Monday, March 03, 2014

Reasonable Canadian compromises, party style

Debate on Michael Chong's Reform Bill continues, but I'm not sure the quality improves. Former Reform Party whip Jay Hill expresses his opposition to making leaders accountable to caucuses (from Aaron Wherry):
Now, having said that, I still have concerns with the caucus being given the legal means to overthrow the leader quietly behind closed doors. The leader’s elected by the membership of the party, either by a countrywide vote of members or at a delegated convention, either way it is not a few elected MPs who decide the leader’s fate. And I note that this bill should appeal to Mr. Trudeau because the definition of caucus does not include senators.
I ask, is it an improvement for democracy to give a few dozen people to override the democratic franchise of potentially tens of thousands. And what of the thousands of grassroots members and constituents that didn’t elect an MP from that particular party? Won’t they be completely disenfranchised for they would have no voice or vote inside the caucus?
Perhaps a better, made-in-Canada solution would be a compromise
"Is it an improvement for democracy?" he asks. It actually is, and Mr Hill's concerns demonstrate how unthinkingly the word democracy is used in Canadian political life.

Here, democracy just means "a lot of people voting," The fact that leadership voters are a self-selected poll of people who have purchased a vote/membership seems not to concern Mr Hill's sense of what a democratic mandate is.

But democracy surely requires accountability as well. The point of that "franchise of ten thousand" is that it dissolves the moment the leadership race is over -- leaving the new leader accountable to no one, at least until without the years of preparation usually required for a new leadership contest.

It is the essence of parliamentary democracy, its defining principle, that the executive, the government, is accountable on a constant, daily basis, to the legislature.  And given the reality of political parties, that means that in a working parliamentary democracy, the government is accountable to the majority caucus. It's not "a few dozen people," Mr. Hill. It is the majority of the elected representatives of the Canadian people you dismiss.

The fear is explicit, isn't it? "Quietly," "behind closed doors," "a few." (Give him credit however: he never uses the word "elites.")  But Jay Hill's "compromise" means giving up on the fundamentals of parliamentary democracy. He's entitled to want that if he wants that, but he should say so, and not talk about reasonable Canadian compromises.
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