Wanted: a high school civics class that actually explains the distinct and separate responsibilities of federal, provincial and municipal governments.
Also wanted: a requirement that anyone who seeks public office actually knows how governments work.
Why, well, because plenty of people don’t seem to know what different levels of government can or can’t do, and our political leaders either capitalize on that or are willfully blind about their powers.
Take Doug Ford, the leader of the Ontario PC party.
Right now, besides promising tax cuts and trimming waste, if elected premier Ford is promising to defund the CBC. It’s an interesting idea, if the province of Ontario had anything to do with funding the broadcaster.
But it doesn’t — funding the CBC is a federal responsibility.
Not long ago, residents of Newfoundland and Labrador — and even the province’s justice minister — argued that a resident of Newfoundland and Labrador should occupy (for the first time) the Atlantic Canadian seat on the Supreme Court of Canada. That did end up happening, with the appointment of Malcolm Rowe, but the arguments made showed a clear misunderstanding of what geographic representation on the court is all about.
Among the arguments? That the province needed a Supreme Court justice who would support Newfoundland and Labrador’s concerns.
If you want a judge on any court, let alone the Supreme Court, you want someone who will listen to the facts of cases, rather than prejudge them based on regional concerns.
Once again, it’s a basic ignorance of civics.
Then, there’s the federal pipeline issue.
The government of British Columbia has made great public pronouncements about its ability to use legislation to stop Kinder-Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — actions that government took after wide opposition to the pipeline. In Alberta, there have been mutterings about everything from stopping oil supply to B.C. to adding tolls on B.C. natural gas headed for the U.S. All of those are actions that may get plenty of public support for the politicians involved, but don’t actually involve those same politicians’ powers.
Here’s the National Energy Board: “The vast majority of gathering, feeder, and distribution pipelines are regulated provincially. Transmission pipelines located entirely within a single province are also regulated provincially, while the NEB regulates transmission pipelines that cross provincial and international borders.”
Sound and fury, but little in the way of legislated power.
If you’re opposed to funding the CBC, opposed to pipelines or in favour of them, you should be able to voice your opinion to the politicians whose responsibilities cover those areas. That’s your right as a citizen.
But you’d think it would be also a requirement that you know enough about how the country is governed to at least take your complaints to the right door.
It’s hard to take a complaint seriously when it isn’t even something you’re responsible for.