A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Essential Reading for Democracy.

There have been a number of articles highlighting former Conservative MP Mr. Rathgeber’s new book Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada in recent days. That he outlines the tight control that the PMO exercises over the Conservative MP's is hardly a surprise given that he quit the Conservative caucus over having his private members bill nixed by them, however such concerns by those who sit, of have sat, in the House are not new.
Mr. Rathgeber, twice elected as a Conservative before quitting caucus last year, outlines how MPs have seen their powers fade away, reduced to “cheer-leading and barking on command” while the PMO has grown stronger over decades, under Mr. Harper and his predecessors, with little oversight.”
Indeed if we take a look at some of the exit interviews conducted by Samara, the democracy measurement people, we will see a great deal of concern about how much 'control' the party brass and the PMO has over those we have elected to look after OUR concerns. It is unfortunate that so few of them do not speak out untill AFTER they have retired from politics, perhaps the following gives a clue, they are more interested in not loosing their perks that in returning the institution to what it was intended to be - “a body in which the Prime Minister is only the first among EQUALS!

The book offers a glimpse into the tightly controlled Conservative caucus, where backbenchers are given little say and punished – a relocated office, a less desirable committee, the cancelling of travel junkets – for stepping out of line. Mr. Rathgeber was formerly an Alberta MLA under Premier Ralph Klein, whose caucus voted on bills before they were tabled, he writes. Under Mr. Harper, the Conservative caucus is more of a pep rally and doesn’t include votes. Instead, there are “caucus advisory committees” open to Conservative MPs – but their meeting schedules aren’t published, Mr. Rathgeber writes.”
All this is old news, there is one MP who has been warning us of the fragility of our democracy and of the dangers of centralizing power in the PMO for years. Elizabeth May wrote the book on the Crisis In Canadian Democracy back in 2009 before she was elected to the House, her book Losing Confidence: Power, Politics And The Crisis In Canadian Democracy serves to outline how little has been done over the ensuing years to stop the decline.

You may compare her book with Tragedy In The Commons, by Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan (of Samara), all these book detail a parliamentary system that is in deep trouble in large part due to the thirst for absolute power by political parties of all stripes and the gradual elimination or disregard of any rules that may limit their power.

There is one small glimmer of hope in the about to be voted upon 'The Reform Act' which was introduced nine months ago as a private member’s bill by Conservative MP Michael Chong. It is far from all that is needed but is a tiny step in the right direction, you may find out more about it over at Samara and send letters to your MP to support it via LeadNow. Unfortunately Mr Chong is proposing even further weakening of the legislation presumably to make it more palatable for his Con colleagues.

I will leave you with this though from Mr Rathgeber in referring to some recent events concerning the PMO
Leaders lead, they do not perpetually search for scapegoats,”
One might add that good leaders protect democracy not destroy it!

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