Roundup: Earnest Scott Simms

As is becoming a daily occurrence, we have yet another voice weighing in on the Standing Orders debate, and this time, it’s the mover of the motion that’s causing so much Sturm und Drang in the House of Commons (and the Procedure and House Affairs committee) right now – Scott Simms. Simms, I believe quite earnestly, insists that we need to give reform a chance, and he lists all of the wonderful things he hopes to happen out of Bardish Chagger’s discussion paper, and I believe he’s earnest because he has recently co-edited a book on parliamentary reform with noted notoriously wrong-headed would-be reformers Michael Chong and Kennedy Stewart.

Of course, nothing in these proposals will fix what ails parliament, and will only create more problems than it solves. We’ve established this time and again, and I’ve written a book to this effect, but the problems are not structural. MPs, however, don’t necessarily see that because they’re trapped in a sick and dysfunctional parliamentary culture and looking around for fixes, they see some levers that look easy to pull, never mind that those levers will make things worse. Digging into the underlying cultural problems are harder to see and do, and that’s why MPs have been assiduously avoiding them, but we shouldn’t let them get away with it. Granted, it would be far more helpful if more members of the media could see that fact as well and not get lured by the shiny reform ideas that keep getting floated around, followed by the drama of the outrage, which is all too easy to get sucked into. Because who doesn’t love drama?

So with all due respect to Simms, no, the time for being open-minded about these reform ideas has passed. We’ve lurched from one bad reform idea to another for the past half century (century if you want to count the granddaddy of all disastrous reforms, which the Liberals promulgated in 1919 when they changed the leadership selection process) and things haven’t gotten any better. It’s time to take that hard look at where things are situated, and means slapping MPs’ hands away from those shiny, easy-looking levers. It’s time to have a meaningful re-engagement with the system, and nothing in these discussion paper ideas does that. In fact, it does the opposite.

Good reads:

  • Cheap outrage as it turns out the PM paid per diems to the Aga Khan for a “tour technician” who also had to stay with them during his vacation.
  • Ralph Goodale says Canadian agencies aren’t using the cellphone interceptors near Parliament Hill, and that the RCMP and CSIS are now investigating.
  • Rona Ambrose’s bill on sexual assault training for judges started in committee but Liberals there sound like they’re pushing back against it.
  • The government tabled their official response to the Electoral Reform committee report, and it’s a no to pretty much all of it, including mandatory voting.
  • Documents showing that the Kurds wanted us to keep our CF-18s in Iraq raises questions about Sajjan’s recounting of allied reactions; he says that was just one ally.
  • Senator Don Meredith met with the Senate Ethics Committee yesterday, and they continue to deliberate on his fate; it did, however, devolve into bad media handling.
  • The Canadian Forces found a cairn at one of the northernmost points of the country that Justin Trudeau built with his father when he was three.
  • Some senators are looking to make passage of the national anthem bill as difficult as possible, as they don’t agree with the changes.
  • The government of New Brunswick is violating the doctrine of ministerial responsibility by blaming civil servants for their problems. FFS.
  • iPolitics interviewed Brad Trost, who is running pretty much against everything and running just to be the social conservative voice.
  • Andrew MacDougall bashes at Kevin O’Leary and his politics of personality over substance.
  • Chantal Hébert looks to assign some meaning to Monday’s by-election results.
  • Susan Delacourt takes Elizabeth May’s ideas for reforming Parliament at face value.
  • My column this week looks at changes that Senator Peter Harder wants to make to the Senate rules, and why it’s a problem.

Odds and ends:

Here’s the tale of a Métis sniper who was part of the Canadian battalion that took Vimy Ridge.

At the Dundurn Press blog, I wrote about the genesis of my book, The Unbroken Machine.

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