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Parliament is no longer supreme


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Two things are illustrated by [the Wilks] episode. One, that amid the general decline of Parliament, the most degrading state of all is that into which MPs of the governing party have fallen. There was a time, after all, when even a prime minister had to mind his backbench — or at any rate, when the caucus had not yet been reduced to a mere appendage of the government. We think of them now as more or less the same thing, but they are not, in principle, and did not use to be in practice.

http://www.canada.com/news/Coyne+degradation+Parliament+complete+etat/6703969/story.html#ixzz1wTdaZXS0

Is this just the natural progression of things or should Canadians be concerned about this? Parliament is supposed to be a check and balance to government power. In our government the executive branch is made up of people from the legislative branch (to use US terms). The legislative branch, however, has become moot when it comes to checking the power of the executive branch. Wilks showed this when he promptly did an about face after speaking out against the trojan budget. Mind you, this is a Conservative politician with conservative beliefs. The same things happened with the Liberals, so it's not merely a Conservative issue. It seems to be an issue with the way our government operates.

Edited by cybercoma
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I think that we already have a thread on this question.

With that said, Coyne is barking up the wrong tree. Wilks (like Vegas in Trois-Rivieres) was elected solely because of his party affiliation, and leader. When Canadian voters start to choose individual candidates (eg. André Arthur) then we can speak of the supremacy of Parliament. Until then, MPs are like a McDonald`s franchise: people choose an individual restaurant because of the name, not because of the specific service. And the McDonald`s organization has every right to impose discipline on its individual franchise holders.

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I think that we already have a thread on this question.

With that said, Coyne is barking up the wrong tree. Wilks (like Vegas in Trois-Rivieres) was elected solely because of his party affiliation, and leader. When Canadian voters start to choose individual candidates (eg. André Arthur) then we can speak of the supremacy of Parliament. Until then, MPs are like a McDonald`s franchise: people choose an individual restaurant because of the name, not because of the specific service. And the McDonald`s organization has every right to impose discipline on its individual franchise holders.

IE Corporatism

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It's a natural progression of a party system with a sensationalist main stream media that blows everything out of proportion.

Appearing like you can't control your MP's looks disorganized as a party. Who wants a disorganized party ruling the country?

Whipped party voting shouldn't be allowed. All votes should be open for the MP to represent the interests of their riding, as that is what the riding really wants.

What I would really like to see is more importance at the riding level with zero party affiliation. Vote for a local representative based on their ideas/merits/track record.

The PM could then be elected by the representatives we send to parliament from elected MP's. MP's would always be allowed to vote freely. People could speak for or against any legislation rather than just have the opposition always opposed and the ruling party always for.

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IE Corporatism
It's not corporatism at all.

Coyne is complaining about how most Canadians vote in elections. We choose the local candidate based on the party/leader affiliation.

Similarly, that's how we make many of our consumer purchase decisions.

Who has time to do all the research necessary to determine which individual candidate/product is good or not? It is easier to rely on the reputation of a particular brand/party.

Edited by August1991
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Who has time to do all the research necessary to determine which individual candidate/product is good or not? It is easier to rely on the reputation of a particular brand/party.

It's sad that people don't take democracy more seriously.

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Coyne has a very valid point. I wouldn't say he's "barking up the wrong tree" at all. Backbenchers at one time held the executive branch accountable for the way they spend money. As they should too. If the government, in this case Conservative, begins pandering to particular interests and going against conservative ideologies, then the conservative backbenchers ought to hold them to account. In this case, the conservative backbenchers ought to be concerned about what's going on. When Harper's no longer Prime Minister, the consolidation of power in the PMO that he's trying to ram through in this budget will give the next PM (possibly someone from QC or ON) unfettered control over decisions regarding the oilsands, as one example. If you're a backbencher from AB, this should probably concern you.

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What do you think would happen if one of the backbenchers had a disagreement with one of the ministers, say the finance minister and went to him and told him they disagreed with a certain item, you think the FM would accept the advise? no, he'd tell him that the way we are doing it, so save your breathe.

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It seems to be an issue with the way our government operates.

