Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Members Of Parliament-What Are They Good For?

The other day I wrote about the Conservative party Of Canada Vote unanimously against a Motion in Support of Science. Many saw that vote as a confirmation of the CPCs aversion, antipathy and dislike of Facts. The motion was most certainly meant to embarrass the CPC, which it did, Twice, once by highlighting the plight of science under Harper and a second time by forcing the CPC, in its entirety to vote against a motion in support of science. But that's how things go in the House of Commons sometimes. An artfully render motion exposing the perfidy of the ruling party, very swiftian.

I also noted that my MP, Rick Dykstra voted with his party, against science. I have no reason to believe he finds science a chore to believe in; his was the regular support the Party vote. That had me thinking about Dykstras voting record. Now anyone can look up how their MPs vote and I had resigned myself to the task of looking up his evry vote; then comparing it with Harper. What I wanted to see was how often He voted against his Party and by Party I mean Harper. There have been 648 votes to date; luckily I found a short cut.

This entry from the post-"Breaking rank: How often do MPs vote against their own party?" made checking effortless. Though the conclusion from evidence; that the conservatives break rank most often is factual, it is also misleading. The criteria is "voting against the majority of your party". If you Look at the Vote that most of the conservatives "broke ranks" on Motion 312, a stealth anti choice motion. I don't consider that breaking rank considering it includes Harper. Harper voted against the Motion and save for a few Ministers and the die hard Anti Choice conservatives the rank and file followed his act. 

The graphic reveals that where Rick Dykstra and Harper identical voting records, this applies to votes that were attended by both men. Is it a remarkable exhibition of unity of purpose or just the banality of party workings? But it's not just Dykstra, I imagine if I went over the results closely I'd find that most back bench conservatives and Lesser Lights share the same voting record.  We have Government MPs, mostly competent, dependable, loyal conservatives, they appear on the CBC say their talking points, they stand in the House and deliver their lines. They keep clean offices, open to  constituents, at the usual hours and they vote the way they are told to. (I make note that Harper's promise not to open the Abortion debate has ruffled the formerly quiescent back bench, though whether this leads to increasing MP independence of a material kind is up for speculation).

Lest I be accused of partisanship, I freely acknowledge that the opposition Parties vote in solid blocks. I would also think that Past Liberal and Conservative governments share a similar record of party solidarity with the Harper Government. Nor am willing to entertain that a Mulcair or Murray Government would allow for greater independence( though I would really, really hope Prime Minister Joyce Murray would find away to create space for the average MP. 

What is it that turns our MPs into seat warmers? Is it the nature of the Westminster political system? The UK seems quite raucous, Google Cameron backbench revolt and see what you get. The Australian PM has just had her leadership challenge. I guess it reflects the way we do politics here that the system itself. Anyone looking outside in, can see Natural Selection at work. It seems our MPs are being selected for quietude, loyalty and submissiveness;from the back bench, lower lights and right up to Cabinet.  You have the PM a few Cabinet heavy weights and the rest. 

The problem is the concentration of power in the person of the Party leader. A party leader's control over nominations, they have to sign the candidates nomination papers. Right from the start you know whose grip you are in. The party provides you money to contest the election. The PM doles out Cabinet post, parliamentary secretaries and committee assignments. If you want a long and interesting career in politics you have two paths; one by loyalty or the other by leadership. There are a lot more followers than leaders, odds are better if you do as you are told and you are likely to have more fun. The cost can be seen in mediocrity driving away quality, in terms of candidates.

The most effective way to counter the trend is to have Party Leaders relinquish those powers that give them excessive control over there caucus. I can see that being difficult; sometimes you need to keep your caucus in line. The trend is towards less democracy in favour of greater stability and predictability. It is a bad trend. We are a Democracy once every four years and it's not enough.

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