Stephen Woodworth

The following blog comes from Stephen Woodworth, a former two-term MP for Kitchener Centre. We welcome him to the Opposition International blog and hope that continues to contribute.

Here’s the false narrative proposed by every authoritarian government masquerading as democratic: “Democracy requires us to rise above partisan considerations.”

I am quoting from a Minister in the Trudeau government, as reported.

Widely respected for most of his career, David Johnson, the Special Rapporteur appointed by Trudeau to investigate his own government’s handling of foreign electoral interference, nonetheless implicitly echoed the same complaint about partisan scrutiny of government decision-making when belatedly tendering his resignation, saying  “I have concluded that, given the highly partisan atmosphere around my appointment and work, my leadership has had the opposite effect.”

The actual truth is the exact opposite, namely, that democracy requires all government action and inaction to be tested by partisan scrutiny to ensure electoral accountability. Governments which claim their actions or inaction to be above criticism are in fact the ones *subverting* democracy. Effective and truly democratic leadership responds transparently to scrutiny from those opposed to its policies.

It is the failure to exact accountability from governments through robust critique which is the flawed approach that has led to electoral mistrust, not it opposite of incisive examination of governments through adversarial debate. On the contrary, the presence of a robust legislature holding the Canadian government’s feet to the fire is a virtue which guarantees not only more thoughtful outcomes but also provides democratic legitimacy with buy-in from all sectors of society.

It is shameful for democracy that so many Canadian Members of Parliament abdicate this, their proper, role. It is a discredit to democracy that Canada has a government composed of people who complain, whine, and moan about demands to allow the legislature to closely scrutinize their decisions.

Stephen Woodworth, Kitchener

Stephen’s blogpost resonates a basic OI message. “A democracy ought to be measured by how much a government can be held accountable. Opposition International arises from the evidence that a freely elected elected opposition can best enforce gut-real accountability. They offer to voters the choice of new leaders and new ideas. Competition works in compelling governments to review policies and correct actions. Civil society and the media are powerful influencers, but it’s the opposition parties who take the risk to contest an election. Bluntly, without an effective opposition, power will corrupt even the best and the brightest.”