Canada’s Broken Parliamentary System

How quickly our elected representatives forget the source of their power: we mere citizens.  I often joke that Members of Parliament are not our representatives to Ottawa but Ottawa’s representatives to us.  It’s a joke, a cruel one at best, and it’s on us.

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Those simple yet powerful words are the foundation of a democratic government.  Those who govern derive their power from the consent those they govern.

Well, they’re supposed to be, anyway.

We’ve fallen so far from this simple principle it’s hard to fathom how we will ever find our way back to truly representational form of government.

Occasionally, however, there are hints of what should really happen in Parliament.

Last year New Democratic Party MP Bruce Hyer did the unthinkable when he voted to scrap the long gun registry.  Why was this “unthinkable”?  He voted the will of his constituents, not the will of the NDP leadership.  Fellow NDP MP John Rafferty did likewise.

Both men were immediately punished by the Party, made examples of to remind the rest of the NDP Caucus precisely who is in charge.

The Party.

After witnessing the heavy-handed way the interim NDP leader dealt with Bruce Hyer and John Rafferty are we really surprised to learn since that day not a single NDP MP dared vote against the Party Line?

Party loyalty above loyalty to those pesky mere citizens is the mantra and the Conservative Party of Canada is every bit as heavy-handed as the NDP.  Or the Liberal Party of Canada, for that matter.

So when I hear the whining and snivelling from Conservative Members of Parliament that their precious “Right to Freedom of Speech” is denied by the Prime Minister… well, I just have to laugh.

I’d love to see this be a committee of Parliament to determine how Parliament can be freer to exercise the rights to free speech and to question freely,” Conservative MP Kyle  Seeback said in an interview with The Hill Times.

I think it could do good work and there’s good people in our party and certainly in other parties that think that Parliament’s an important institution and this would only make it stronger.”

Speaking in Parliament is bound by the rules of Parliament; rules they imposed upon themselves.  Speaking in Parliament is a “Parliamentary Privilege” not a Parliamentary Right.  That privilege is controlled by the MP’s political party.  If Members of Parliament don’t like the rules, then they ought to change them.

They’re the only ones who can.

Members must be afforded the greatest opportunity and latitude in being able to raise important matter and fully represent those Canadians they have been elected to represent,” said Conservative MP Michael Chong.

Mr. Chong conveniently forgets he and his fellow MPs tend to support the views of their constituents when and only when it is convenient for them to do so, when the “important matter” will earn them points with their boss, the Party Leader.

Prime Minster Harper has a single goal: to remain Prime Minister.  He will do, just like every single prime minister in the last century, anything and everything to achieve that goal and that includes muzzling his caucus.

Our parliamentary system is perverted.

Power flows from the top down, not from the bottom.  It is broken, controlled not by the will of the people, but by political parties that do not derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Those political parties are controlled by their party leaders.

conservative_logoThese Conservative MPs, so willing to air their complaints publicly, are forgetting one very important detail.  If they want to run under the Conservative banner in the next federal election there is one signature they require on their nomination papers:

Stephen Harper’s.

Please.  Don’t get me wrong.

I certainly don’t agree with the system we’re currently saddled with, but I have little patience for those who, after gaining their positions, power and massive paychecks from the consent of we mere citizens then blatantly ignore our will and whine they aren’t allowed to speak in Parliament.

Worse, they actually expect us to care.

How quickly we forget former Liberal Prime Minister Cretien ran his party every bit as dictatorially as Harper is today.

When Jean Cretien’s scandals could no longer be buried or explained away he allowed his hated political rival, Paul Martin, to take the reins of power.  Cretien quietly retired, content to watch Paul Martin’s leadership implode and begin the Liberal Party’s spiral into oblivion ultimately completed by Michael Ignatieff.

I have two things to say to these Conservative Party complainers:

If you don’t like the system, then change it.  It’s in your power to do so.

If you’re too lazy to change it, then give up your $160,000/year paycheck (plus expenses) and get a real job.  But be prepared for a massive pay cut.

On average we mere citizens of Canada make only $40,000 a year.  Unlike you, we are not able to vote ourselves massive pay raises whenever we like.


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