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How would a Trudeau or Mulcair government be different?

Lowell Murray has some thoughts on fixing Parliament


 

Lowell Murray wonders if the New Democrats or Liberals would be any less controlling in government and offers several ways to change the current culture of Ottawa.

Take control of government advertising content, including government websites and paid media messages, away from political operatives. Under the Harper government, on a scale previously unheard of, these have become vehicles for party propaganda that should be the job and expense of party headquarters. The message/content of all proposed media advertising by the government should be reviewed and approved for its non-partisan nature by a small team of public policy and communications professionals. This team should also have authority to expose partisan abuses of other information vehicles such as departmental press releases and publications.

Reinforce the autonomy of individual MPs and the role of committees by seriously curtailing leaders’ and whips’ control of Parliament. Appoint committee members for a full session of Parliament and require that they countersign any whip’s initiative seeking to replace them; make parliamentary secretaries, whips and others drawing extra salaries ineligible for committee membership; require the attendance of ministers when witnesses are being heard on their bills and at clause-by-clause consideration; require that announcements now made by ministers at news conferences be made first in the House and be subject to brief opposition comment; table proposed regulations at the same time a bill is presented to Parliament; require ministers to table and provide for parliamentary discussion, all joint federal-provincial communiques and agreements.

There’s already an answer for the question of government advertising: put it within the purview of the Auditor General. Mr. Trudeau has promised to adapt the Ontario model to the federal government.

Mr. Trudeau has mused about free votes, but no leader other than Elizabeth May has yet embraced the idea of amending the Elections Act to remove the requirement of the leader’s signature before an individual can run for a party. My question of a few months ago still stands: How would a Mulcair or Trudeau government handle its version of Brent Rathgeber?

It is perhaps not the sort of thing you could enshrine in law, but Mr. Murray’s interest in having ministers make announcements in the House is a small, but important, idea. It’s been five years since the Finance Minister delivered the fall economic update in the House. There is, officially, an actual spot each day set aside for the explicit purpose of hearing statements by ministers. Only our ministers aren’t much interested in making statements to the House, especially as compared to their British counterparts.

… Statements by Ministers delivered in the House of Commons during the first (and current) session of the 41st Parliament (from June 2011 to June 2013 and ongoing) and found that there were exactly six (6) statements made in the House. For comparison’s sake, during the first session (May 2010 to May 2012) of the current UK Parliament, there were 186 statements by ministers delivered to the House. Remember that each one of those lasted roughly an hour, meaning that provided at least 186 hours of questioning of ministers by MPs on specific, important policy matters and events.


 

How would a Trudeau or Mulcair government be different?

  1. IMO, our system of government is now functionally more an autocracy than a democracy. It’s hard to imagine the circumstances under which we could hope to restore our democratic institutions to their historic relevance. They are mostly window dressing now, with only ritual authority.

    The declining turnout at the polls with each passing election underscores their essential insignificance.

    • and here I thought the declining turnout at the polls was all Michael Sona’s fault

      • Yes, he single-handedly threw the last election. I read that a lot on these comment boards, so it must be true.

  2. “Statements by Ministers delivered in the House of Commons during the
    first (and current) session of the 41st Parliament (from June 2011 to
    June 2013 and ongoing) and found that there were exactly six (6)
    statements made in the House.”

    If that doesn’t speak to the rank mediocrity of this govt i don’t know what does. They simply have nothing to say, at least not until the blanks are filled in for them at the pmo.

    • Well, it would be interesting to see the same data from some time back, and determine whether there is a correlation to the government of the day, or whether this is just customary practice in Canada.

      • At a guess i’d say it’s been getting progressively worse.

  3. “amending the Elections Act to remove the requirement of the leader’s signature before an individual can run for a party.”

    For the love of god, yes. I can’t think of any smaller, simpler change that could so drastically improve the democratic functioning of our government.

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