Sunday, July 16, 2006

Stronach on electing Cabinet, and Liberal Party procedures.

Apparently, my own dear MP, Belinda Stronach, has suggested that MPs of the ruling party vote for cabinet members. I tend to think this is a case of focussing on procedure in order to distract from errors in principle and policy -- god knows the Libs have those to spare. On the whole, though, it's an interesting idea, and a way to decentralize some of the Parliamentary authority currently concentrated in the Prime Minister's office. Of course, I wonder why she doesn't suggest going further, and allowing everyone in the House to vote on who goes into Cabinet. Backbench MPs of the ruling party could then, even if they do not command a majority of their own group, ally with MPs from Opposition or third (or fourth!) parties, crossing party lines in order to unite ideologically, and get their interests represented in Cabinet. This would be more in line with Stronach's alleged inspiration, the Northwest Territories' electoral system, which (apparently) elects MPs all as independents, who then elect Cabinet and Premier from the House. The criticism of this system:
Such a system has been criticized by some for making it difficult for party leaders to fire cabinet ministers because they had not been appointed.
is bizarre because, really, that's the point: the leader is supposed to be prevented from exercising total authority over Cabinet.

Stronach also suggests that party leaders be elected directly by the membership, rather than through representatives, and that membership fees be drastically reduced, to make party membership more open. (Really, if that's the aim, why not make it free?) The former seems to me to deploy the same reasoning that supports ballot initiatives and plebiscites or referenda on every damn thing under the sun. The problem, of course, is that it destroys the very idea of having a representative democracy at all: that is, if party members are voting for leaders directly (instead of via delegates), why don't we just get rid of parties altogether and have everyone vote on everything directly? The answer, of course, is efficiency: there's nothing more or less democratic about direct vs. representative democracy (moreover, it seems that direct democracy may be more vulnerable to tyranny of the majority problems, to which both Rousseau and Mill were sensitive), thus procedural considerations are all that's at stake. I'm not sure it's more efficient to vote on party leaders directly rather than representatively; but, more importantly, this gets back to my first point: this is a focus on procedure, rather than policy and principle, and thus cannot be more than an attempt at distraction from the real problems that continue to plague the Liberal Party.

No comments: