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Rick Mercer’s comments to Ipsos Reid’s December 2008 survey that Canadians lack basic understanding of their parliamentary system may not be rhetorical. How can a country function when half the population doesn’t know what the hell is going on and their own government actually likes it that way? If we want to protect this democracy we all have an obligation to wake up and get informed, because quite frankly, our members of parliament can’t be trusted with it anymore. 


In the Middle Ages, where there was no free speech and democratic freedom, Court Jesters could challenge society without the risk of being out of luck or worse, because it was a jest.  The foundation for a democracy such as Canada’s is a constitution that guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the press and protects against retribution. 


Rick Mercer, in his guise as Canada’s Chief Jester, has the media’s and society’s attention and can challenge society without risk of retribution.  Canadians should take note, because Rick Mercer’s messages are not a jest.   It is a serious reminder to Canadians of what the society in the early democracy of ancient Athens discovered when a small group of bullies and their followers took power and oppressed society.  Democracy is no guarantee against abuse of power. 


Today in any democracy, addressing issues that challenge the social and political establishment always will involve risk of being out of luck. However, when society is complacent, parliament and government fails.  In a constitutional democratic elected representative governed mixed monetary economy such as Canada’s, when government fails in their task to early enough understand, address and mitigate issues in the economy’s allocation mechanism - Capitalism fails - and unsolved issues will inevitably escalate into socioeconomic and ecological adversity. As witnessed in the financial sectors, First Nations, healthcare, forests, energy, and now automotive, those who addressed the issues were out of luck.


Rick Mercer’s serious jest is a reminder to Canadians, and to any society, that democracy and the standard of living in a democratic governed economy such as Canada’s, entirely depends on understanding, produced by research and emerges in society by a free press thus free a flow of information, vigorously discussed.  Hence, the behavior in parliament and government reflects the level of understanding and the moral and ethical value in society.  Perhaps not even Rick Mercer dares to go there, but frankly, fewer obsessions with golf and hockey and more interest in government and support for those who address issues, would make Canada a better place to golf, and watch hockey and live, for the present and future generations.



January 27, 2009



Kell Petersen