Is Canada a dictatorship – albeit a friendly dictatorship? In this thoughtful book, Jeffrey Simpson argues that the Liberal Party’s re-election to a third majority government must raise the question: Is Canada in danger of becoming a de facto one-party state, ruled by an all-powerful leader?
An effective parliamentary system presumes that at least one party is ready and capable of replacing the existing government by winning an election. Clearly, no party was ready in the last election, and none of the opposition parties absorbed the lessons of Canadian political history, that the Liberals can only be defeated by coalitions that show a preference for moderation and compromise.
The recent election results have left the Liberals in power for the foreseeable future. Jean Chrétien’s longevity and reluctance to step down has highlighted the most alarming part of Canada’s de facto one-party government: Canadian parliamentary democracy now places more power in the hands of the prime minister than does any other democracy.
Chrétien, who has survived and thrived so long in this political system, is the last person from whom anyone should expect an interest in reform. At the same time, Canadians’ increasing discouragement over their political system can be seen in a declining voter turnout, a documented erosion in respect for all politicians, and in an increasing interest in other forms of political engagement as opposed to organized partisan politics.
The Friendly Dictatorship demonstrates what has been happening in three areas that are vital to Canadian democracy: the parliamentary system, the political parties, and the electorate. What has occurred within each of these spheres has directly influenced developments in the others, and the combined effect has been to leave Canadian democracy in a worrying state.
The Friendly Dictatorship delivers a message that is informed, articulate, and passionate, and that should be heard by all Canadians.