stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
House reform doomed
space
space
By WILLIAM JOHNSON
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Thursday, November 7, 2002 – Page A25

Have we seen the future?

Given Liberal traditions, Tuesday's vote against the Prime Minister and cabinet by 56 Liberal MPs astounded the country. Where will the insurrection end? That pack of docile yea-saying "nobodies" actually joined MPs from four parties to pass a Canadian Alliance motion to elect the chairs of parliamentary committees by secret ballot.

And the Peace Tower didn't totter. The sky over Ottawa didn't fall. No report of movement in Mackenzie King's grave.

Some believe that ordinary MPs are taking back their independence, their authority, their effectiveness. Tuesday's precedent could herald a new era when an MP is a somebody.

After all, Paul Martin has built his quest for the Liberal leadership on rehabilitating the back-bench MP. Gone the heavy hand of who you know in the Prime Minister's Office. In parliamentary committees, Mr. Martin promised in his Oct. 21 policy speech, the members will choose their chairs and vice-chairs by secret ballot rather than raise their hands for whomever the PMO's emissary indicates. He showed the way for Liberals in Tuesday's vote in the Commons.

And he offered five other planks to enhance the role of Parliament, as opposed to the cabinet. Party discipline would be relaxed to permit MPs to vote according to their judgment, except for "key matters such as the budget." Future bills would routinely be referred to committees for study before, not after, they'd been adopted in principle, so as to "greatly amplify the capacity of members of Parliament as legislators."

Private member's bills, now almost all buried without a vote, would be studied by the relevant parliamentary committee to decide which would get full treatment. The members of these committees would be chosen or removed by their party caucus rather than the leadership.

Finally, Mr. Martin proposed that senior government appointments, such as ambassadors or members of regulatory agencies, "be reviewed by the appropriate standing committee before final confirmation." The cabinet, though, would retain the final word.

Each of these proposals would enhance the MPs' standing and make for better government. But the Liberal MPs showed on Tuesday why such reforms are fragile and likely to be subverted.

No sooner had they won the right to vote secretly to choose their committee officers than they proceeded to deprive the Official Opposition of its traditional prerogative of having one of its members chosen as vice-chair. Instead, they voted in two committees to have a Bloc Québécois member as vice-chair; two other committees chose, respectively, a Conservative and an NDP vice-chair. The only Canadian Alliance member chosen as vice-chair was Monte Solberg, who had left the caucus for a time last year to join a coalition with the Tories.

This display of mean-spirited vindictiveness toward the Opposition shows why piecemeal democratic reform is unlikely to succeed. Our political culture has an underlying logic and dynamic based on total conflict between the two major parties. It, in turn, derives from the first-past-the-post electoral system, in which winner takes all, loser loses all. One party can win a comfortable majority with 39 per cent of the vote, so there is every incentive to fight to the finish.

There will be no rehabilitation of the back-bench MP until we have a more democratic electoral system -- one that encourages MPs to work together in mutual respect.
wjohnson@globeandmail.ca


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main William_Johnson Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page