Too much power in the Prime Minister’s Office
Nowhere in all the western world’s democracies has a Head of Government extracted so much power that he/she may overrule the elected assembly. No other democracy would concede the degree of control over the elected body such as been given the Prime Minister of Canada. Not in the USA, not in any European states nor Great Britain itself from which Canada inherited our Parliamentary system. This injustice has become so ingrained that a culture of corruption threads itself throughout the whole administration to where permissiveness has become a detrimental component of our political landscape.
The Prime Minister of Canada has almost dictatorial authority over Parliament from; choice of election candidates, to choice of cabinet, to size of cabinet, to Parliamentary schedules. The PM is able to compound non-related legislation, limit debate, appoint committees, appoint the Senate. At the Prime Ministers discretion he controls government advertising and the releasing government information -and the list can go on.
Over the last several Government administrations, the Prime Minister’s Office, PMO, has been usurping many of the checks and balances within Canada’s Parliament to the point where there is a definite deficit to democracy itself. The huge bureaucracy subsequent Prime Ministers have added within their powers is exceedingly costly both in dollars and in lack of democratic procedures. This unfettered rule over Parliament has eroded the trust the people of Canada have in our elected institutions. Time after time politicians from all parties and stripes have rallied against the exorbitant powers of the PMO but, through the years and several administrations no attempts to curtail the PMO have been introduced. For years all parties, Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens, have with all vehement denunciation promised change but, in all those years no change has come.
When Parliamentarians won’t initiate the changes needed, then the voters must. Canada needs change.
and the winner is ……?
Fair Elections is the main discussion in politics this year. The election in 2015, although most likely over a year away at the time of writing this piece, underlies almost every conversation, legislation and procedure in Parliament with all political parties trying to gain one-upmanship upon the other. The newly introduced Fair Elections Act does near nothing to promote “Fairer Elections”. Many might argue that the bill sets democracy back.
and the loser is: the People of Canada? Once Again!
Regardless of the spin politicians spew out over the media, that is all it is, political spin, meant to be impressive but, in service to the public, – nothing – nada – zip.
If general elections do not provide an opportunity for voters to pass judgment on the views and performance of their MP (and her opponents), then there is little guarantee that members will use any increased power they may garner in the House of Commons to reflect the views of their constituents. Similarly, a party’s leadership is unlikely to cede authority to back bench members who lack a policy mandate from their constituents. The real dilemma then is not the role of the MP in the House of Commons, though this is certainly part of it, but rather the lack of opportunity for voters to first empower and then pass judgment on the job done by their MP. One way to rectify this problem is through reform of our electoral and parliamentary systems to allow voters to cast different votes for their preferred representative and preferred government.
When candidates are chosen by the party leadership and not local voters, it is impossible to argue that they have any mandate from their local voters separate from the party leadership. Similarly, when the governing party ensures the easy renomination of its incumbents, it provides little incentive for them to vigorously defend their constituents’ interests in their House of Commons’ work. Their renomination is automatic and their general election chances lie almost completely with voters’ views of their party’s performance and not with an evaluation of the job of the individual MP.
Latest suggestion for Redesigning Parliament to make it more relevant to Canadians: create a citizen-engaging deliberative body to advise and direct individual MPs. Vaughan Lyon, Professor Emeritus at Trent University outlines his idea for Constituency Parliaments to formalize the connection between MP and constituents, allow the MP to be truly representative and reduce the power of the party.