The Fair Elections Act proves one basic truth of Parliament. All attempts to improve or reform the House, the Senate or elections, only leads to making matters worse. When interviewed, Parliamentarians will spiel off a litany of wrongs along with ways to amend procedures. In 2003, the Library of Parliament conducted a survey of MPs called, “The Parliament We Want“. In over 12 years since not a single recommendation has seen the light of legislation. Why? Political Parties do not want change. Political Parties and their Politics have such a hold over Parliament, The House of Commons, the Senate and Elections, that Members of Parliament are not permitted to speak to the concerns of their constituents. And that is not democratic – that is a problem!
Reform was the reason the Conservatives were elected, what happened? All their motions either died on the floor or like the Fair Elections Act is no reform at all. The Liberals and NDP had near 6 years of minority government prior to 2011, what reforms did they propose? Nil, Nada, Nothing! NDP say they endorse Proportional Representation. Why then have they never brought the matter before the House? The Liberals, after 2011 election made a lot of noise over PR, now that they may form the government in 2015, Justin Trudeau has abandoned the notion.
We, the Canadian electorate, may have only one shot at bringing about reform to Parliament and elections and it won’t come via any particular party. Canada needs a contract between Members of Parliament and their Constituency. As of now, Candidates for election are under contract to their riding associations, hence, to the party. They are required to do the party bidding. We need to change that. MPs must be accountable to their constituents first, not the party.
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.