Friday, June 19, 2015

Justin Trudeau's reforms: all there but the important one

Paul Wells in Maclean's fears reader boredom, but goes on to list in considerable detail Justin Trudeau's proposals for electoral and parliamentary reform. Which Wells rather admires:
Do fans of democratic reform have a single itch that Justin Trudeau didn’t promise to scratch this week? I can’t think of any.
Well, I can. The only democratic reform that much matters in Canada today is parliamentary reform: making leaders accountable to the House of Commons, which in practice means restoring their accountability to their parliamentary caucuses. Zip nada on that in Trudeau's package.

Wells notes that every new prime minister comes in with a program of democratic accountability and generally goes on to accrete more power in the prime minister's office. The whole spectacle of a party's absolute leader declaring "Give me absolute power and I will restore democracy" demonstrates the absurdity of all these election-eve promise packages that leaders present on the democratic deficit.

The one vital democratic reform in Canada today cannot come from the top down, since what is required is taking the top down from the pedestal. Parliament will start to work better when MPs of all parties begin using the power they already have to make leaders accountable to them. And they are not likely to start doing that until we start telling that they can. And should. And betray their obligation to us as long as they don't.

On the question of electoral reform, the Liberals are coy about just what they mean. But there's no commitment to proportional representation -- which would concentrate even more power in the leaders' offices.

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