There are some people who believe that government should not be involved in business. In Canada, this is not the case – our government is very involved in some of our largest businesses: energy, communications, banking, lotteries, gas and oil to name only a few. They reap the benefits of these industries, particularly from the taxes levied on these items.

The question becomes, if the government is involved, do we have a checks and balance in place to monitor the involvement, especially at the leader role, our Prime Minister. You have to look at the structure of how our government is set up to really understand if this does exist. I came across a great article in the National Post, by Andrew Coyne, entitled, “If our leaders were corrupt would we know it?” that gave me some insight. I want to share this article with you:

The author, Andrew Coyne, starts his article with examples of corruption that has taken place over time with our leaders. He notes that, ” Prime ministers in any Westminster system have always been powerful, but ours (Canadian) have amassed powers that are quite without parallel, if not without limit.” He goes to say that in other countries , executive powers is subject to various checks and balances. The question becomes, who or what prevents a primer minister of Canada from doing as he/she pleases?

Let’s look at our system in Canada:

Is it the governor general who does this checks and balance – no, because he/she is appointed by the queen.
Is it through our senate? No, because our senators are appointed by the PM.
Is it through the courts? No, because the PM appoints every member of the Supreme Court, and all federal court judges too.
Is it through the bureaucracy? No, the PM appoints the clerk of the privacy council, every deputy minister, the heads of all Crown corporations and even the ambassadors.
Is it through the police? No, the PM appoints the chief of the RCMP.
Is it through the House of Commons where the PM must command their confidence? No, the PM appoints all the committee chairs (those in which the government has a majority). He/she appoints not only the cabinet ministers, but the parliamentary secretaries and the whips. So members of the governing caucus has every incentive to seek his favour and fear his/her wrath. For that matter the PM appoints the caucus, since without the PM’s signature on their nomination papers, they cannot run. Yet they have no similar power over the PM.

Since 1919, party leaders in Canada have been elected, not by the caucus, as in the classical Westminster model, but by the party at large.

The author goes on to say, “In consequence, Parliament has become a kind of electoral college, its sole purpose to translate the votes of perhaps 40% of the electorate into a majority. A PM in possession of such a “mandate” decides what will be debated, and, for how long. He decides when Parliament shall be convened, when it should be prorogued, and when dissolved. And if he has to, he has the nuclear option: the power to declare any vote of matter of confidence, and to insist on fresh elections if MPs are so foolish as to defeat him.”

I think you are getting the point. When you sit down to look at all the appointments, large and small, nearly all are without any independent oversight. That is scary and very undemocratic. The author writes, “Have the powers been abused? Yes, all of them. In past, decisions to place people in position of power by the PM were not necessarily in the best interest of the country (Mulroney appointed his wife’s hairdresser to the Federal Business Development Bank). The cabinet today is so bloated in size as to be more than a ceremonial body. Worse has been the continual whittling away of Parliament’s ability to hold the prime ministers to account. Closure of government, prorogue the House rather than face a confidence vote, loss of confidence without the consequence of resigning — these are the actions of our past and present PM.”

Where it was once thought that Canada could never have a Watergate situation because the PM would be accountable to the House, he/she would be compelled to resign long before things progressed to a cover-up and obstruction of justice stages. Today, there has been a decline in our institutions of accountability, the noted absence of checks and balances, formal or informal.

For the business world what does this all mean? Canada is comprised of 98% small to medium businesses yet our government tends to put focus to the larger corporations. If the PM holds so much power and there is little to no checks and balance how can the “little guy” come up against and question business practices that are hurting our very businesses? Is the CFIB effective in this area? I say no.

Is it not time to band together and start to question the structure of how our government is set up for this surely impacts businesses, innovation, creativity and our ability to trade and work in the global market. Now is the time to do so — all systems around the world are being questioned, why not ours?!

There has been talk of reform and change, reducing the “red tape” that impacts productivity and innovation yet there has been little movement, if at all. Thank goodness for the youth who are willing to question and challenge systems. Yes, it comes from frustration; years of attending universtiy with large debt loads at the end and no jobs in their field to be hire for (14% unemployment); seeing the amount of greed and manipulation that has been allowed to happen at the benefit of few.

Start being the lead player in your own life. Like every relationship we have, personal or professioanl, it is built on trust and mutual respect; It is in the best interest of all, not self-interest and self-motivation.

Canada is a great country, wake up Canadians and demand you are treated with the respect you deserve!

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