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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Scheer Failure, Parliament and Abner Doon

In other words, the NDP acted tribally - if they can't have a Cabinet seat, they might as well go for the Speaker.  Which surely, they should have known they couldn't get, but that didn't matter - my Party right or wrong, etc.

The Speaker is the most important role in our Parliamentary system, which is designed to represent the interests of us Canadians.  We support Parties based on policy, ideology or in what's most often the case, because of tribal partisanship.  The Speaker's job is to make sure these sworn enemies play nice and in an idea world, find balance between accountability, planning and access.

If Scheer is defaulting on the side of government, not Parliament, we have a real problem with our already dysfunctional Parliamentary system.  The role of Speaker is like that of Somnec in Capitol; without an impartial Speaker (and without Parliament having the power to do anything about that Speaker), even the current illusion that we have a functioning Parliamentary democracy falls like a house of cards.  Government has no fear of being held to account, no cause to work with other Parties and will slide even further into the realm of "we can do whatever we can get away with or deflect criticism from." That means, they are free to enact ideology no matter how short-sighted it is.  That's bad for Canada - a dearth of ideas and debate in politics is the equivalent of a shallow gene pool. 

This is a reality caused by Political Parties, all Political Parties, playing long games that were focused around their partisan interests, not Canada's.  The Liberals, bastions of the Centre, were the first to fall due to this approach.  The CPC is already starting to crack as individual, ideological MPs start chafing against their specific issues not being pursued.  How long can Harper expect fear as a tool to work when it's anger he's trying to stifle?

We've seen partisan jockeying lead to an erosion of confidence in Ontario, too.  It's a slow, painfully downward spiral away from the things Canada is meant to represent - the whole being more than the sum of its parts and diversity providing opportunity, not inconvenience.

The reason our current model of Parliament is cracking at the seams, of course, is because it's an ancient institution, designed for another time.  Question Period wasn't designed with television in mind; now that it's there, QP is become more of a Sound Bite session.  Social media has nurtured Political Parties perceived need for message control just as it has made slips (and records of those slips) impossible to avoid.

People at all levels of society have told me the system is broken - there seems to be a growing consensus that the model is beyond repair and needs, somehow, to be replaced.  I'd argue that process has already begun.  Far from partisan leanings or defaulting to authority, Scheer's approach to the office of the Speaker might actually be the lynch pin in triggering that change.

Creative destruction - it can be messy, but it's necessary.  For those who see the whole as more than the sum of its parts and believe in collaboratively moving forward, it's also provides boundless opportunity. 


  1. Don't forget: the parliamentary system wasn't "designed." It has grown up over time in reaction to external events. Speakers now must examine their decisions as strict constructionists since the Standing Orders have become more and more specific and proscriptive over the years.

    For more, I suggest an excellent article, found here:

  2. Why, thank you, sir! I actually DID read this fine piece of political process prose a couple of years ago, but it's great to have a refresher. In fact, maybe I should post OLIP papers here somewhere...

    Love this quote about the organic evolution of the institution, by the way: "Many of the processes we see today in Commonwealth Parliaments have their origins in historical fights for rights; often, they were a reaction to external events and not a conscious decision to create an institution."

    Must be the anthropologist in me...

  3. Ha! Got a kid going off to university in the fall, and she's considering anthropology. Wonder what she would make of this.

    Parliament isn't the only large organization to suffer from this particular problem. Too often, we don't "design" systems; we "end up" with them through a process of reaction. Once in a while, it behooves us to blow the whole thing up and start over from first principles.

    Unsurprisingly, I believe we need our own Guy Fawkes for Parliament's Standing Orders.

  4. Creative Destruction is the theme of the times – giving the nation a new syncopation, as it were…