US President Donald Trump meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House, Photo Courtesy: By Office of the President of the United States – @realDonaldTrump on Twitter, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56254370; (Created on 13 Feb 2017)
April 4, 2017
Scottish parliamentary committees function harmoniously when compared to the U.K. parliament. The Scots elect Holyrood by proportional representation, while first-past-the-post elects MPs to Westminster.
The Liberals convened a parliamentary committee on electoral reform. When it refused to play along with the Liberal “ranked ballot” approach, Justin Trudeau abandoned his promise to deliver reform in the first 18 months of his mandate.
In a discussion paper the Liberals are now proposing measures that have aroused suspicions in the committee charged with recommending Liberal amendments to the Standing Orders of Parliament.
The Liberals want MPs to have more time in their ridings. Their discussion paper suggests shortening the parliamentary week by eliminating Friday sessions. Such a move would help incumbent MPs campaign for re-election, favouring the Liberals.
The idea of having one day set aside for prime ministerial questions would allow the Liberals to showcase their popular leader once a week, while freeing him up to travel the country shoring up support, without having to prepare for question period the other four days of the week.
The Liberal proposals, and their insistence on dealing with procedural reform before the end of June, have angered the opposition parties that are filibustering the procedural affairs proceedings in committee.
Unlikely allies, the Conservatives and New Democrats are working together to shed some light on a power grab by the Liberals.
The 13th Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, circa 1971; photo courtesy: By Themightyquill – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8927840
Betrayal of parliamentary government has a history. In 1956, the Louis St. Laurent Liberals invoked closure on the pipeline debate, and the Progressive Conservatives were able to turn the issue to their advantage. John Diefenbaker led the PC party to victory in the 1957 election pointing to the arrogant treatment of parliament.
Since that time, parliament has been routinely ignored, or given short shrift, by governments without it producing enough public anger to make for democratic reforms.
Parliamentary business receives little media coverage, particularly at the committee level.
The real business of governments is carried out behind closed doors in meetings between lobby groups and Liberal (or Conservative) ministers and/or officials of the PMO.
Like electoral reform, open and fair government would be more likely to result from a coalition government where power was shared between two or more parties.
Centralized power in the hands of a prime minister — with decisions taken in consultation with the closest of associates — provides too much security and too many rewards to the first-among-equals to expect more than betrayal of promises to share power more democratically with parliamentarians.
Duncan Cameron is former president of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.