Dr. Dawg

Floor-crossing is fraud

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Floor crosser.jpg

NDP MP Peter Stoffer wants to prevent members of Parliament from joining another party caucus without checking back with the electors, and he has just introduced a Private Member’s Bill to this effect.

Liberal Jeff Jedras is against the idea. “It’s cheap populism masking horrible policy,” he sniffs. And a person more of my politics agrees.

Like far too many “progressives,” Jedras really doesn’t trust the people:

I still wouldn’t ban floor crossing…because it plays into a general ignorance amongst the population, one exploited by the Conservatives during the coalition drama, about how our parliamentary democracy works.

Well, lessee what the rubes think:

Yes, it’s true that most voters make their decisions based on national party platforms and leaders. The influence of the local candidate in the voting decision is important, but generally minimal in the wider scheme.

Bingo. While we might like a House of Commons populated by individuals who, whatever their values and political goals, have the trust of their constituents, and who form loose-knit groups in the House based upon issues rather than ideology, this is a Utopian fantasy.

In the world of the here-and-now, people vote for representatives who stand for similar values, principles and positions as they do. And how do candidates come to be candidates? Why, by aligning themselves with other people who generally share their values, principles and positions. A political party, in other words.

But here’s the way the people are supposed to think:

While many may think we vote for Prime Minister, in fact we don’t. And we don’t vote for a party either. We vote for a Member of Parliament to represent us in Ottawa. We send 308 members of parliament to Ottawa and, from their ranks, the governor general calls on one to form a government and test the confidence of the House of Commons.

The first point is civics 101, and we can put it to one side. But, as Jedras himself said earlier, people do indeed vote for a party, even if the ballot they cast is for a single representative. Note the odd slippage in the last sentence, too: we send 308 individuals to Ottawa, and what does the G-G do, again? Pick one? Well, PMO concentration of power aside, no. A group of MPs who can hold the confidence of the entire House. Either one party, in other words, or a coalition of parties.

Parties are unavoidable.

Jedras continues:

Whatever people may base their voting decision on, the fact is we’re electing a person to represent us. If they change parties, or do something else that we disagree with, then we can defeat them when and if they run for re-election.

Peter Stoffer is simply asking: why wait?

But taking away their legitimate right to change party affiliations only serves to further re-enforce this fundamental mis-understanding of our political system and further dilute the role and responsibility of individual members of parliament.

“Legitimate right” to deceive the electorate?

Stoffer’s bill would also have another un-intended effect: further tying MPs under the suffocating yoke of party discipline. You shouldn’t need to risk your job to stand against your party.

But your job—to stay true to the plurality or majority of the people in your riding who did in fact support you because of your party allegiance—should clearly be at risk when you cease doing it. The only discipline that Stoffer is proposing is really the only discipline that counts: that imposed by the voters who seated the representative in the first place.

Want to change parties when you’re safe and sound in the House? Consult the folks what sent ya.

Deliberately tricking the electorate, on the other hand, is grossly unethical. I would have thought that this was one of those moral no-brainers. Well, perhaps it is, in a somewhat different sense. The fact that anyone, especially a progressive, can defend a person’s “right” to commit a fraud upon the electorate indicates just how low our current political discourse has sunk.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on June 20, 2011 4:42 PM.

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