Saturday, 30 March 2013

Parliamentary Democracy

The government of our dear Leader Stephen Harper has demonstrated again problems in understanding how democracy actually works in a country like Canada.  We are seen by PM Harper as the governed, an expression he and his party members use all the time when speaking of Canadians, us the taxpayers and citizens of this country, the Constituents who elect Members of Parliament. Harper and Company see themselves as great Lords of the Realm.

This past week again another example of this attitude of rejecting the concept and the role of Parliament when a Conservative Member of Parliament tried to ask a question and was stopped from doing so by the Party Whip. His question on selective abortion based on the gender of the foetus would have raised a point PM Harper did not want raised. By doing so the Party put itself in the place of the Speaker of the House. Only the Speaker can decide who will speak and be recognized. The sports team analogy is particularly inappropriate.

In the House, Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands and and Leader of the Green Party of Canada rose to make this point of Privilege on 26 March 2013.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Langley, as well as the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright. As a specific case, may I say this is one of the most important points of privilege I have heard in the brief two years, almost, that I have been serving here? It cuts to the core of what is wrong with parliamentary democracy that the hon. government House leader could put before you a sports metaphor that we are here as teams, as brands or colours, and we are all to take instructions from our team boss.
We are not here as teams. The principle of Westminster parliamentary democracy is that we are here as representatives of our constituencies and our constituents. We are merely incidentally members of political parties. Political parties do not exist in our Constitution. They are not an essential part of our democracy. They have grown to be seen to be the most interesting thing going on, and we have grown to see politics as some sort of sport. However, democracy is not a sport.

The Prime Minister and the Conservative Government House Leader, think that MPs are just Team Players like in some Hockey team. This way one Member cannot speak on behalf of a matter that may be of concern to his-her Constituents if it is not in agreement with the view of the Team Captain (Harper).

A thank you to Ms. May for making this intervention in the House.


  1. The Great Canadian writer Robertson Davies once said Canada has two great myths - The Myth of Innocence and The Myth of Difference. When I follow Canadian politics I feel comforted in an odd way politics is no less zany north of Minnesota. :-)

    1. my worry is that so many people simply do not care that democracy in Canada is eroding because of someone like Harper who should never have been more than a small town mayor.