Thursday, December 15, 2005

Democratic Reform: Paying Off The Real Deficit

Paul Martin has spent the last two years swearing up and down that repairing the democratic deficit, let him be perfectly clear, is his absolute number one priority.

Whipping his cabinet on the homosexual "marriage" issue against some of their consciences, luring two leading Tories over with cabinet posts, parachuting Harvard professors into safe seats and ignoring non-confidence votes are just some of the ways that Martin has worked to improve the democratic deficit of Liberal seats in the House of Commons.

Let's look instead to the Conservative plan, which actually has more than lip service from its leader:

Fixed election dates:

PRO: PMO loses the power to manipulate Parliament by calling or delaying an election to take advantage of good or bad polls. All parties get time for better election planning from HQ to the EDA--no more ad hoc policy and publicity done on the fly, no more rushing for volunteers, potential candidates can weigh their options and organize themselves well in advance. Parties will all be more likely to get the best candidates instead at times of ones who just happened to be available at short notice.

CON: Fixed election dates can stretch out the effective election campaign, as they have in the U.S. with a months-long pre-writ phony war. However, this may be a function of the primary system more than anything else. But even a strict prohibition of partisan pre-writ advertising and other activites would not prevent governments from running a pre-campaign made up of lavish spending promises.

Elected Senate

PRO: Eliminates the disgraceful 19th century anachronism of an upper house appointed entirely by one man, and the imbalance that results when one party has control of the appointments for years on end. Lends it the democratic legitimacy it so desperately lacks at the moment by electing people of quality instead of old political cronies.

CON: Thorough Senate reform--a triple-E Senate--would require unanimous approval of the provinces. Quebec will never agree to be just one in ten; the West will never settle for less; Atlantic Canada may be reluctant to give up its 30 Senators. This one will have to wait for the post-Quebec secession constitutional reforms.

Abolition of Parachute Candidates

PRO: Every candidate will have had to earn his EDA's approval, thus bringing "star candidates" down to earth. Party leaders will no longer be able to abuse EDA's by expecting them to work for people they didn't want. Leaders would have to learn to work with candidates they might not necessarily have wanted themselves.

CON: Nomination process is an internal party organization matter and legislation might impinge on parties' freedom to organize nominations as they see fit. Leaders might not have residual power where appointment of candidates might be absolutely necessary--replacing candidates who have died or withdrawn during a campaign, or where EDA nominates someone who is objectionable to the democratic system as a whole (not just the leadership's desires).

Read more in the National Post.

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