Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Leaders and parliamentary caucuses and how things run

The one thing that disturbs me the most about Carole James ejecting Bob Simpson from the NDP caucus is the power of the leader to do this.   We need to see an end to this immediately and have our politics enter the norm for other Westminster style parliaments.

The leader has too much power and has this power without any mandate from the public.  Bob Simpson was elected to represent Cariboo North and was elected as a New Democrat.   He was not elected to be slavishly loyal to a leader.   The fact that someone is able to kick him out of caucus because he does not agree with the leader is a direct affront to the electorate that gave him the mandate to be in Victoria as a New Democrat. 

If anyone should have this power, it should be the NDP riding association of Cariboo North.

As long as we have an acceptance of what Carole James did as acceptable, we will continue to see more and more power amass in the hands of leaders and this means will have much less effective governments.   We will also see good people not run for office because they are smart people with ability to think for themselves.

In the UK there is no power for the leader to kick people out of the caucus and the major parties manage to continue and govern the land.  I am not saying their politics are prefect, I am just saying the model we accept here is not others use.   We can look to the US and see how little the president and party have over who is elected as a member of their party.

The evolution of where we are at in politics in Canada means that MLAs and MPs have much less power than the cadre that are the advisers to the leader.  People with no mandate and no accountability to the public have significantly more power than the people elected to represent us.

It also bothers me that Bob Simpson suddenly has access to numerous resources removed from him because the leader of the party can boot him out of caucus.  He even loses his office space and has to move.  

Keep in mind that Bob Simpson has not expressed opinions as MLA that is counter to the policy positions of the NDP.   He can be 100% on with the political positions of the NDP but still be booted from caucus.   It is not good enough to completely agree with the party positions, you have to be slavishly loyal to the leader even though as we all know she is not someone the vast majority of people in BC believe is a good leader of capable of being premier.

How does this change?   It has to be through brave MLAs and MPs willing to speak out as they need to even if it is not in 100% sync with the leader.    You can dump one or two, but once many people do it and it becomes tradition the system will change.

Legally there could be a change that for elections only riding associations have the power over party affiliation in the legislature and that all riding associations are autonomous though can be federated as a political party.  The leader should have no role in approving a candidate and a central party office should not be allowed to interfere in local nominations.   Another change would be to make resources in the legislature available as a fixed sum per MLA and under the personal control of the MLA - do away with all bonus funding for caucuses and give this money to all MLAs equally.  Leave it up to the MLAs how they share their resources.

Once they have an office an MLA should be allowed to keep it if they want to.    In an ideal world I would like to see MLA offices mixed so that Liberals are next to New Democrats.

I would also like to see parliamentary committee membership decided by the whole legislature but divide the numbers of committee assignments based on all the members in legislature that are not part of the executive.   This would mean almost all the time every committee of the legislature would be majority control by the opposition.  The committees would meet and would dig around for whatever they could to hold the government to task.   It would also be an incentive for the government to have a smaller cabinet.  It would also build a new place for power for MLAs other than leader of the party.   Once you are on a committee, no one should be able to remove you until you quit to take up a different appointment or join the executive.

Our problems come from us in the public accepting an unfair and dysfunctional model of how how our legislature works.   We are like the frogs in the pot, we simply accept where things are at and do not pay attention to the rising temperature.   We could do things much better.  It would be messy and would leave the behind the scenes political cadre feeling like things are out of control.   What we would have is a much better government no matter who was in power and we would have MLAs with something real to do.
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