Thursday, February 12, 2015

Parliament: It's not free if you need permission

All about ... Justin?
The Toronto Star opines that when Parliament deals with the changes to the assisted-suicide law now required by the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, the prime minister should "allow" members a free vote.

Memo to The Star: it is not a free vote when you need someone's permission. The Star should be reminding us that for a prime minister to dictate the freedoms of MPs is an abuse of power and an abuse of Parliament.

More to the point: why aren't the MPs themselves, in all the caucuses, determining whether on this issue they will seek to maintain caucus solidarity or encourage their members to vote as they each see fit.

Similarly, there has been much attention to Justin Trudeau's unwisdom in admitting the, ah, turbulent Conservative MP Eve Adams to "his" caucus. (Here too, the Star is all over what the leader should have done.)

Again, why is this at a party leader's discretion at all? All members of a parliamentary caucus, including the leader, are there by the consent of the caucus. Rather than criticizing Trudeau's judgment in choosing to admit this particular MP, we should be asking why the Liberal caucus has not held a quick meeting to decide whether or not it wished to welcome Adams into its ranks.

Obviously, when these situations and opportunities arise, there is good reason to have a leader to take direction. Parties need good management. Hell, they need good leadership.  But cannot MPs ever remind leaders, and us, and themselves, that parliamentary leadership depends on the consent of the caucus being led? The leader is a member of caucus like other members and should be subject to caucus discipline, not the source of it.

Update:  Nice to see Maclean's Aaron Wherry, a sometime reader of this blog, taking note of the Canadian implications of the recent leadership events in Australia  (noted here well before Maclean's got to them.)
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