Long forgotten

Christopher Moore reviews John Ralston Saul’s Lafontaine & Baldwin.

On this central question of parliamentary accountability, we today live once again in something like pre-1848 conditions. What Canadian party leader ever cedes power because his or her caucus is changing its mind? Today we accept that any party leader who wins a majority has, not constant accountability, but a four-year free hand, during which any caucus member who doubts or disagrees will be put out of caucus and probably out of politics. We have replaced LaFontaine and Baldwin’s hard-won achievement of leadership accountability with the perverse idea that legislators are once more accountable to leaders, rather than the other way around…

When the country doesn’t take parliamentary accountability seriously, that is, we should not be surprised that our historians do not trouble themselves to write about its origins. Why should we take the events of 1848 seriously when everything about our politics suggests we have actually regressed to a lower standard of parliamentary practice?

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