Brookman: All levels of government ignoring wishes of the people

The decisions of governments must reflect the reasonable will of the people, not the ideological will of elected representatives

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Eight people sit down in a restaurant for a meal. When the bill comes, seven of them take a vote and decide that the eighth person should pay the bill. After all, it’s a democracy, and majority rules.

Or should the single person be able to declare that they cannot pay and the others should cover it? Democracy is a fine line between mutual respect and co-operation, and the demands of either a majority or a minority.

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Too many Canadian governments at all levels are abusing their power between elections. The federal government has almost abandoned any regard for holding the country together and making decisions — such as the removal of the carbon tax on heating oil — without respect for the debate process in Parliament or the equality of Canadians.

The Senate, which should be the house of “sober second thought,” seems to have abandoned its role of sending back unpopular legislation, and even the Supreme Court of Canada has seen its rulings trivialized by the comment: “We just have to tweak it a bit and it will be fine.”

Legislation that has imposed many restrictions on the Alberta economy was not created with the intention of benefiting all Canadians, but rather follows an ideological path that, at best, benefits some Canadians, and at worst punishes parts of the country while rewarding others.

The current provincial administration does seem to be a staunch defender of Alberta rights — that’s a good thing. At the same time, it appears to be running off on tangents that many voters either do not understand and many do not want. The proposed Alberta pension plan, as a prime example, seems to have about as much popular support as a skunk at a garden party, yet we are spending several million dollars interviewing Albertans and providing a survey that any junior high student could see through. The panel that is supposed to be listening to Albertans appears pleased when town hall callers support the idea, but want to correct the ideas of those who oppose it.

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However, no government body seems more oblivious to the wishes of its community than our own city council.

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They may express concern regarding housing, individual security, traffic safety and taxes, but it is just words. Their solution to solving the housing crisis is to ignore the comments of existing communities and simply bulldoze ahead with their own ideas of creating modern ghettos.

Dramatic rezoning over the wishes of existing communities is becoming commonplace. Whether ignoring the protestations of citizens around Richmond Green; the redevelopments along 33rd Avenue S.W. in Marda Loop or the incredible plan to sell parkland around Glenmore Landing, it seems that almost daily council is considering decisions that ignore the wishes of existing residents.

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The parkland around Glenmore Landing, by the way, was granted following a hard-fought battle in the 1970s between council and the real estate developer. I remember the bitter arguments that led to the compromise we have today, but this council seems intent on forgetting all of this. Calgary parks are suddenly seen as opportunities for multi-family developments. I wonder how many highrise buildings planners think they might build on Riley Park some day?

Last week, we heard of a proposed eight-per-cent residential property tax increase. We know there will be arguments and debates, and eventually we will see a three or four per cent tax increase followed by much self-congratulations about how they reduced it. We could really celebrate if they said, “Your taxes will be exactly the same as last year,” or even better, “Your taxes will stay the same for three years and we will hold our spending to those levels.”

Whether you think the majority rules in a democracy or if you think the rights of minorities are also important, the decisions of governments must reflect the reasonable will of the people, not the ideological will of elected representatives.

George H. Brookman is the chair and company ambassador of WCD Ltd.

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