Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mouseland

The Prince Edward Island political scene needs to be driven by a new grassroots movement whose objective is the formation of a viable, electable, responsible alternative to the existing Conservative and Liberal parties. The leader must not be a Larry McGuire-type who has a personal issue with Premier Ghiz, it must be a leader that is palatable to the electorate, a leader that does not have a personal grudge, a leader that wants to lead because they see that it is time for change. It must also be a party with integrity and vision for change.

In 1944, Tommy Douglas, the first CCF/NDP Premier of Saskatchewan and founder of Canada's universal health care system gave his famous "Mouseland" speech. Historically, Saskatchewan had been governed by a succession of Liberal and Conservative/Progressive-led governments that did not necessarily have the best interests of Saskatchewan residents at heart. In brief, Tommy Douglas describes a place called Mouseland where the mice had a parliament where they elected big, fat, black cats every year.

The cats weren't all that bad. They passed good laws, well, they were good laws if you were a cat! Eventually, things became so difficult for the mice that they had no choice but to vote out the black cats and vote in the white cats. The white cats promised change and change came. Things got even better for the white cats and worse for the mice. As time went on, the mice voted time and time again, replacing white cats with black cats ad nauseum. Finally, they realized that their problem wasn't the colour of the cat, the problem was that they were governed by cats who had only cat interests at heart. The mice had an idea. They realized that they needed to elect a government made up of mice. A government comprised of cats of any colour was never going to look out for the interests of the mouse population.

On Prince Edward Island, we have a similar political situation. We have been governed by a succession of Conservative and Liberal governments for the past 137 years. While these parties repeatedly campaign on platforms that stress their differences (for example, the Liberal Party of PEI used the slogan "Islanders First...For A Change" during the 2007 election campaign), in fact, it is readily apparent that the differences are superficial at best. This became apparent during the recent Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) where immigrant investors invest money in PEI businesses to expedite processing of their immigration requests. This program commenced under the Binns Conservative government and continued under the Ghiz Liberal government. It appears that under both governments, PNP units were allocated to politicians, their families or to those well connected to the party that was in power at the time. What a surprise - the cats weren't looking after the mice who elected them. They were too busy looking after the cat population!

I named this blog "Viable Opposition" because it is something that has been on my mind for the past two years. Prince Edward Island politics have been dominated by a two party system since it joined the Canadian Confederation in 1873. This has resulted in an unhealthy democracy. The two parties are similar to the black and white cats of Tommy Douglas's "Mouseland". As the electorate, we can only choose cats, there are no other viable options. Canadian history has shown that grassroots driven, third party alternatives are viable and are necessary to balance political power in a two party state. We need look no further than the rise of the CCF/NDP in Saskatchewan during the 1930's and 1940's. We have another great example in Alberta with the recent rise of the Wildrose Alliance Party under Danielle Smith where grassroots dissatisfaction with Premier Ed Stelmach has led to the birth of a new and viable alternative. As well, the early history of the Reform Party in the 1980s under Preston Manning was driven by Western Canadian alienation under both the Liberal and Progressive Conservative federal rule.

It is time for the mice to take charge of "Mouseland". It's time for "Viable Opposition" on Prince Edward Island.

References:

These links will take you to the history and written versions of Tommy Douglas's "Mouseland" speech as well as an audio file of the speech. I would urge you to read or listen to this amazing speech.


This link shows the results of Prince Edward Island elections since 1873.


This link discusses formation of the new Island Party.


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