Posts Tagged ‘Crossing the floor’

Further to Crossing the Floor

February 2, 2010

My last post draw comments from some readers, which I appreciate.  I was not clear about my position, and I will try to be more clear.

I believe that government business should not be conducted in caucus.  Caucus, after all, is not the government.  The Cabinet is the Government.  One of the important problems that we face in Canada (Alberta and elsewhere) is that the caucus of supporters of the government has been co-opted into the very ranks of government.  If every government needs a first rank of loving critics, governments in Canadian Houses of Assembly have lost this first rank of loving critics by drawing them (the government caucus) inside the web of government and extinguishing their capacity/willingness to offer loving criticism.

Relatedly, parliamentarians from other Commonwealth “mature democracies” are often astonished as the severe party discipline that is imposed as a matter of course, in all Canadian Houses of Assembly.  What we call ordinary party discipline would be called the three line Whip in Westminster, and where it is applied here as a matter of course, it would be applied in the U.K. fewer than 10 times in a typical Session.

My comment about the M.L.A.(s) was not to suggest support for caucus secrecy.  I only wanted to say that, right or wrong, the two M.L.A.s  knew what they were getting into when they joined the caucus, and they accepted the (odious) ground rules for quite some time:  indeed, they apparently supported the rules in conversation with supporters and constituents.  We never heard unease or opposition from either M.L.A. until after the P.C. caucus convention of strict secrecy was betrayed.  Caucus secrecy was a virtue when it was useful, and an incidental consideration when the expedient benefit was in repudiating it.  I suspect that caucus secrecy is equally important for the Wild Rose caucus.  Perhaps interested citizens should test the commitment of the Wild Rose caucus to openness.  Should the Wild Rose caucus be equally worried about the constancy of their two new M.L.A.s?

In summary, I think how the M.L.A.(s) handled the issue says more about them than its says about caucus secrecy.

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