Wednesday, February 22, 2017

History of loner MPs

Eric Grénier and the CBC have done an elaborate quantitative analysis to determine which MPs dissent from the party line most.  And find out what you already knew, that none of them do very often.  The "most free" of MPs votes with the leadership 87% of the time.

But they are asking the wrong questions, and encouraging the wrong behaviour.  Parliament doesn't need a bigger gaggle of cranky lone wolf individualists who will cast one lonely vote against the party consensus once in a while. There are always a few cranky egomaniacs in the House of Commons.

What parliament needs is backbenchers with influence. What Grénier's team ought to be looking for is the MP who, when the party leadership is about to do something dumb -- or evil -- can rally the caucus to stand up against the direction being given by the leader's office (or when necessary against the tenure of the leader him or herself). A backbencher who votes against a party motion is just someone who loses a vote.  A backbencher who can work a change in the party consensus? Now he or she is performing a useful service for the country.

Sadly, that sort of behaviour is not even a category that Grénier or the CBC acknowledge as existing, let alone try to measure. True, if they could and did measure, they would probably come up with a number close to zero.  But reporting it might actually start to change it.

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