It's their parties - Macleans.ca
 

It’s their parties


 

Alison Loat talks to Steve Paikin about Samara’s latest report.


 

It’s their parties

  1. I firmly believe that the imbalance at the party level plays an important part in explaining the imbalances elsewhere in Parliament. I don’t think our westminster system can handle complete individual independence like there is in the American system. But I’m pretty sure i have read before that Canada’s parties are more disciplined/whipped than in any other similar westminster style government in the world. Not believing in extremes, I can’t think that is a good thing. Grassroots involvement in party activities is supposed to be one fo the most important interactive bridges between citizens and parliament. If we think our voting turnout is shocking, the last number I saw for party membership put it at low single digits as a percentage of voting public.

    • Less than 2%, I believe. 

      • It is about that.  The latest research in this area is from 2000 though, so I’d imagine it’s lower now.  Does anyone know if the political parties release their membership numbers?

        • Thanks for that.  I was depressed at 2%!  I’m one of those 2% and I don’t know the membership of my own party, so I suspect they don’t.  Mind you, it could be because nobody has asked.

          I’m going on a road trip in a week or so to help with a powerpoint presentation my friends Matt and Anita have come up with.  http://www.slideshare.net/AnitaNickerson/reclaiming-our-democracy-through-political-participation-final-7283870
          But it occurs to me that we haven’t had one of our events in our own area on this subject.  And it occurs to me that nobody would come if we did, since its ‘just us’ and we aren’t exactly a draw (we’re there every time), although we do quite well with guest speakers.  Would you consider coming to Waterloo Region, Alison, as a guest speaker in our CAPP/Fair Vote ‘Participate’ series?  (We pay in cookies.)

    • Item 1:  As I was watching that entire episode of The Agenda last night the “Its The Parties” segment almost brought a tear to my eye.  I’m very supportive of efforts to trim (not eliminate) the influence of parties, starting by reducing the amount of money they have access to (both private and public money) – less money equals less back room pollsters and strategists and torquing, which can only be good.

      Btw, the other two segments of that same episode of The Agenda are also well worth the watch.

      Item 2:  IF you can use number of donators as a proxy for number of members, then the number of members for all parties is around 250,000 people, IIRC from my vote subsidy/75% tax refund research, and those figures are from about 2008…

      • I have to say that the Agenda is possibly the most worthwhile show on Canadian television. 

      •  I will try to take the time to watch the whole thing, thanks.

        Participating with your wallet is important, but participating with your engagement is more important. But why would you? Even as an active member, are you going to feel like your participation has had a meaningful outcome? Not everyone feels it is necessary to have an outcome to show for their work, but many do. And if you are an activist, your cause matters.

        Somehow the party process filters out cause-centered concerns in favour of success-centred concerns. It’s pretty hard to sustain commitment when that commmitment is blatantly in the pursuit of power for a leader so remote from your local constituency you will never meet him/her.

        The Liberal Party is currently at the nadir of this process. Morally and intellectually bankrupt and desperately searching for a magical leader. The best leader they could find for themselves is one who could reconnect them to their grassroots base. That’s what the conservatives had to do when Mulroney tried to stitch together too many disparate groups in search of power rather than the common good.

  2.  It doesn’t surprise me that MPs say that the parties are the problem. Hopefully the near destruction of the Liberals lets them take a more adventurous path and take the courageous stance of weakening the centre of their party by giving riding associations independence in candidate selection, and perhaps making the permanent leader a selection by caucus, serving at their pleasure. Leaders can’t afford to ignore their caucus when they rely on them for their job. Apparently Chretien was the last Liberal leader who had an open door policy with his caucus.