The first was evident this week with all of the banter about "coalition" governments. This piece of nonsense harkens back to the "crisis" of 2008/9 when the airways were filled with claims that votes of confidence, and a potential change in government due to determining who could actually command a majority of support in the House of Commons was going against the democratic will of the people!
Part of this problem lies with our first past the post system the allows a party with a plurality of the vote to win a majority of seats. The "mandate" for a "strong, stable majority government" is often provided against the wishes of two-thirds of the voting public. In a minority situation, the myth is stretched to maintain that a few extra seats is an indication of popular support and, if the combined parties receiving the majority of both the votes and the seats choose to work together, that this somehow thwarts the wishes of the electorate.
We have heard these cries this week as it gradually becomes clear that there might be no clear "winner" in the upcoming Ontario provincial election. No matter what happens June 12th, Kathleen Wynne has the right to go to the legislature, as Premier, and to determine whether or not she has the support of the majority to govern. This is not a shell game, this is parliamentary democracy.
The second issue is the emergence of the myth of the "leader". In a caucus and cabinet system, it is ludicrous to base voting decisions on who might be the ideal Prime Minister. The fact is, the best PMs in Canada have been characterized as effective collaborators and team leaders who surrounded themselves by highly capable cabinet Ministers who were given their heads of steam to run their departments. Look at the great non-Prime Ministers of Canada - Clifford Sifton, C. D. Howe, Walter Gordon, Paul Martin, Jim Flaherty - to name a few. Parliament was never intended to be a one-person show. As long as the media keep playing the game of reporting who Canadians think would make the "best" Prime Minister, we are going to be stuck in this watered down version of the American Presidential system.
Finally, as citizens, we have more and more been fragmented into wedge constituencies. Our concerns have narrowed to what is best for us as individuals in the short term and a vision of what might be best for society in the longer view has disappeared from public discourse. The most discouraging aspect of this has been the replacement of the concept of "citizen" by the rallying cry of "taxpayer". The underlying assumption is that the more that you pay in taxes, they more say you should have in how the country is governed. This is not just a product of the noblesse oblige of the 1% but is equally at home in the "Ford Nation" who look on many members of society - the unemployed, homeless, seniors, students, veterans, temporary foreign workers - as not pulling their weight.
The depths to which we have fallen was never more clear than in an interview a while back between Evan Solomon and Chris Alexander on The House. The discussion was around regions paying the federal government back for monies expended on emergency relief. The logistics and timing of payback were debated but at no time did the basic issue of our duty to support our fellow citizens in time of need come up for consideration. If an ice storm hit Montreal, or a flood swamped Calgary, or a tsunami crashed into Haida Gwaii, the government saw itself as a banker lending money that would be paid back rather than a conduit through which the rest of Canada could chip in to support their neighbours.
This is no way to run any political entity. These three misconceptions do a disservice to our parliamentary democratic heritage as Canadians.