Roundup: Stop berating members for doing their jobs

It’s not often that I write about provincial matters, and especially not from Manitoba, but this one I felt like I should make a remark because of the way in which the story is framed, which infuriates me to no end. The headline is “Stephen Fletcher criticizes his own government’s bill in Manitoba.” Fletcher, a former Conservative MP and one-time cabinet minister, is currently an MLA in the province, and a backbencher in the governing caucus.

Because I know that the vast majority of Canadians didn’t get a quality civics education, let me spell it out – it’s a backbencher’s job to hold the government to account. Yes, even if they’re from the same party. And in this case, Fletcher had concerns about a bill and has been asking questions about it at committee meetings late into the night. In other words, he’s doing his job. We should be encouraging this.

But what does the local Canadian Press reporter ask the premier? Whether Fletcher should be removed from caucus.

Great Cyllenian Hermes, luck-bringing messenger of the deathless gods, give me strength before my head explodes.

We The Media keep insisting that we want more independent elected officials, and we constantly fetishise things like free votes, and the moment an MP or MLA starts asking tough questions of their own party or steps out of line, we freak out and start wondering if the leader is losing control of their party, or in this case, whether they need to be kicked out of the party. In this particular case, the article goes on to say that this is the first crack in party unity. Are you kidding me?

When we elect members under the First-Past-the-Post system, we are imbuing them with individual agency. That’s why we elect them to single seats and not giving votes to parties to apportion those seats out to their MPs. We privilege the independence of MPs and empower them to do their jobs. Whether or not they choose to do so is the bigger part of the battle, because of the pressures of looking like a team player, but We The Media make it worse because we pull bullshit like this all the time. Our insistence on these ridiculous narratives and demands that our elected members all act in lockstep constantly while at the same time demanding independence is doing the system in. It’s driving the need for message control which is poisoning our democracy, because our own journalists have a tendency to be too ignorant of how the system is supposed to work.

Let MPs and MLAs do their actual work of holding governments to account, and stop causing trouble. Seriously. You’re actively hurting democracy with this kind of bullshit.

Good reads:

  • While Trump criticises our defence spending, Trudeau reminds him that we’re a go-to NATO partner. Also, even if we doubled spending it wouldn’t change our ranking.
  • NATO has formally joined the mission against ISIS, which will likely mean more practical support than boots on the ground.
  • Hints from the NATO meeting are that the upcoming defence policy review will focus more on troops than new weaponry.
  • It was announced that Canada will host the next G7 summit at a luxury resort in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.
  • Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson found that Nigel Wright broke conflict rules in giving that cheque to Senator Mike Duffy. (Report here).
  • The government is trying to sharpen their attacks on the Conservatives over the Phoenix pay fiasco.
  • Those delayed methane regulations will be phased in between 2020 and 2023.
  • There are more than a million restricted or prohibited weapons in Canada, while the government’s promised new regulations haven’t materialized yet.
  • Historians are concerned at the volume of government records that are inaccessible for past security reasons. (Part of the problem, unacknowledged here, is resources).
  • We paid another $30 million into the joint strike fighter programme because of course we did. Aerospace jobs! Honestly, why is this news?
  • Senator Griffin keeps saying that there should be free votes in the Commons on amended bills. She should be reminded to stay out of the affairs of the Other Place.
  • Andrew MacDougall notes that Maxime Bernier’s plan for healthcare will be electoral poison for his party, already weak on that file.
  • Paul Wells lays out what happens next in BC in terms of government formation, and it’s such a good read that I’m jealous of it.

Odds and ends:

This week’s Ask Kady Anything looks at foreign money in elections and leadership contests.

Here is another look at the coming Canada History Hall at the Museum of History, this time with pictures and video.

6 thoughts on “Roundup: Stop berating members for doing their jobs

  1. As frustrated as you are by the lack of knowledge by Canadians concerning the way our democracy works there is really no reason to use epithets to make your point. Sort of like Rempel in the HOC saying that she is p…….off. We many times use colorful language at our coffee house meetings when discussing the shenanigans of our MP’s, MLA’s but you should not be using them in your usually well written blogs.

    • The fact that I used such language (and it’s a pretty tame epithet at that), should be an indication about how much this kind of thing infuriates me.

  2. Pingback: Roundup: Crawling to the finish line | Routine Proceedings

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