12/17/2011 12:17 EST | Updated 02/16/2012 05:12 EST

C'mon, Is Our Democracy Really in Peril?


Canadian democracy is in grave danger.

Or so say lots of pundits, journalists and academics who keep warning us about how the politicians in Ottawa are slowly eroding away our traditional parliamentary democratic institutions.

They point out, for instance, how the Conservative government is severely limiting parliamentary debate, and how power is being centralized in the Prime Minister's Office and how Prime Minister Stephen Harper was recently seen doing a Benito Mussolini impersonation.

But fear not.

Despite what some critics are saying, democracy is actually alive and well in Canada, although admittedly it's a unique form of what might be called Canadian-style democracy.

What's Canadian-style democracy?

Well, it's a form of government we have developed over the last 100 years or so which mixes together principles adapted from the political traditions of Britain, America, and the Byzantine Empire.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that most Canadians would rather eat glass than study the history of parliamentary institutions, our governing system is often misunderstood and unappreciated.

Hence the current fear about the future of parliamentary democracy in Canada.

So in the interest of setting the record straight and calming our collective nerves, here's a short primer of Canada's distinctive political institutions:

The Prime Minister

Some say Canada's prime minister has the dictatorial powers approaching that of a Latin American despot. That's a complete and utter falsehood. His powers are more like an African despot.

Members of Parliament

Elected directly by the people, Canadian MPs have two key responsibilities: 1) Blindly and obediently obey their party leaders; 2) Stay in the House of Commons long enough to qualify for gold-plated pensions.

The Opposition

Under our Constitution, the "Loyal" Opposition performs the extremely important democratic function of putting forward ideas that are so ridiculous they make the governing party look good by comparison.

The Governor-General

The Queen's representative in Canada, the governor-general once had no real power, but today he or she must perform the crucially vital duty of understanding, pronouncing, and spelling the word "prorogue."

The House of Commons

The heart of Canadian democracy, the House of Commons is a place where MPs from different parts of the country and from different political parties gather together with a constitutionally guaranteed democratic mandate to utter obscenities.

The Senate

Canadian senators are "unelected." They do nothing and get paid lots of money. It's a dream job. And to get this job you must put aside your dignity and unashamedly kiss up to the prime minister. By the way, did I ever mention that I think Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the best looking, smartest, and most glorious leader in the history of the entire universe!?

The Media

Although not a government institution, a free news media is also crucial to our democracy. Indeed, without the insightful and courageous work of Sun News and the CBC, we would never know how much these two media organizations hate each others' guts.

And finally, as the ultimate safeguard of our precious democracy, Canadians have the power to regularly vote in federal elections.

That means if we think a government is bad we can always replace it with something worse.