Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 2009 Book Club Selection: Open & Shut, John Ibbitson

John Ibbitson makes case for open politics in Canada

Open & Shut: Why America Has Barack Obama and Canada Has Stephen Harper, draws more than a few conclusions that many Canadians wouldn't be entirely happy with.

Ibbitson lays out the case that the United States is essentially more democratic than Canada, and that Canada could never have a Prime Minister like Barack Obama unless we make some serious changes to our electoral system.

More than anything, Ibbitson points to the American system of primary elections, in which nominees for offices such as the President or state Governor are chosen by the people through an electoral process.

What emerges is a real possibility for "underdog" candidates like Barack Obama to triumph over "inevitable" candidates like Hilary Clinton to get their chance at the Presidency -- and, in the process, help galvanize the issues that are really on the citizenry's mind.

As Preston Manning recently pointed out in a Globe and Mail op/ed, many unexpected parties are experimenting with primary elections within systems that naysayers would insist aren't designed to accommodate them.

Ibbitson also makes the case for an elected judiciary in Canada, noting that most objective accounts credit the American judiciary -- which is elected, and even the President-appointed Supreme Court has greater democratic mechanisms in place -- with a stronger record than its Canadian counterpart.

There are some proposals in Open and Shut that many Canadians wouldn't be nearly so eager to follow. Ibbitson calls for an ever-greater level of integration with the United States that would make a great many Canadian nationalists uneasy.

But the ideas contained in Open and Shut are important, and very worth discussing. The Globe and Mail has convened a public policy wiki for that very purpose -- one that should warrant the attention of any Canadian concerned about the future of the country.

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