It's an issue that stems from how the party leader is chosen. The caucus has no input in the selection of the party leader, it therefore has no influence over the leader thereafter. Parliament really only has as many members as there are party leaders in it.

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I think that we already have a thread on this question.

With that said, Coyne is barking up the wrong tree. Wilks (like Vegas in Trois-Rivieres) was elected solely because of his party affiliation, and leader. When Canadian voters start to choose individual candidates (eg. André Arthur) then we can speak of the supremacy of Parliament. Until then, MPs are like a McDonald`s franchise: people choose an individual restaurant because of the name, not because of the specific service. And the McDonald`s organization has every right to impose discipline on its individual franchise holders.

It's a chicken and egg argument. As long as party discipline is iron, people realize there is little point in voting for individuals. McDonalds franchise holders aren't hired (elected) by their customers. Franchise customers have the option of going elsewhere at any time they choose, they aren't stuck with eating at the same place for the next four years.

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Coyne has a very valid point. I wouldn't say he's "barking up the wrong tree" at all. Backbenchers at one time held the executive branch accountable for the way they spend money. As they should too. If the government, in this case Conservative, begins pandering to particular interests and going against conservative ideologies, then the conservative backbenchers ought to hold them to account. In this case, the conservative backbenchers ought to be concerned about what's going on. When Harper's no longer Prime Minister, the consolidation of power in the PMO that he's trying to ram through in this budget will give the next PM (possibly someone from QC or ON) unfettered control over decisions regarding the oilsands, as one example. If you're a backbencher from AB, this should probably concern you.
That's all fine and good, cybercoma, but the fact remains that most Canadian voters don't bother to research their individual candidates at the riding level. They vote for the party or the leader. Most MPs know that their chance at re-election will depend entirely/largely on the success of the leader/national campaign.

As I argued above, many people choose to eat at McDonald's (rather than a small local diner) because it's costly to do the research and find out whether the local diner is good or not.

Similarly, many voters simply research the party/leader and decide how to vote in their riding that way. If Stephen Harper is a psychotic dictator, then voters won't choose the Conservative MP candidate in the next election. (IOW, I suspect that Harper would get an earful from caucus in private in the lead up to the election.)

Coyne is "barking up the wrong tree" when he blames individual MPs for not being sufficiently independent (or as Diefenbaker used to say "trained seals"). It is individual voters who decide this state of affairs and both MPs and party leaders know this.

Coyne might as well bemoan the fact that many Canadians eat at McDonald's when there are wonderful small local bistros that serve better food just nearby. Whatever you or Coyne say, Canadians are free to choose to do it their own way. Presumably, they have better things to do with their time than research the abilities of local candidates or the quality of local bistros.

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Some people want to move to a PR system believing that the change will make Canada more "democratic". If anything, a PR system with party lists would make the party leader/bureaucracy even more powerful.

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It's a chicken and egg argument. As long as party discipline is iron, people realize there is little point in voting for individuals.
It's not a chicken/egg argument. In the next federal election, Canadians are free to vote for any local candidate in their riding and there are usually many. If Canadians wanted, we could have a supreme parliament of independent MPs after the next election.

But it won't happen. Most voters will choose the specific candidate representing a party/leader.

If Coyne were honest, he would blame this state of affairs on the choices of millions of Canadian voters - and not the so-called dictatorial nature of this PMO or the quiescence of sitting MPs.

McDonalds franchise holders aren't hired (elected) by their customers. Franchise customers have the option of going elsewhere at any time they choose, they aren't stuck with eating at the same place for the next four years.
I think that you are saying here that you prefer market choices to government. So do I (although I am invariably crucified as a "neo-liberal" in Quebec for such a belief.)

Unfortunately, markets don't always work and then government can maybe improve matters. Compared to markets, governments are a clunky solution and at the moment, the best government method typically means we have a "dictator" for about four years or so. Suck it up, buttercup.

Edited by August1991
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It's an issue that stems from how the party leader is chosen. The caucus has no input in the selection of the party leader, it therefore has no influence over the leader thereafter. Parliament really only has as many members as there are party leaders in it.
I disagree. From Margaret Thatcher to Richard Nixon, from Lucien Bouchard to John Diefenbaker, a leader that has lost the support of caucus is typically a dead politician walking.

