I know I’ve ranted on my blog about this before but a recent example of dysfunctional democracy has pissed me off again. When a country has a Prime Minister who is on record saying he views Parliament’s role as little more important than the United States Electoral College it is easy to get irritated by his and his plebs’ actions. The recent example of the current Ministry refusing to answer questions in question period is proof Parliament has been replaced by a sandbox.
The current problems in Parliament aren’t new, the institution over the last half century is slowly dying from a thousand cuts. With politicians more interested in having their faces spread all around like Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein instead of having clear policy options for voters to make an informed choice on. Discussion is replaced by ideologically pure rhetoric approved by unelected, unaccountable party apparatchiks. Market research has replaced listening to voters so only the most trivial, irrelevant, or divisive issues get discussed while threats to Canada get spun into binary options only village idiots understand.
Party whips answering to democratically illegitimate leaders keep the elected from their duty to their fellow citizens. A few people voting by phone or internet popularity contest should not be able to override the decisions of citizens voting in a more universal election with internationally recognised procedures and rules. The fact so many Canadians do not understand the system, truly one of the finest in the world, is a damning verdict on how well the Provinces are performing in their education mandates.
Each riding returns a Member of Parliament, those MPs elect from their ranks a leader who forms a ministry, then those not in the ministry are mandated to hold the ministers feet to the fire until a confidence vote sacks the ministry. In the UK, where our model comes from, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs not in the ministry actually ask the ministers some of the toughest questions. Shockingly a UK minister is expected to give an answer. Listen to BBC’s Today in Parliament to hear how our house should work. In fact major issues demand a recall, statements of policy and government intent are done in the house and shockingly debated.
The current Canadian bastardized version of the Westminster Model of democracy is easy to correct here’s a list of suggestions:
- Ranked ballots without party affiliation on them
- Party leaders are chosen by caucus
- Party presidents sign nomination papers not the party leaders
- Add to the oath a section vowing to act for the nation’s interest above party and all others
- Have senior Prime Minister’s Office staff vetted by the House as a whole, and annual visits to the appropriate committees
- Restrict annual party spending on communications with the public to $10 per citizen
- Criminalize donations not made by a private citizen who has declared publicly the money is their own
- In Camera and secret sessions to debate special forces deployments, intelligence matters and other sensitive issues that would harm Canada if revealed
- Any Prime Minister asking to prorogue or suspend Parliament must face an unwhipped confidence vote first and ask for leave to act in emergencies while the house is away
- Cabinet ministers can’t be dismissed without a vote in the house
- A defeated Prime Minister must face a second vote to dissolve the house before going to the Governor General
The Canadian Senate to is dysfunctional and should also be reformed. I would recommend elections without any candidate being allowed to be a member of a political party, that the Senate oath includes recognition that the Commons is the supreme chamber, and the Senate has no right to stop a money bill. Both MPs and Senators would have to publically report expenses monthly with an automatic pay suspension should they miss the deadline.
Some may disagree with me about how parties choose a leader, I’d recommend Five Days in London by Lukacs for an account on how the current system could fail the country in an emergency. What if Halifax had won because he could get more support from the “grassroots”? It was the House of commons, acting non-partisanly, that chose to keep Churchill as Prime Minister. All parties spent the next five years holding Churchill to account.
Questions i want the government to answer:
- Why does military procurement take so long?
- Where are Canada’s air defences?
- Why hasn’t Canadian Forces Medical Branch and Engineers been sent to help in West Africa?
- What is our diplomatic service doing to diffuse tensions around the world?
- Why are foreign energy companies granted more access than elected Aboriginal governments?
- What will Canada do against the Islamic State?
- When will the Conservative Party repay the government for party publicity stunts disguised as government announcements?
For those who haven’t read it, here’s the Canadian Constitution.