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Needed: a Parliament of rogues


 

Michael Ignatieff needs to get a grip – on his caucus, on his party and on his staff. Too many of his Liberals are going rogue.

Eight of his MPs voted with the Tories this week to kill the long-gun registry. The Chrétien Liberals created the registry, spilling political blood to frame it into law. Privately, in the closed-door caucus meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Ignatieff urged his MPs to stand together and vote against the government. His pleas fell on deaf ears.

— Jane Taber, in today’s Globe.

No, no, no. This is exactly what’s wrong with so much coverage of politics. It is not “going rogue” for MPs to vote as their conscience or their constituents would wish. It’s called parliamentary democracy. Party discipline is not synonymous with the public interest, nor is everything to be assessed in terms of whether it makes life easier for the leader, or his strategists.

That said, I think both Ignatieff and Jack Layton were privately relieved to see the long-gun registry put to rest, much as Stephen Harper was keen to put gay marriage disposed of. Not only was it a source of internal division — and hence stories like the one above — but it was hugely harmful to their chances in rural Canada, where the gun registry has become a symbol of urban-elite insufferability.

That the issue was decided by a private member’s bill gave them the pretext not to whip their caucuses — and thus spared them the embarrassment of individual MPs actually doing the job they were elected to do: representing their constituents. Lord knows we can’t have that.


 

Needed: a Parliament of rogues

    • I would agree with the above statement/observation.

    • First comment, off-topic.

      Nice derailment!

  1. That the issue was decided by a private member's bill gave them the pretext not to whip their caucuses

    Not to mention that it'll be another year before this bill gets to 3rd reading, and then dies a natural death in the Senate.

    • Don't be so certain about that natural death in the Senate. By early next year, the Conservatives will finally have their majority.

      • I look forward to the point in time, however brief, where the Senate Indies hold the balance of power

    • "Not to mention that it'll be another year before this bill gets to 3rd reading, and then dies a natural death in the Senate."

      Just like it should.

  2. Well, what do you expect from a gossip columnist like Taber?

    • When gossip is demonstrably true, it's not gossip—it's news.

      • Sometimes, even when / if true, it is still gossip.

  3. Well, if the report is accurate and Ignatieff chose to URGE caucus members to vote a certain way, on a vote that was clearly not to be whipped, to me the rogue element rests in the leader's frontal lobes.

    • I suppose that's fine, for the leader to be making his position stringly felt. On the other hand, since he is the leader, this is tantamount to making MPs consider their own political futures when they vote, which is not a good thing.

  4. Nobody takes political advice from me obviously but I think one of Libs problems is that they are far too style over substance. The partisans have taken over and they think focusing on frivolities is the way to power. I am curious to see what strategies Donolo puts into place.

    Libs have lost institutional memory on how to behave and compete. It's hard to believe this is Canada's natural governing party. I don't know if I am melodramatic tonight or what but I have intuition that Libs are at crossroads here and the next few months are important to party's future.

    I don't understand why backbenchers behave the way they do either. If you are PM or Minister Of Finance, that's one thing, but why be sheep when you are a backbencher with few prospects of moving up to Cabinet. There are a bunch of conventions I wish our MPs copied from Britain – one of them is backbenchers voting against their leader/party. New Labour regularly has 30-50 of its own members voting against the government and there is little retribution. It is accepted tradition. I agree with Coyne, we have completely lost the plot if people are outraged by MPs representing their constituencies.

    • "Party discipline is not synonymous with the public interest, nor is everything to be assessed in terms of whether it makes life easier for the leader, or his strategists."

      Exactly. You've hit upon my biggest bugbear relating to Canadian politics. I think parliamentary democracy is fine, as long as it isn't subverted by overly restrictive party discipline. Unfortunately, in Canada, our traditions of party discipline have weakened the notion of constituency representation to the point of meaningless-ness. I think the problem may lie in the powers of appointment allocated to the PMO, which I believe are far more extensive than in most other parliamentary democracies.

