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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.

Monday 3 February 2014

The Senate: Political Hoarding

Politics is about winning.  Winning is about numbers - number of dollars in the bank, number of memberships signed, numbers of votes cast. 

So everything done in the political arena is about increasing these numbers; countless fundraisers and fund-raising emails, attack ads to reduce competition numbers and photo-ops and phone calls to make people feel "touched" by a golden leader and relentless GOTV (which, oddly enough, is becoming increasingly narrow in its focus as the number of people voting, especially youth, declines).

Policy is equally about driving those three numbers - dollars, memberships and votes - and therefore are designed to create controversy, piss off opponents (resulting in attacks) and motivate one's base or potential coalitions to spend, sign and vote for you.

Somewhere in this mix is the democratic principle of constructive debate resulting in the best, furthest reaching policy decisions and yes, accountability of those in power.  But true accountability is about helping to keep government in check and encourage them to do better, which goes counter to politics - a healthy, adaptive government is bad news for Opposition Parties wanting to form government themselves.

So back to the core principles of attack, mobilize and mine.

This, more than anything, is why Senate Reform has been so problematic.  The Senate has become a great pantry for power; properly stacked they can block or ram through legislation, help raise funds and host countless partisan events designed to build brand and diminish the Opposition.

Yes, there are good people in the Senate and yes, the concept of a Chamber of Sober Second Thought does have its practical uses, but politics isn't practical, it's power-oriented.

Trudeau can and has come under all kinds of criticism for his disbanding of the Liberal Senate Caucus (or Senate Liberal Caucus); it's cruel and callous, it's bad politics, it's weakening his future hand should he become Prime Minister.

At the core, though - and whether intended or not - Trudeau's move is to divest the Liberal Party of excess holdings, untether Senators from partisan interests and get away, at least theoretically, from the deeply entrenched partisan divide that is increasingly crippling our country.

Could it have been handled better, or thought through with greater clarity?  Of course it could have.  All good things come in iteration; at least he's started.

I remain sceptical about how successful this initiative will be, as it has failed to take into account a whole host of behavioural economic principles.  Besides, we've just found out that our winter's going to drag on a bit longer and as we all know, winter is when hoarding is at its worst.

But at least he's trying.  That, at least, is refreshing.

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