Friday, July 17, 2015

Parliamentary notes from all over

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron, fresh from an election triumph that gave him a majority government, was unable to get a bill (to loosen limits on foxhunting, go figure) through the British House of Commons. Too many of his own Conservative backbenchers were committed to vote against the measure, and the opposition was solid against it.

In Greece meanwhile, the vote to accept the suicide pact demanded by the crazy austerians in the north of Europe did pass.  But it needed opposition support, as only 145 of the 162 members of the Syriza coalition majority were willing to support it -- and 151+ was needed..

There are little asterisks here:  in Britain votes on fox-hunting are actually considered conscience matters (!) and therefore are free votes. And in Greece Prime Minister Tsipras has the authority to expel the dissidents from his party, and is doing so. But still the rule holds: in parliamentary regimes around the world, MPs have authority and hold responsibility for what their parliaments do, and frequently use their authority against the will of their party leaders.  As Aaron Wherry was musing a while ago (though very reluctantly), could this not work in Canada?

Sure it could.  It's worth noting, in light of some recent discussion here of proportional representation, that Greece is a PR country, yet its MPs were actually able to defy the leadership despite being representatives of their parties and not of their constituents.  PR surely does enhance party authority over MPs (in a FPTP parliament, the Brit dissidents have no fear of expulsion), but in the end it is a matter of culture more than rules and systems.

Ultimately, it is the culture of deference to arbitrary and unaccountable leadership that permits leadership autocracy in Canada's parliaments. We can change that culture just by saying so. When we want to.
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