Wednesday, February 1, 2012

FIXING THE WAY WE DO POLITICS

A panel of experts that participated in an iPolitics panel on democratic reform, yesterday, painted a poor picture of the willingness of governments to implement meaningful reform.

Mark Jarvis said that  ”While we concentrate on the fires, the termites have set in, largely undermining the kind of solid structure that should underpin a system of democratic governance.” He pointed to the broad lack of agreement on constitutional conventions connected to the distributions of power — whether the governor general could ever deny a prime minister looking to prorogue Parliament, for example.

Political strategist and board member of Fair Vote Canada, Rick Anderson made an interesting, and sobering statement about the centralization of power in the PMO," “The prime minister gets to appoint all of the Supreme Court justices, all of his cabinet ministers, all the deputy ministers of all the departments of government, the head of the army, the head of the national police force, even the person representing the Queen, can decide when Parliament sits, makes his budget in total secrecy and if anybody dare vote against his budget that’s considered an act of non-confidence in his government and could possibly bring down the entire Parliament.”

Among the solutions raised during the discussion:: Empower each MP to work without restraints from party leadership; Change the culture of Parliament, especially as concerns “corrosive” partisanship; and alter the rules of Parliament to decentralize power.

As a fella who has strong feelings about democratic reform, I have noticed a pattern of parties promising accountability, accessibility and reform while occupying the opposition benches, only to roll back reform or offer window dressing when they form power.

Good examples can be found at both the federal and provincial levels where campaigns have featured a lot of lip service to accountability, but in practice things have actually gotten worse. The recent example of the provincial Auditor General's inability to obtain documents related to how the government expended $5 Billion in infrastructure does not reflect transparency or accountability.

The games played at the House of Assembly, even in the aftermath of the Green Report, illustrates the arrogance of our government which refused to open the legislature in the fall, stymies the work of committees and pits one opposition party against the other in providing the necessary research capabilities.

Today's CBC story about the inability of the Public Accounts Committee to do it's job because the government majority keeps refusing to meet and carry out hearings is further evidence that government will not be an actor in bringing about much needed democratic reform.

St. Barb MHA Jim Bennett has been selected by the Official Opposition as chair but he can not convene a meeting until the legislature sits to implement the new committee He says it is the role of the PAC :to oversee all government spending to make sure that the people of the province are getting good value for their money. At this point, we can't even see what's going on."

The webcast was devoted to fixing the way we do politics

You can watch the discussion featuring Anderson, Jarvis and moderator Jen Wallner , at this link.

Lets turn up the heat on  our elected representatives.

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