Checking the power of a parliamentary majority

Colin May responds to Parliamentary expert Peter Russell:

My quibble with Peter Russell can be summed up as follows: “Never confuse parliamentary democracy with democracy.”

Apparently if a party has a majority of seats but a minority of votes:

  • It’s OK to withhold information that helps the members make a decision, if the members of the majority party vote to refuse to provide the information.
  • And it’s OK to withhold the Afghan detainee files or any information required by the minority of the members because the Russell doctrine of Parliamentary Supremacy overrides the democratic rights of the majority of the citizenry.

Mr. Russell’s fears would have been more appropriate 40 years ago, when all this control from the PMO nonsense started and was rarely criticized by people such as he. His failure, and that of his colleagues, to be more vociferous in opposing the actions of former prime ministers sheds a harsher light on them than the present holder of the office.

Rule changes are in order and I would offer this: if members of the House of Commons representing 25% or more of the votes cast at the last election vote for a motion asking for access to documents or greater information on a budget item or a bill then the appropriate minister be required to table the document within 14 days.

Canadians fondly condemn the politics of the United States but too often fail to notice the greater openness in the legislative branch in that country and how the antics of a PMO, be it Liberal or Conservative, is almost never allowed in Washington.

He has a point, and I like the proposed rule change. I also like the idea of using ballots that allow voters to register a second choice, to be counted in cases where no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the votes in a riding.


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