29 August 2010

On Rule-Making

The present volley between Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff on who makes the rules (SH: "I think I make the rules!"; MI: "We make the rules, the people of Canada make the rules!") misses the point.

As Harper has shown, 'the rules' can be ignored.

That hardly makes them rules, now does it?

The Harper Conservatives have treated the rules like conventions.

Conventions can and usually do change over time. Conventions can and always change at the whim of despots.

Funny thing about despots: few people recognize them until it's too late.

In 2004, HarperCo won over the Martinites on a platform of accountability: greater access to information, greater transparency, etc., etc., etc.

How well has that gone?

It's long past time that a party of the opposition ran on a platform of full democratic reform, including but not limited to:

  • redoing the rules so they cannot be treated as mere conventions, and
  • parliamentary and electoral reform

The interests or survival of political parties must no longer take precedence over the rights of voters to proper representation in the House of Commons and in its proceedings.

As for the Liberal Party, Ignatieff's former suggestion to "trust" him to do what is right should he become prime minister, doesn't cut it. As has been so often the case, he misses the point - one must assume deliberately, given his intelligence and way with words. The issue goes beyond any one man or his ego, any one prime minister or any one political party.

ETA: Ignatieff and the Liberal express bus recently passed through Duncan, enroute to Victoria from Nanaimo. Wish he'd stopped here, rather than ignoring us; would have welcomed meeting and speaking with him. Few people on the mainland appear to realize that the Cowichan Valley serves as bedroom community for many who work in Victoria or that it has seen huge growth and development over the past several years.

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26 August 2010

Whipping Votes

Several people on the progressive side of Canadian politics are demanding that the opposition parties whip the vote in support of the long gun registry. With respect to this issue, the NDP is being targeted particularly because, in a previous vote, certain MPs failed to vote per the party line.

The long gun registry is only the latest issue for which whipping the vote has come up, but it certainly won't be the last.

Under the whip, all MPs of a given party are required by the party's leadership to vote a certain way. This is regardless of the views of the MPs or the views of the majority of the people they are supposed to represent, their constituents. If MPs don't fall under the whip, they are threatened with consequences which can be as drastic as ouster from the party caucus.

I take issue with the entire notion of whipping the vote. It represents one of the myriad ways in which party politics is failing the people of Canada.

In a representative democracy, members of parliament are supposed to represent their constituents, not their damn parties!

No wonder voters are fed up. What's the point of electing someone to Parliament if it means s/he now represents her/his party, not you?

No matter the topic under vote - gun registry, abortion, Charter rights violations -, in a properly functioning democracy, whipping the vote is just plain WRONG. And I applaud any politician, regardless of party affiliation, who refuses to kneel before party bullies and instead votes according to the will of the majority of his/her constituency.

(By "constituency," I do not mean only the 30 percent or so who voted that person into office, but all of the people in that geographical region.)

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