Roundup: Normalizing the system’s problems

On Monday night, I got into a bit of a Twitter argument over the issue of Manitoba MLA Steven Fletcher (former of the federal Conservatives) and his ouster from provincial Progressive Conservative caucus because he was *gasp!* doing the actual job of a backbencher and trying to hold the government to account, never mind that he’s a member of the governing party. It’s what he’s supposed to do, and he got punished for it. Why I gave the first punch in said Twitter fight was because of the notion that Fletcher should have shut up and been a good team player, because politics.

This devolved into a bit of tit-for-tat about which legislatures this occurs in, and despite providing Canadian examples, never mind the fact that this is actually the norm in the UK – the mother of our parliament – my dear opponent insisted that this is not the way things work in Canada.

And this irritates me. A lot. Because it’s washing our hands of the problems that have slowly crept into our country’s parliament and legislatures, and normalizes the bastardisations that have occurred over the years, usually under the rubric of “modernisation,” or “making things more democratic.” And the laws of unintended consequences being what they are, things get worse instead of better, and we now have very powerful party leaders in this country that have no accountability – something that should be anathema to a Westminster system.

Why should we be defending the current norms of party and leader-centred politics when it’s not the way our system is supposed to work, and in fact makes our system worse?

We are in an age where message control and leader-centred politics has reduced elected members to drones. We have very nearly reached the point where we could just replace our MPs with battle droids who could do just as effective a job of reading canned speeches into the record and voting the way the whip orders. Is this really the system that we want to normalise and defend? Or would we rather have elected officials who can think for themselves and do the proper job of accountability that the Westminster system is built on. I know which one I’d prefer.

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau will be in Montreal today to meet with the federal-provincial task force on irregular border crossings, as well as with the Haitian community.
  • Trudeau paid tribute to the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe raid while in a downpour yesterday and made the most of the weather.
  • The Commons defence committee met and agreed to hold hearings on the North Korea situation in September, but got bogged down in ballistic missile defence talk.
  • Black parliamentarians are asking the government to recognise the “systemic racism” of the current marijuana laws and enforcement system.
  • The upcoming Supreme Court of Canada hearing on cross-border alcohol sales is taking shape, and will be a rare two-day session.
  • The Conservatives are vowing to “ramp up” their campaign on the tax changes, which seems to mostly be overblown rhetoric and disingenuous talking points.
  • The NDP membership sales cut-off for the leadership has passed, but the party won’t say how many people have signed up.
  • Andrew MacDougall suggests that the Conservative party stop shouting down people with new ideas and embrace a broader conservative movement.
  • My column wonders if it was really the new independent senators and the greater independence that has improved the Senate, or if other factors were at play.

Odds and ends:

Here’s the tale of a Canadian company that sold inappropriate camouflage to the Afghan National Army, because the Afghan minister thought it looked nice.

3 thoughts on “Roundup: Normalizing the system’s problems

  1. I agree, Dale. The legislatures of Nunavut and the NWT both operate in the true Westminster system.

    • Nope, that’s completely wrong. Westminster actually relies on parties to make Responsible Government work properly. NWT and NV only work as Westminster variations because of small legislature sizes and local culture valuing consensus, but they are in no way a true reflection of how Westminster is supposed to operate.

      • OK. But, not completely wrong. Members outside the cabinet are in opposition.

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