Let me tell you that the Canadian democracy is well-broken. Admit it. Being a typical Western, its easy to find fault in others rather than admitting yours.
Honestly, tell me, is there anything about Canadian democracy that isn’t broken? Elections about nothing, parties that have been reduced to leadership cults, a permanently deadlocked Parliament, record-low voter turnout, and overlaying everything an atmosphere of coarseness, cynicism and mindless partisanship.
And that’s the good news! The impotence of ordinary MPs, the irrelevance of Parliament, the near dictatorial powers of the Prime Minister: if you were writing about a Third World country with a system like yours, you would be careful to refer to the 'largely ceremonial' Parliament and 'sham' elections.
Oh, and did I mention your appointed upper house? I assume you feel much the same as most Canadians do. So my question to you off the top is: which is the worst of Canadian democracy’s many flaws? Would you tell me and the rest of the Malaysians, and not forgetting the Canadians?
Hey! I've been to your country six times since 1988. Have you been to Malaysia and studied how our democracy worked?
Some may argue that minority governments (like yours) are good for compromise and deliberation. That sounded sensible in the Canadian context five years ago but I don’t see a lot of compromise and deliberation going on at your Parliament, or at least none that’s about the goal of better governance.
But here’s the hard question: is that because of the personalities involved, or is there actually anything to be done about your leaders?
Is that a matter of personalities? Partly. Mostly it’s about incentives, and culture. Incentives, in the context of a minority Parliament, certainly but a minority Parliament in a system that was built to deliver majorities. Whatever stability it may once have promised breaks down in the kind of regionalised Parliament you now have.
The perpetual brinksmanship that has given this minority Parliament a bad name is likewise a peculiarity of the present electoral system, with its highly disproportionate relationship between votes and representation: every party thinks it can parlay a swing of a few percentage points in the polls into a bushel of seats. Change to a system without such winner-take-all payoffs, and people might stop gambling and get down to business.
So, you like that, don't you?
Yes, you had electoral reform by the short route. For the longest time many Canadians had rejected the whole notion. First, because they are always skeptical of system changes, which always seem to replace one set of problems with another set.
Second, because reform advocates’ attempts to prove their preferred system isn’t incomprehensible are, reliably, grim comedy.
Nope! You know nothing about Malaysia, about how Najib is transforming the country. In just three years, he has repealed our colonial-era Internal Security Act, ended the 60-year state of emergency, introduced measures to increase media freedom, reformed the Universities and University Colleges Act, created the Peaceful Assembly Act, announced a review of the Sedition Act, repealed the Banishment Act and the Restricted Residences Act and implemented a raft electoral reforms — an impressive track record by anyone’s standards - which you took more than two decades to redress.
A-ah! Lim Kit Siang and The Malaysian Insider are so happy to ride on your story. Why? Because just like you, they only track other people's mistake!
Another question - why is your country languishing behind Angola, Colombia and Niger on the list of freedom-of-information rankings, at 51st?
The report says: "As a country that was once among the world's leaders in government openness, it is unfortunate that Canada has dropped so far down the list. Partly, this is the result of global progress, with which Canada has failed to keep pace."
This means, your government lacks openness. What about transparency? So, how do you answer to that?
And if you are considering a trip to Malaysia, e-mail me, we can have a long session about 'your and my democracy'!