      On the other hand, it's easy to see why party strategists and the PM DO assess all policy initiatives in terms of political gains. The incessant polling, and the media's Pavlovian reporting of such polls, have degraded politics to a horse-race that never ends…until the next election. Which, as many have stated before, is the only poll that really counts.

      • "I think the problem may lie in the powers of appointment allocated to the PMO"

        I don't know details but I am certain that, in UK at least, leader of the party signs nomination papers. Leader can choose who they want running for party, just like here. But it is not used as threat like it is with our pols. I think there is safety in numbers – one person voting against his party can be punished, 40 people voting against party can't. Also, a party's base tends to love the rebels because they are normally complaining that party has not gone far enough and should do much more.

        I honestly don't understand the appeal of being nobody MP on backbenchers for ages while always voting for party over constituent wishes. With this rigidness, all we are attracting is rent seekers looking for fabulous pensions and other accoutrements of power.

      • "party discipline have weakened the notion of constituency representation to the point of meaningless-ness"

        Well, except that in this vote there were several Liberals that voted for the bill. But I see your point.

    • But who, other than possibly Coyne, is outraged? While I think I would side with keeping the long-gun registry, I do recognize that there are legitimate reasons for letting it die. I'm certainly not outraged that some MPs from my party chose to please their constituents or their conscience. This is, in fact, one of the things that bugs me so much about the Conservatives–never having a mind of their own.

      • "This is, in fact, one of the things that bugs me so much about the Conservatives–never having a mind of their own."

        I think this is eye-of-beholder because I think liberals are the most rigid people I know, ideologically speaking. Cons tend to debate things, Libs impose policies and tell us to to like it. Or else!

        • "…Liberals are the most rigid people i know.."

          That's simply silly, at least in this instance. Are there any con MPs who are voting their conscience or their constituents wishes, should they want to keep the registry? No, clearly not! So, just who are the sheep- in this instance anyway? Come to think on it, has any con MP voted against their govt's wishes and for their constituents, other than Casey,or Cadman? And we all know what happened to them!

          • That was the amazing thing about this affair. Ignatieff and Layton got raked over the coals for for allowing a free vote and being "weak", while Conservatives and Bloc allow no free voting at all and their leaders escape criticism, while their MPs for some reason don't get labelled sheep either.

          • Conservative bias in the media :)

          • The Conservative vote was free.

          • Thankyou for making my point. Now please point to one instance of a conservative voting his conscience or his constituent's wishes and against his parties policy. Casy and Cadman don't count, for obvious reasons. I don't pay that close attention myself, but i would be surprised if you can cite any. I'd even go so far to say conservative free votes are a sham. Since there is never a chance that any one of them will take up the challenge.

          • Yes. Your right i'd forgotten the most obvious one. No need for the snark. I've no more interest in spinning this than you. Are there other examples of cons voting their conscience of their constituents interests?

          • Just one eh? Impressive. Considering they ran on this stuff.

        • I agree. I find those on the left to be the most rigid with their ideas of enforced taxation and enforced social institutions. They seek control and they seek to reduce individualism. Those on the right, which are more acceptive of freedom of choice, free speech, tradition, individual morality, and similar ideals, tend to be less rigid.

          And I also agree that I see it in the people I know.

          • What are the view of those on the right about the most vulnerable citizens, those who for whatever reason are not able to achieve the same quality of life as those who are less vulnerable? (not being obtuse, just wondering)

          • The right is for helping such people.

            I think where the difference may be is how to do it, whether you favour handouts or whether you favour helping them to find work or to learn marketable skills, whether you help them to make choices that benefit their own situations more effectively (or shoehorn them into a single unflexible solution), whether you emphasize personal responsibility and strength or personal weakness, and so on.

            For more detail, feel free to use google, or get yourself the party platform for the Conservative party or any other party on the right. Conservative MP Stephen Fletcher is a good source as well.

          • I know I could read party platforms and such, but I was looking for an 'everyman' type of answer, and you were good enough to provide it, thanks. I can see that the difference lies not so much in purpose as in method, but I don't see how things like health care or affordable housing could be handled more effectively without government involvement. I guess it comes down to which method of assistance one prefers.

          • I don't speak for anyone on the right but myself and I think there are any number of views.

            First of all, depends on what you mean by vulnerable. Right tends to be more concerned that we are killing babies while left worries about a woman's right to 'choose'. Same with euthanasia – people on the right tend to be against it while progressives are mostly for it. So from my point of view, right is more concerned with life than liberals are.

            I find liberals believe that everyone can be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon given the correct circumstances while right is more receptive to biology and how mother nature does not make us all equal – at least IQ wise.

          • "So from my point of view, right is more concerned with life than liberals are."

            I agree with your examples and your conclusion here, but I would submit that the left tends to be more concerned with quality of life than the conservatives are.

            The rest of your post is fascinating in that I think the exact opposite. It is the left who are concerned about those who do not make a living wage, while the right advises them to go get a degree and a real job. I think you are confusing the left's view that everyone can contribute to society given the correct circumstances, with rocket science.

          • What I meant by vulnerable was simply those who may have physical or emotional challenges, or insufficient income for adequate housing or post-secondary education – things like that. I take your point that it does seem that liberals can tend to overlook the facts about an individual's capability to become a rocket scientist or brain surgeon, but I wouldn't agree that they believe that government intervention will make it happen, more like government intervention will let it happen if it's possible. But I do sometimes wonder if it might be a case of creating a need in order to justify an intervention. Thanks for your input – it seems that, despite all the emotional rhetoric in the media and elsewhere, there's not really that much difference between the two points of view. Neither seems to be as extreme as they're often made out to be.

          • "there's not really that much difference between the two points of view"

            I agree with that statement. I find most people agree on the ends but disagree vehemently on how to get there. People on the right want more focus on self-reliance and the 'little platoons' (churches, charities, community orgs and the like) while those on the left want government to take care of everything.

          • I think that it's often the case that the best solution is somewhere in the middle between those who vehemently oppose on both sides.
            Thanks for this discussion, it's been helpful in understanding where the differences lie between the left and right.

          • Wow, that is in the eye of the beholder, then, because those on the right, who are more acceptive of freedom of choice (unless it is abortion, same sex marriage, pot decriminalization, etc.), tradition (unless it is the Senate, the Monarchy), individual morality (unless you mean ethics concerning money) tend to be far more rigid–that is to say loud and obsessive–in my view.

          • I think Conservatives are a bit more open minded because there are two major groups – social conservatives and libertarians – and they often disagree with one another. Libs have no such dynamic within their ranks and just follow whatever their leader cooks up.

            However, if you are talking specifically about Cons and Libs in Parliament than I don't think there is much difference. Both parties are full of rent seekers, sycophants and lemmings.

          • Same sex marriage is not a choice issue, in my opinion. Gay couples already had all the same rights and benefits as non-gay couples.

            Abortion involves a baby's choice to survive.

            As for drugs, you'll find that conservatives tend to favour opposition to killing oneself as well, not just harming oneself with drugs. Anyway, I'm all for pot decriminlization, being more of a libertarian. I am absolutely certain that the right is where to go for those in favour of liberty on most issues, this one being an exception.

            I wouldn't qualify the senate as a tradition – but even if you did, the Conservatives are in favour of improving it, not killing it.

            The left is all about more government control of our lives, while for the right that is the exception, not the rule.

          • But the Conservatives campaigned on MPs getting more freedom to represent constituents on all issues. It sure ain't happened. There must be at least one Conservative whose riding would generally be supportive of gun control. Remember the old Reformer said the MP should follow constituents wishes even if they personally disagreed. Broken promise. Big time.

          • There must be at least one Conservative whose riding would generally be supportive of gun control

            Firstly, this is the long gun registry. They are not voting against gun control, they are voting against the long gun registry.

            Secondly, polls do not go riding by riding, so neither an MP nor the rest of us know whether a specific riding is supportive or not. That's why there is such a thing as a party platform. When people voted in the election, they knew specifically that the Conservative platform including repealing the registry.

          • You mean my dog?

          • Or your car?

          • Yes, and your hamster, your car, your pet rock, your house, and whatever else you feel you need to report to your masters in the government.

  5. Oh c'mon Andrew this is going to a committee controlled by opposition MPs who all voted against the legislation. Plenty of bills have died in committee before….
    Ken Epp's unborn victims of crime bill passed second reading on a free vote and the Liberal leader declared I believe about a month later (or more) that after much thought he would whip his caucus for third reading.
    Surely you know better than to declare a bill passed only after second reading?

  6. "I think both Ignatieff and Jack Layton were privately relieved to see the long-gun registry put to rest"

    I forgot to mention that I think that's optimistic view of situation. Libs seem to be as angry now as Cons were when registry was first put into place, I guess we will see if they cool down. Aren't there still a few opportunities to meddle with bill?

  7. So did any Conservative MPs vote to keep the registry, since the majority of their constitutents want it? No? Baaaaaaaa!

    • Good point.Let's see if AC has an answer for that one? Or doesn't his libertarian tendencies stretch quite that far?

    • Holly Stick is channeling Orwell.

    • I'm not arguing for Reform-style populism, or against it for that matter. I talked about voting "as their conscience or their constituents" would dictate. And I wasn't even insisting that MPs should do that — I think on some issues, notably platform commitments, they should vote the party line.
      I was merely arguing against the tendency, all too evident in media coverage, to see any exercise of MPs autonomy as some sort of defeat for the leader, or violation of the natural order of things. I don't mind if MPs of any party chose to vote with their party (though I'd guess the vast majority of Conservatives, urban or rural, were also expressing a sincere ideological preference). I'd just like it to be a choice. And I don't think MPs who vote otherwise should be treated as some sort of Benedict Arnold — or at least not by the press!

      • If i understood Holly right and yourself for that matter, you would have no problem with a con pol living in a riding which 'did' support the registry breaking party ranks. But how likely is this with this govt? So, no doubt the opposition will recieve no credit for this, while Harper will garner nothing but praise from much of the media for being a he man – and we wont even bring up how this will go down with the con-bots on line. Oh well, i guess it's up to the opposition to sell this in the best possible light. I suppose that's the price of leadership in an unfair world.

        • You miss Coynes points here:

          'I think on some issues, notably platform commitments, they should vote the party line. '

          '(though I'd guess the vast majority of Conservatives, urban or rural, were also expressing a sincere ideological preference)'

          • Really, there are absolutely no con ridings that would like to keep the registry! How CONvenient for you. If a liberal votes his constituents wishes over his parties that's democratic. But if a con votes against his constituents wishes they're merely fulfilling the parties mandate. Is that Andrews point? As you see it that is?

      • And I don't think MPs who vote otherwise should be treated as some sort of Benedict Arnold…

        Treated like Benedict Arnold? You mean treated to a miserable exile in Canada? What kind of Torquemada could be so cruel as to wish that on anybody (especially on a "Conservative", for whom Canadian residency is especially degrading)?

      • "I was merely arguing against the tendency, all too evident in media coverage, to see any exercise of MPs autonomy as some sort of defeat for the leader, or violation of the natural order of things."

        That makes perfect sense to me and many others, but there are those who simply have no interest in making sense and would rather see it as a way to keep score since they're incapable of grasping that the essence of politics isn't black or white, right or wrong, win or lose – most often it's about making compromises to get what's best for the country.

  8. Exactly. MPs are beholden to their constituents, their country, and God. That's it.

    The party leader does not make the list.

    • According to a recent survey of party leaders, the party leader is God. MPs who act according to God's plan are also accountable to their party, their country, and their constituents, in that order.

    • Andrew makes a good point that we should welcome it when MPs vote their conscience or the conscience of their constiuents. On the other hand, they still need to be accountable to their party leaders on votes of confidence and money bills since the majority of voters vote for the party as much as the individual. Suely our system can be flexible enough for MPs to do both.

      • Unfortunately, the current emperor believes he's both above the party and the constituents, and has plans for the country. And with wall-to-wall mirrors and calendar memories fawning over his every fart, Harper is likely god in his own mind, too. Playing chess with faust.

    • This just in:
      There's no god.
      So that just leaves each other to blame, or to find a path forward.

    • MPs are not accountable to their country, except as far as their constituency is also contained within it.

      • Every patriot is accountable to his country.

  9. Notwithstanding my shot at AC i have to say he's right on this, and it makes political sense.[ at least according to Adam Radwanski it does – i wouldn't have a clue myself ] Harper has been using these kind of incendiary issues like a club to beat on the libs and shore up his base whenever an election looms. The libs must try and regain the rural wilderness, plus it means Harper doesn't have it in his arsenal anymore[ if it passes ] Of course the downside is how this will play with the libs base[ or NDP] However appeasing the Tabers of this world hasn't got the libs far lately. Surely that can be finessed no, given that they could attach conditions, make sensible ammendments. Or simply live with the contradiction ie, we must consider the registry has some negative effects, we need to consider that. In other words play smart politics, like Harper[ ethics don't have to be sacrificed]

    • If it does eventually become law in the CON-zarro universe, count on that maritime long-gun registry department becoming the official factory of novelty cheques..

  10. I agree. It's a good thing to let MPs vote according to what their constituents want, and clearly the constituents of a lot of the NDP members and some of the Liberal ones don't want a long-gun registry.

    There's a column by John Ibbitson at the Globe and Mail saying that how useful the long-gun portion of the registry is is irrelevant, because urban people support it. But how many people in cities have hunting rifles? It seems like the interests at stake here are those of rural people with guns – there's not a lot of stake in it for city-dwellers. So I'm for letting it go, since the registry for other guns is remaining.

    I'm getting a sense of contempt for rural people from a lot of the commentary about this registry.

    • Actually, I thought John's column was off-base. He's right that rural ridings are over-represented in Parliament, as they are in the provincial legislatures. But it doesn't necessarily follow that the gun-registry would remain in place if the allocation of seats more nearly conformed with rep by pop. Merely citing the fact that two-thirds of Canadians support it doesn't make the case, because (a) members from urban ridings with a majority of voters in favour of it may nevertheless vote to abolish it, as discussed above, and (b) voters in rural ridings who oppose the gun registry may feel much stronger about the issue, on average, than voters in urban ridings who support it. As such they may be more likely to make that the deciding factor in their vote, and thus may exercise disproportionate influence on the outcome, even if they did not enjoy disproportionate representation in the House.

      • Andrew, I actually think I followed that. But that's DEEP!
        Wow, I don't know how you do it, but you almost always make sense.

  11. “No, no, no. This is exactly what’s wrong with so much coverage of politics.”

    No, this is exactly what’s wrong with Taber’s “journalism”. Anybody who takes her articles seriously has too much time on their hands. She’s a hack, pure and simple, and the Globe should have fired her long ago.

    Voting to remove the long gun registry is simply the victory of idiotic politics over reasonable policy. But ironically, as others have pointed out, this voting down the registry could have a backlash effect in Quebec and urban centres for the upcoming by-elections and for future elections down the road.

    • I take the opposite view. The long gun registry was established to just give the impression of doing something about gun crime as well as being a make work scheme, nothing more. As such the registry was not reasonable policy, it was idiotic politics designed to appeal to the Liberal Party's urban base. Money does not grow on trees, there are a lot of urgent, legitimate, competing interests that governments have to deal with and blowing a billion or two billion on this scheme was a criminal waste.

      If you want to effectively deal with gun crime you have to inflict draconian punishment for use of a firearm in committing a crime ie life in prison with no parole. To counter the argument that draconian prison terms are ineffective as a deterent I would argue that if you are incarcerated for life you are effectively detered. I know that small L liberals have a visceral distaste for harsh punishment and would argue for rehabilitation. I would argue that I wouldn't waste time on someone that uses a gun in a crime and I wouldn't take the risk that they wouldn't do it again. Better they spend their life in prison.

      • $8 million used to fight gang violence rather than track down duck hunters that haven't done their paper work,
        makes sense.

      • Cancelling the long gun registry would "save" the Canadian taxpayer something like 3 million dollars a year. Given that police are in favour of keeping the registry, and state that it helps them fight crime, this is a small price to pay. Not to mention the fact that the majority of Canadians want the registry (and about 80% of Canadians [not just Liberals] form that "urban base" that you talk about).

        Crime rates are actually flat or dropping in Canada, so increasing sentences doesn't exactly sound like a reasonable or necessary thing to do overall. And you may want to consider how much it would cost the taxpayer to lock up people for "life in prison". As much as you find it unpalatable, rehabilitation is actually more effective and less of a drain on the taxpayer as well (take a look south if you want a prime example of how not to deal with criminals in the long-term).

        • Even more effective and ultimately less of a drain on the taxpayer is prevention. But this requires a long-range view, something that politicians (and their corporate sponsors) have shown little capability for.

          Crime doesn't happen in a vacuum, there are circumstances (and yes, choices made) that ultimately lead an individual to take criminal actions. This is not to absolve those individuals in any way, but if the options are a life of poverty or living off the avails of crime, the decision to engage in crime is actually rational, ESPECIALLY in a society where status is largely determined by conspicuous consumption.

          "We have seen the enemy, and he is us"- Pogo

        • James Travers did a column on this topic in the Star. In the commentary some police remarked that the registry is useless. I don't know about you but to me 3 million dollars is a load of money. Our governments are completely and totally out of control in terms of spending and they are going to have to get a handle on it. Also, I'm not in favour of increasing sentences overall, just for the most serious offences. I'm not in favour of the registry but, to me, if we have such a big gun problem why don't we just do an outright ban of any and all guns. To me a registry is a useless half measure. Also, life in prison does not need to cost a lot of money because for a lifer you don't need first class amenities. In my scenario these people are not coming out. To me people that use guns against other people have proven their worth and are entitled to only the most minimal consideration. They will never walk the streets again. Yes, look south and don't forget this is not the United States and we are not American.

  12. Well, I'm angry because Jane Taber didn't tell me that Mylie Cyrus isn't Twittering anymore.

    If they were whipped people would be criticizing, and now that they weren't they are ctiticizing.

    I don't care what side your on, Jane Taber is an insult to journalism.

    • And yet she continues to have a huge national platform through which to publicize her inanities. My 77-year old mum calls her Jane Viper…

    • She's gone rogue from traditional Globe standards. Maybe she's eyeing up a Senate seat next to pal Mike.

  13. I'm a rural canadian living with other rural canadians and I can say that, while being a pain in the arse, we could live with the long-gun registry. I wouldn't go as far as saying that its implementation was "a symbol of urban-elite insufferability" and its dismantlement will improve the government's standing.

    If I wouldn't know better I'd say you hold a pretty dim view rural canadians.

  14. Nothing like a columnist who covers all his bases. Last month it was arguing in favour of more coverage of party leaders during elections, and the year before for a hyperpartisan system of proportionally elected parties rather than locally elected members. And today he's lamenting the "coverage" of politics and the "free will" and constituent responsibility of Members of Parliament.
    Andrew – I suppose you could top it off by criticizing our political leadership of dithering and being non-commital…

  15. How the hell can you "go rogue" on a fricking FREE VOTE!??!?

    Jane Tabor has been around Parliament Hill long enough to know what "free vote" means, you'd think.

    • A contradiction in terms is what that is. Someone above called Taber a gossip columnist, and I think that is a perfect description of her.

      • I have a better description of her, but this is a family-oriented angry political screed-posting forum.

    • Well it wasn't a free vote for the Conservatives or Bloc.

  16. Coyne is right. The principal of parliamentary democracy (especially on private members bill) is more important than a second-reading vote on keeping the gun registry.

    Course this wasn't an issue for the Cons since at this point Harper has beat all resistance out of them and they are in full seal mode.

  17. I can't wiat for more excitement – as Stevie boy supporting this as a private members bill has subverted the Lieberals natural inclinate to bury this at the committee level becuase a private membrs bill must be back within 90 days – think about the timing folks = the possibilites for the new year boggle the mind – the bi-elections are happening, new ridings being added, the senate is getting close and a spring budget coming up – oooh boy left wing nut heads are going to be exploding all over the place.

    • Evidently boggling your mind is no great feat.

  18. You don't need a parliament of rogues, you just need people with a brain and a backbone. Otherwise what we are in effect electing is a president or a chief executive and the average MP might just as well be wallpaper in the House of Commons.

  19. Taber reminds me of a Monty Python skit.
    I much prefer your credible analysis, Andrew. When it comes to an issue that is so clearly divided along urban-rural lines, MPs should be free to vote as their constituents wish them to vote.

  20. 1/3 of the NDP caucus voted with the Govt .

    The Harper Government did not need the support of the Liberals for this bill to pass, only 12 Dippers (+ 1 Indy).

    So why won't it pass 3rd reading?

  21. I agree with Coyne here, and I think the particularly inane assumption behind a lot of people's thinking on this issue is that you should expect all MPs from a particular Canadian federal political party to have the same views on everything. Especially in the second-largest country in the world, with a population that's 1/10th of that of the United States (which is itself one very diverse country in terms of political outlooks — cf. Red State vs. Bule State). The urban-rural divide is arguably the most ignored/overlooked dynamic in Canadian politics. Yet you've got these Rosedale Liberals who assume that if some MP from Hicksville is a Liberal, he/she must ipso facto have "progressive" views on things (as opposed to those horrid, redneck Tories). It's nuts.

  22. If you are proposing that MPs should vote with their conscious, you are assuming that they have developed something like a consciousness upon which to base a decision. I am not convinced of this. Mainly our political representatives in Canada are unconscious, just like the people who vote them in. If you are proposing they vote in line with what their constituents want, this will just result in the ugliest form of majority rule on a consistent basis. In both cases, there is at least the risk that brokerage will happen at the level of the House of Commons and ordinary Members rather than at the level of the Party leadership. If that happens, we will have the same institutionalized corruption as in the United States where no legislation can get passed without bribes for individual Members. That is a perversion of democracy and certainly not what Canadians would want if the question were put to them honestly.

    On the other hand, I am very sympathetic to the argument that authority should be challenged when appropriate, particularly when the aim is to improve government and/or governance. However, I think the appropriate venue for this is Caucus, and failing that, the Party conference, rather than votes in the House of Commons. Call me old fashioned, I guess.

  23. If "more rogues" is what you want, then just come right out and advocate abolishing parties. If politicians want to be rogues, they should have the courage to run as independents. And if parties want to get away with tolerating rogues, they should specify which of their policies they're running on that they know in advance they're not going to stand behind; it's useful information for those who would send their money to a party because that party purports to support (for example) gun control.

  24. I wonder what would happen to a Conservative MP who sided with the opposition on a free vote?

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