Nobody’s home

by Aaron Wherry

Tim Harper notes the eerie silence around the nation’s legislatures.

Anecdotally, it appears Canadians don’t much care about this and that’s why leaders feel they can get away with it. Prime Minister Stephen Harper brought prorogation back into the vernacular and was re-elected with a majority in 2011. Anyone who spends any time in Ottawa knows that too much time is wasted here on picayune partisan posturing and MPs do have responsibilities in their constituencies. But these 1,066 men and women are elected to represent our interests in a Parliamentary forum…

Canadians are disengaging from politics. That could be because they rarely see their representatives in action. Or perhaps our politicians are using this disengagement as cover for their empty legislatures. Neither conclusion is good news for those who lament the erosion of democracy in this country.

Tim notes Mark Jarvis’ writing on the BC legislature. Here again is my post on the gradual decline of sitting days for the House of Commons. Ned Franks wrote a paper a few years ago on sitting days and parliamentary productivity and you can download that paper here.

Of course, this isn’t purely a mathematical exercise. It is easier to argue that the House of Commons should be sitting more often if what goes on when it is sitting is widely regarded as meaningful. And so this is a two-part argument: the House would likely be more meaningful if it sat more often and if its proceedings were made more meaningful there would likely be more reason for it to be in session. What goes on when the House is sitting is a problem. Here is what I wrote two years ago. And here is what Ned Franks wrote around the same time. It’s all related to the question I asked then: does this place still matter? I argue it should. But that it doesn’t presently matter as much as it should.

For further reading, here is a list I compiled in putting together my piece in 2011.




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