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Subzwari: The Dying Business of MP-ing

April 22, 2013

Media reports have recently surfaced on a rare backbench revolt brewing within the bowels of the Conservative caucus. Mark Warawa, the obscure MP from British Columbia, was up in arms for being thwarted in his attempt to raise the issue of abortion in parliament.

What appeared to be a lone voice of protest soon became a chorus of outraged MPs who felt that their rights as parliamentarians had been violated by the vice-like grip of party discipline. They demanded that they be free to speak as they pleased and “represent” their constituents.

What a ridiculous and naïve argument to make.

Mr. Warawa and his disciples clearly don’t understand the roles of the members of Parliament in this country: they have none. The system of electing multiple representatives is an antiquated model that is about as relevant as steam-fired locomotives.

There was a time when having representatives was actually useful. In the 19th century, methods of communication were primitive and slow, and hiring someone to represent a community’s interests was indeed the best way for community members to have their voices heard.

MPs would go to the national parliament and put forward the concerns of their constituents. They would also act as the ears of the party in the constituency, hearing people’s grievances and passing on the information to the party leader.

These MPs were powerful. They engaged in real negotiations with the cabinet. And their support for the government was conditional on the interests of their constituents being respected. Both parties and leaders during this time made heavy concessions to ensure that they retained the support of a majority of MPs.

Ensuring support of parliament is so crucial to our system of governance (where losing the support of a majority of MPs could spell the end of the government) that parties desperately tried to diminish the powers of these MPs.

The rising sophistication of communication gave them a chance to do just that. Through radio, television, and the Internet, parties and citizens alike have managed to bypass the member of Parliament and communicate directly.

Before, it was members of Parliament who explained the position of the government. Today, journalists and party spokespeople do that. Before, it was MPs who gauged the importance of issues and party support in their ridings. Today, it’s polling companies who do that. And before citizens could only make their voices heard through letters and meetings with their MPs. Today, with the rise of social media, citizens have more power than ever in projecting their voice nationally and making their opinions known.

All of these developments have been to the detriment of the MP, whose power has steadily declined throughout the 20th century. And this decline in power has made them more dependent on the party machine for support, leading to the rise of strong party discipline.

MPs know that they cannot win without party backing. They need the party’s funding machine, the marketing machine, and the endorsement of recognizable party heavyweights to win.

Standing on one’s record means very little these days. Indeed voters usually vote for the party and its leader, not the candidate. Most don’t even know who the candidate is.

The roles have effectively been reversed, where the MP is dependent on the party for their job. And the party offers them their support conditional on the MP toeing the party line.

We have finally reached the point today where MPs are so weak that they are forbidden from thinking for themselves. They are given a script by the party whip and told to dutifully promote party policies. And if they protest, they can say goodbye to their political careers.

Which then begs the question: do we really need members of parliament any more?

The answer is no. Mark Warawa and his acolytes are thinking of a golden age of MPs that no longer exists. Any desire to find meaning in their work will be futile, because none exists.

The modern MP is a complete waste of taxpayers money with little beneficial returns. It will be in the better interest of democracy to pare down “representatives” to the bare minimum necessary: members of the cabinet and their opposition counterparts. And that’s it.

This is not a particularly revolutionary idea. It simply underlines a fact that already exists. Backbenchers are useless anachronisms, and the only thing that Mr. Warawa and his pals need is the boot.


Zimmerman: A Settler’s Guide to IDLE NO MORE

January 3, 2013

I used to be such a proud Canadian.  So much so that I now have a red maple leaf tattooed forever on my left arm.  I had just traveled from Toronto to Vancouver; I felt particularly patriotic and zealous at the time.  That’s what happens when you decide things on a whim, but sometimes people have to make such decisions and live with the consequences.  It stands as a reminder to me of a time when national boundaries and ideas of intrinsic national character mattered to me.  All it would take is some decent education and experiences and the worldly upheavals of 2011 and 2012 to shake me out of this mentality.  Most importantly though, looking to the situations involving Canada’s First Nations would make me realize that there was little to really be proud of. Read more…

Waugh: Back to Talking

December 10, 2012

The Beast is back again. For awhile now it’s slept peacefully, covered since mid 2009 in a blanket of cynicism and alcohol, but the blood scent has finally broken through the hooch haze. It has only ever left the cave once in a blue moon to wander down to the village and spend a night chugging pitchers of rum and snarling in a maudlin melancholic atmosphere, and like a natural disaster people have adjusted to this sad sight. Now he is awake, running wild and free on the mountain top with the stamina of a young werewolf and the gentleness of a hungry vampire bat and the village is not ready for it. Nevertheless the Beast is awakened, and with that I am a Writer again. Though I tried to quit politics innumerable times and still make the threat to, like herpes once you’ve got it you’re stuck with it. Read more…

Clements: The Future of Cannabis in Canada-U.S Relations: Federal Governments vs. State and Provincial Legislatures?

December 1, 2012

In light of the recent constitutional amendments in Colorado and Washington State legalizing recreational use of Cannabis, we are in for some interesting times for Canada-U.S relations.

Both countries are currently at a fundamental cross-road. On the one hand, we have the Federal governments of both countries living in a world of ever-increasing prohibition, where no foreseeable end to this war is in sight. While local residents in both countries push for reform, Canada and the U.S recently expanded the global drug war by sending troops to Guatemala. Read more…

Fowler: Obama Beat Reagan, Not Romney

December 1, 2012

Both candidates and parties made it eminently clear throughout the campaign that this was no ordinary election. At rally after rally both President Obama and Governor Romney repeated that this election was not merely a choice between two parties or candidates, but a choice between two fundamentally different visions of the role of government in 21st century America. This was exemplified by the chasm that had polarized the two parties on issues ranging from women’s rights, gay rights, immigration, climate change, financial regulation, and healthcare. Most of all, however, it came down to the nation’s finances. How much spending should be cut, from where, and how many, if any, taxes should be raised. Read more…

Zimmerman: The Western Saviour Complex

May 26, 2012

“Take up the White Man’s burden —
Have done with childish days —
The lightly proffered laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!”
-Rudyard Kipling, The White Man’s burden, 1899

The strange case of the Kony 2012 phenomenon is a chance to reflect on the complex relationship between those of us in the so-called First World and those of us in the so-called Third World. The organization Invisible Children got massive attention for this latest campaign and their intentions may have appeared to many observers as completely benign and admirable at first glance. They were creating global awareness of the atrocities committed by a brutal warlord in Eastern Africa and stating that they wanted to see Joseph Kony face justice. It all seemed noble, but on closer inspection and in light of how things turned out, people started questioning the real motives beyond it. Read more…

Clements: The Facade of International Law; Or, It’s Okay Because We Did It!

May 17, 2012

Despite the self-proclaimed ‘higher standard’ that those of us in North American society hold ourselves to, we live in a world of double standards and contradictions. Typically, an article like this would proceed to blame the apathy of voters, or the short attention span of citizens, or the general bad nature of humanity in general. While all those factors exist, I’m convinced the answer is a little less (maybe not) cynical than those who have lost faith in the good in people.

The fact of the matter is that the majority of news we digest in North America is chosen, filtered and watered-down to provide a consistent narrative of events. It is picked in order to maintain a stable flow of news that is comprehensible to the average citizen. As a result, we understand who the good guys are and of course, who the bad guys are.

A quick outline reveals that the bad guys are international terrorists, the Iranian regime and Charles Taylor, among others. The good guys: Barack Obama! NATO, ‘democratic regimes’, Israel, and Big Business-the staple of the ‘Canadian Economy.’ Read more…