Could The Age Of Independent Canadian Politics Be Upon Us? | James Di Fiore

According to Stats Canada, only four per cent of Canadians aged 15 or over are card-carrying members of a political party. Let that sink in for a moment.

With all the blustering of partisan leaders, the millions of votes cast, the out-of-date tradition of only electing people who wave a blue, red or orange flag, you’d think a vast majority of Canadians are beholden to at least one of our major political institutions. Nope. It turns out a consensus of Canadians — that’s 97 per cent of us — are not members of any party at all, even if we tend to vote in one direction.

canada polling station
Voters wait in line at a polling station in Quebec City, Oct. 19, 2015. (Photo: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

This is an important piece of information at a time when political parties are being unmasked as entities that are not really speaking for anyone. As a nation, we must already know we are not being aptly represented; otherwise we would all be carrying party membership cards instead of a universal grudge against the political class and the colours they hoist.

If you have ever had political aspirations, an inkling that you might make this country a better place through the sphere of public service, you probably already understand how difficult and frustrating the process can be. Potential candidates are forced to treat their candidacy as if they are starting a new telemarketing position, but instead of hitting up family and friends and asking them to buy a set of mediocre steak knives, they are trying to convince them to become paying members of an established political party.

You can easily feel the disconnect between the rabid party cheerleading and regular folks.

I’ve seen this play out up close a few times; a well-meaning individual trying to throw his hat into the political arena only to be frustrated into quitting, the weight of party politics being too much to carry. These are often good people (the not-so-good people seem to have an easier time wrestling up donations and new members) who have to participate in a political hazing ritual — showing loyalty to a party rather than their ambition of becoming a civil servant who genuinely wants to help the country move in a better direction. All that energy is spent on internal party growth, and the vast majority of these potential candidates will only succeed in providing a modest haul of total memberships before they retreat back to their lives as a private citizen.

This way of running the country is no longer sustainable. The construct is too archaic and overly reliant on traditions that exclude almost everyone who is professionally or ethically qualified to help shape policy initiatives that benefit the most people. If you are a party loyalist it is often impossible to see how outdated the system is, especially if you believe it is the only way to run a country.

canada political parties
Attendees holds signs in support of Conservative and Liberal parties ahead of the second leaders’ debate in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. (Photo: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

But if you are not a partisan and have been to a party convention, or inside the House of Commons during Question Period, or to a campaign rally, you can easily feel the disconnect between the rabid party cheerleading and regular folks who are just looking for decent daycare, or a tax break, or something for the environment. Parties spend so much time self-aggrandizing, their logos seeming more like religious symbols than incidental graphics, that the very concept of public service becomes swallowed inside a mentality that only serves the internal interests of the Liberals, or the Conservatives, or the NDP.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

At a time in our history where bucking the system has never been more popular, the time may be upon us for an insurgence of independent candidates to stake their claim inside the political arena. It won’t be easy. Canada has only had a handful of elected independent politicians in its history, and about half of them were booted out of their party after a scandal or after losing favour with the party leadership.

The roots of that stagnation is our habit of placing party before country.

But if we look at the federal riding map, we must know there are people embedded inside each community who have not just the tools to be great public servants, but also the support to win a seat in Parliament. These individuals, instead of being recruited by one of the big political parties, can wield their power most effectively by shunning the political tribes and defeating them at the polls. They might not caucus with a big party, but their worth would be measured through their existence in the first place, symbolizing the disconnect between Ottawa and the rest of the nation. This kind of dynamic would foster a potential backlash where people would begin to shift their focus from a nation beholden to establishment politics and towards a climate where policy and progress matters more.

The reaction to such an event is predictable. The same people who buckle in fear and pessimism at the prospect of facing a constitutional crisis for daring to abolish the Senate, for example, will shun any idea that reshapes how we elect politicians. These people are cowards, happily suffocated by status quo dementia where the system must be maintained instead of cultivated in hopes that an organic evolution takes place.

Furthermore, it is the loyalty to the system itself that is mostly responsible for the stagnation of that system, and the roots of that stagnation is our habit of placing party before country. If we can begin a transformational process of placing candidate before party, progress before status quo, then perhaps the quality of our representation will follow suit.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook

Also on HuffPost: