Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your afternoon reading.

- Andrew Potter comments on Samara's most recent findings about federal politicians in Canada:
Samara’s findings underscore the profound amateurism that permeates our national politics. When the vast majority of members of Parliament, upon leaving office, feel obliged to insist that well, they never really wanted to be a politician in the first place, that only reinforces the broad cynicism that many people feel toward public life. After all, if our members of Parliament don’t take their jobs all that seriously, why should anyone else?

To amplify that point a bit, it raises the question of who is ultimately responsible for the health of Canada’s democracy. Institutions are not buildings, they are sets of norms and procedures designed to achieve certain goals, and being “institutionalized” simply means that you accept those norms and are committed to keeping them healthy. Parliament’s central function is to enable representative self-government, which in our system involves working within and through institutional structures that are centuries old.

But the cult of the outsider that Samara has discovered among departing parliamentarians suggests that a large number of MPs see themselves as just too cool for school. One of the most belaboured themes of Canadian public discourse is that our political system is dysfunctional. If that is true, maybe it is because they people we send to Ottawa didn’t bother thinking about why they were going there in the first place.
Meanwhile, it's also worth noting that much of the breakdown in institutional norms in Ottawa (with the Cons in particular exercising constant central control in pushing the envelope for their own purposes at every opportunity regardless of what custom, logic or human decency might dictate) would figure to be exacerbated by a set of MPs who themselves don't see any particular value in the system that's being unwound.

- Speaking of which, the Cons' legislation which was supposed to reduce partisanship in federal hiring turns out only to have made matters worse.

- Aaron Wherry nicely skewers a few of his fellow journalists for trying to conjure up in-fighting within the NDP. My money's on this becoming the next example.

- Doug Saunders is right to note that Belgium's test case in a country functioning without an effective government should give pause to the. But let's note that while recognizing the flaws in libertarian rhetoric, he seems far too willing to accept their trope that the only purpose of a governing coalition would be to engage in austerity and public benefit cuts.

- Finally, the NDP leadership rules have been unveiled here (PDF). Naturally, I'll have more to discuss about those in a future post.

No comments:

Post a Comment