Direct democracy and deeper recognition of diversity, surprisingly, brings more unity.

Two blogs past I wrote about how the territorial organisation in Canada would change if the country adopted and adapted Swiss direct-representative democracy

I looked at Canada and wrote that if the country adopted Switzerland’s philosophy of territorial distribution, Canada would have around 125 provinces and territories. We also saw that Ontario would be split into approximately 46 new provinces and territories.

You might have thought: “Are you crazy? We already have too many politicians and too many problems trying to get then provinces to work together ! We already have enough problems with the French-English divide, the issues with Native Canadians, bilingualism, internal trade barriers, etc. Not to mention increasing the number of politicians!”

OK, but listen for one minute:

The French-English divide would not exist. One immediate benefit would be the death of Quebec separatism.

The divide would not exist because the division between French Canada and English Canada would not arise.

Imagine that instead of Quebec we had 26-27 provinces; Quebec has the population of Switzerland. Switzerland has 26 cantons.

If Canadians find that it is too radical to break up the existing provinces, they could keep them but giving them authority only in the areas that the new mini-provinces decide they do not want or can not deal with. Naturally, all that would be decided by popular referendums. The referendums would also include taxation authority.

This also means that Quebec, Ontario, etc., would assume some of the current roles of th federal government. The federal government would have only the responsibilities that Canadians decide it should have. The role of the federal government would be much smaller on internal issues.

One of the wisest thing the Swiss have done is separate language from territory. Well, they have not really done that. What they have avoided is the creation of large territories, one for the German-speakers, another one for the French-speakers and so on. They have not created anything like Quebec and they have also avoided the creation of large German-speaking “super cantons”.

By doing that they avoided merging territorial identity and cultural-language identity. What they have done is make sure each that the people of one language and culture are not all in one large territory, or canton.

I do not know if it was intentional but it is as if the Swiss had  realised that one language and culture in one large territory fosters “tribalism”, nationalism, separatism, rivalries along ethno-cultural lines and all the problems associated.

Other countries should start to consider this approach, not just for language and culture, also for religious groups and separate the “need” for one country or territory to identify with religion. Sadly, most of humanity is not ready for this; you only have to look at the crackdowns totalitarian regimes of people of different ethnic group, religion or culture; total barbarism in the 21 st century.

By splitting in this way, the Swiss have many small cantons sharing the same language but which are independent of each other, and compete in taxes, ease of doing business in the canton, etc.

This means the German cantons are too busy competing to worry about “we are one people because we share the same language”. This is the mother of all problems in nations with several native cultures and languages.

The French cantons are also too busy to think of “one French “identity” for the same reasons.

In Quebec, following the Swiss approach, there would by perhaps 19 French-speaking cantons (provinces) and perhaps 3-4 English-speaking cantons, along with 2 or more cantons with Native Canadian Languages.

The idea of the “Quebec nation” would have never taken root because each French-speaking canton would compete with the other French cantons, along with the English-speaking cantons.

So, there you have it: if Canada adopted the territorial-political organisation of Switzerland, all the headaches Quebec separatism has given to Canada, and to itself, would never have happened.

In my next blog we will look at each of the hypothetical cantos; location, size, population, etc.

This organisation, if it spread to all of Canada, would recognise the real diversity of Canada.

As in Switzerland, most the cantons created out what is now Quebec would be unilingual, mostly unilingual French. No bilingualism except in very specific situations, and by decision of the people, but others would be unilingual English, and there would be unilingual cantons following the various native Canadian languages. Remember; the idea is small unitary provinces with one language, but small to prevent tribalism.

The subdivision of Quebec, Ontario and the rest, besides less political nationalism, now represented by Quebec, there would also be less commercial and industrial nationalism because the much smaller new provinces and territories will see they have to be open, to trade, and prevent the uneconomical internal trade barriers the Canadian Provinces erect among themselves: it makes no sense.

Quebec political and commercial nationalism, together with commercial nationalism of the rest, are hurting Canada; there is no reason for Canada to have lower standard of living (75 000 USD per person in Switzerland, 52 000 in Canada), half the unemployment rate, a much better universal health care system, have more vacation and free time, much less likely to be in prison, much less likely to be murdered, less inequality, lower infant mortality rate and live longer.

All that in a country with no natural resources, except for water. Canada is the richest country of the World in natural resources, in absolute terms and per person.

And, let us not forget, Swiss citizens have much more control over their politicians; they can stop any law or decision the politicians make. They can do that at all levels of government.

But there is more; the Swiss do not have the antagonistic government we have in Canada. In Canada, the opposition, at the federal and provincial level speaks of the Prime Minister, the ministers, the party in power, as a bunch of stupid, dishonest manipulators. The government does the same to the opposition. It is bad for the country, but such are the dynamics of representative democracy.

You will not believe this; in Switzerland there is no opposition; the major parties of the “right” and the “left” govern together in coalition. Perhaps even more amazing is that the Swiss Parliament meets only a few times a year. Therefore most politicians in Switzerland, even at the national level, are part-time politicians and continue working at their regular jobs.

See you in two days!

Victor Lopez

 

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