley

Dr. Bruce Mabley is a former Canadian diplomat having served in the Middle East, and is the director of the Mackenzie-Papineau think tank in Montreal.

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