Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Ignatieff (and Wynne): still clueless about parliament

Remember Michael Ignatieff? For the BBC, he is reported as predicting "the death of parliament" in Western democracies if party leaders don’t "loosen the reins on their own members, allowing more free votes and more freewheeling debate."
"Honesty requires me to say I was a party leader once,” Ignatieff quickly acknowledged, “and my instincts were always to shut those people [dissenting Liberal MPs] down wherever I could." 
But you shouldn't have to be "a renowned writer and philosopher" to see that votes are not free if leaders have to "allow" them. And surely Ignatieff's instincts as leader were correct.  Leaders who lack the ambition and passion to seek to get their way pretty much any way they can would not be very persuasive as leaders, surely.

What produces freewheeling debate and freedom of voting is not magnanimous, self-effacing leaders, not that we should expect such beasts anyway. The source of accountability is caucus members who feel that ambitious, passionate leader trying to shut them down -- and have the ambition and passion themselves to tell the leader, when necessary, exactly where to shove it.  Leaders can't save parliament.  But parliamentarians can.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Wynne used to be a cabinet minister in Ontario (which used to have a legislature). She had to quit in order to run for the provincial Liberal party's leadership.  But surely the point of leaving cabinet is to gain the freedom to speak, not to be even more slavishly loyal to the lame duck currently in the leader's chair.

Interviewed today on her first day as a backbencher, Wynne felt unable to criticize the premier's decision to prorogue or his decision to abrogate collective bargaining principles in the province -- both of which have been shredding the Liberals' standing and reputation.  It's too bad the Liberal caucus in Ontario lacked the good sense and parliamentary responsibility simply to fire Premier McGuinty and chose a new leader with some new policies.

But since they didn't, can't we at least expect candidates to be the future leader to, y'know, have some views.
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