The caucus is facing re-election and knows full well that if the leader is bad, they will lose their seat. This fact concentrates the mind.

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Conversely, I have always thought that a party leader's first priority is to keep caucus happy. From what I know, Brian Mulroney and Jack Layton were masters at caucus control. I suspect that Thomas Mulcair's biggest challenge will be keeping his disparate caucus happy.

Governments are run like corporations now. I meant, the government is the corporation.
You are spewing meaningless nonsense now. You might as well say that "the corporation is the government".

Having seen the propaganda of various regimes, George Orwell and Milan Kundera both argued that we should treat language with respect. Spouting meaningless slogans is disrespectful.

Edited by August1991
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It's not a chicken/egg argument. In the next federal election, Canadians are free to vote for any local candidate in their riding and there are usually many. If Canadians wanted, we could have a supreme parliament of independent MPs after the next election.

But it won't happen. Most voters will choose the specific candidate representing a party/leader.

In fact there are very few credible candidates outside of the established parties and they have little chance of getting elected because they do not have the same resources. This is also true in the US where every legislator has a high degree of independence compared to ours. Our problem is the way we have bastardized the parliamentary system into one that has given the power of life and death over every MP to a party leader. Such a system almost demands that a person vote for a particular party rather than a candidate.

I think that you are saying here that you prefer market choices to government. So do I (although I am invariably crucified as a "neo-liberal" in Quebec for such a belief.)

I am saying it is not a valid analogy,

Unfortunately, markets don't always work and then government can maybe improve matters. Compared to markets, governments are a clunky solution and at the moment, the best government method typically means we have a "dictator" for about four years or so. Suck it up, buttercup.

Then why bother with the farce and expense of sending 300 plus rubber stamps to Ottawa. Put the future dictators name on every voters ballot.

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In fact there are very few credible candidates outside of the established parties and they have little chance of getting elected because they do not have the same resources.
"Same resources"? IOW, Canadians choose not to pay attention to these other candidates.

If these other candidates offered something different, and Canadians cared, they would not need resources to make the choice known.

It didn't take "resources" to convince people to use cell phones.

Then why bother with the farce and expense of sending 300 plus rubber stamps to Ottawa. Put the future dictators name on every voters ballot.
They are not 300 rubber stamps. IMV, they are our first bulwark against a madman. In a country such as Canada, I also like the idea of geographic MPs, possibly knowledgeable of local conditions, sitting in Parliament and caucus. Our federal MPs are also Scandinavian Ombudsmen.

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But Wilber, our civilized society exists despite "300 plus rubber stamps" in Ottawa. Could Harper be a dictator? There are numerous checks against this.

Critically, we have a federal system. Each provincial PM is sovereign in their province. In addition, we have a federal Supreme Court that interprets a Constitution that defines how this federal State shares its power among levels of government. In addition, Trudeau gave us a Charter of Rights that, like its clarity or not, limits the power of all governments.

And I suppose lastly, if we have a civilized Canada, it's because ordinary Canadians are respectful to one another. I doubt that a written Constitution can make that possible. But we Canadians seem to civilize foreigners who come here.

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If I had a quibble with the "300 plus rubber stamps", it would be why so many? Heck, Harper just added more.

Edited by August1991
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It's an issue that stems from how the party leader is chosen. The caucus has no input in the selection of the party leader, it therefore has no influence over the leader thereafter. Parliament really only has as many members as there are party leaders in it.

I don't know if caucus should pick the party leader. I like the way the NDP does it, by having the membership pick the leader. However, it might be an effective check on government power to allow caucus to be able to strip ministers of their titles, including the PM, or if one prefers not to go that far to allow caucus to demote the leader. This would force whatever mechanism each party has in place for selecting a new leader, not necessarily a caucus choice. I'm afraid this would only be used in the most extreme circumstances though. So it may be a check on paper only. Edited by cybercoma
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It's sad that people don't take democracy more seriously.

Yes, it is, but he's right. Few people know much, or often anything at all about their local candidate aside from the fact they hold the 'franchise' for that party in that riding. People vote for the party, and for the party leader, not for the individual.

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