Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Alison chronicles how the definition of "accountability" has changed since the Cons' own actions started to come under the microscope, while Paul Wells writes about the three different interests at play in the Cons' scandal. And Tonda MacCharles explores how the Senate bribery scandal developed - though her willingness to take Con talking points at face value seems questionable given how consistently they've crumbled when compared to actual evidence, particularly when the likes of Chantal Hebert and Don Martin are eviscerating the Cons' ever-more-farcical spin.

- Meanwhile, Don Lenihan discusses why gratuitous secrecy does nothing but damage to the legitimacy of political decisions:
There’s an old saying that information is power. If I have it and you don’t, I’ve got a leg up on you, right? Well, actually, no. As politicians and bureaucrats are learning—often the hard way—the reverse is at least as likely to be true: real power calls for openness and transparency, not secrecy.

The Senate scandal leaps to mind. Everyone now agrees that if the PMO had just let the Senate enquiry take its course, it would all be behind them.

But my topic here is on how ministers conduct regular business. At the moment, secrecy reigns, even though it often benefits no one—least of all, ministers.
A minister that learns to trust these processes, rather than trying to manage them, will find that his/her decisions get far more traction. Making them even more open and transparent will only further strengthen and legitimate the results.

So there is a lesson here for all governments: when strategy is allowed to trump process—say, by hiding critical information from those with a genuine stake in the issue—the risk of failure rises exponentially. Secrecy, in other words, is a shoddy way to make policy.
- Linda McQuaig comments on Justin Trudeau's unwillingness to distinguish between genuine debate and personal attacks. And Dan Tan highlights the enormous gap between Trudeau's recent attempt to claim Layton's legacy, and his effort at the time to deny Layton's principled politics any place on the federal scene.

- Althia Raj reports on Michael Chong's bill to limit the authority of party leaders, while Andrew Coyne rushes to support the proposal. But I'd think it's important to distinguish between correcting the unintended effects of past legislation (particularly the power held by party leaders to control nomination processes) and imposing new requirements which might produce similarly undesirable outcomes - which looks like a real risk in making caucus management and leadership reviews a matter of legislation.

- Finally, David McGrane discusses the place of marketing in Canada's political system - though his view of how a marketing culture can better target political appeals seems to describe some future ideal state rather than the current culture of ad saturation, robocalls and constant mailouts.

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