|A man of principle|
This is a mess. Justin Trudeau and his advisors had better get on to this debacle post haste, reveal all the facts and communications, and make sure the principle of open nominations is adhered to. If we start retreating from opennes and transparency before the election is here, we will not form the next government.
But a letter sent to Innes by Liberal national election readiness chief David MacNaughton and obtained by the CBC has suggested the move may have been driven by a desire to protect one of Trudeau’s star candidates, Chrystia Freeland.According to the letter, MacNaughton said the party would have supported Innes’s nomination if Innes agreed not to run in the same riding as Freeland in 2015, when ridings are due to be reorganized.The letter says Innes rejected the proposal “out of hand.”In an interview with The Ottawa Citizen, Paikin said it was always known that Trudeau had identified preferred candidates in some ridings, “and if he wanted to campaign for some of those favourites, that would be his prerogative.”“But once you start blocking candidacies, you go down a slippery slope,” Paikin said.In his letter, Paikin drew a parallel between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Liberal party’s rejection of Innes’s candidacy, writing: “Stephen Harper is ‘Exhibit A’ of what happens when a leader compromises on his democratic principles in order to win power.”
|Now that’s my kind of Leader!|
Much ado was made this week about Liberal Party leader and (perhaps) Prime-Minister-in-waiting Justin Trudeau’s gaffe of a failed Olympic hockey joke in reference to the ongoing civil unrest in Ukraine. Of course other parties jumped all over it, turning an insensitive remark into major fodder for domestic attack politics, completely divorced from any actual concern for the Ukrainian plight which continues unnoticed among our own recriminations.
31. Priority Resolution: Restoring Trust in Canada’s Democracy*BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Liberal Party pursue political reforms which promote:
- Open, democratic nominations of candidates;
- Fewer “whipped” votes in Parliament and more “free” votes requiring individual MPs to assume full responsibility for their decisions;
- Stronger Parliamentary control over public finances, including an annual deadline for the budget; accounting consistency among the Estimates and the Public Accounts; more clarity in voting on Estimates; a costing analysis for each government Bill; and a requirement that government borrowing plans must get Parliament’s pre-approval;
- A truly independent, properly resourced Parliamentary Budget Officer;
- A more effective Access-to-Information regime with stronger safeguards against political interference;
- An impartial system to identify and eliminate the waste of tax-dollars on partisan advertising;
- Careful limitations on secret Committee proceedings, Omnibus Bills and Prorogation to avoid their misuse for the short-term partisan convenience of the government;
- Adequate funding, investigative powers and enforcement authority to ensure Elections Canada can root out electoral fraud;
- Pro-active disclosure of parliamentarians’ expenses, a more transparent Board of Internal Economy and better audit rules;
- A truly independent Senate not based upon partisanship or patronage;AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better.Liberal Caucus(*) The democratic reform agenda described in this resolution represents a compilation of ideas developed by the Leader and the Caucus over the past year. Canadians want their Members of Parliament to be effective voices for their communities in Ottawa, and not merely mouthpieces in their communities for an all-too-powerful Prime Minister. Our goal must be greater transparency, accountability and participation in Canada’s political system, and fewer abuses which undermine the confidence of citizens and voters in the quality of their democracy.
|Real Change Wynne?|
After writing off the byelections as “skirmishes” that aren’t indicative of how things will go in a general election, Wynne vowed that the Liberals will do better whenever the campaign is held.“I know people are looking for change in this province,” she said. “Well I’m the change. My plan is the change. My team is the change, and that’s the change we’re going to take into the next election.”
|Real change Horwath?|
Horwath says the byelection results sent a clear message that people are not happy with the Liberals, but adds she is not focused on a possible election.“Families are worried about jobs, the cost of daily life and their health care system.” Horwath said. “They hear the same old ideas coming from the same old parties and they know it’s time for a change.”
“This evening’s results prove that the people of this province want change,” Hudak said in Thornhill. “They sent the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals a clear message (that) they want leadership that will take decisive action, implement a plan to balance the budget and create jobs.”
A few thoughts here on today’s announcement by Justin Trudeau that Liberal Senators will no longer be part of the Liberal caucus and are now to sit independently.
One of Trudeau’s lines that stood out for me was this one: “At our best, Liberals are relentless reformers.” Recently, on the death of Jim Coutts, an opinion piece he wrote in 2004 was circulated, and in it, we found this:
“The current policy markers of the Liberal party have evolved over time and are fairly familiar to many Canadians. The most crucial Liberal markers are these:
- Reform, which is so central to Liberal identity that it was the party’s name up to and during the leadership of George Brown. The marker has stood for political reform, ranging from the introduc- tion of responsible government under Baldwin and Lafontaine, to battling ruling-class power and patronage abuse at the time of Brown, Mackenzie and Blake, to entrenching a constitutional Charter of Rights under Trudeau. Since the 1920s, the Liberal reform marker has most importantly sig- nified social reform, or the cre- ation and improvement of a modern welfare state.”
Today we saw a big bout of reform in the form of a Senate that would be independent, in Trudeau’s words:
That is why I have come to believe that the Senate must be non-partisan. Composed merely of thoughtful individuals representing the varied values, perspectives and identities of this great country. Independent from any particular political brand.
Trudeau’s reform will likely come off as reasonable to many Canadians. It is not the radical abolitionist approach of the NDP which would require constitutional reform. It is not the Conservative supposed pro-reform approach that has gone nowhere for their seven years in power and that would also likely require constitutional reform.
Trudeau’s reform looks at the Senate, and proposes an approach that will not tear it down, but make fair use of a second chamber. In the Westminster system, it would be anomalous not to have a second chamber. The direction suggested, a more merit-based approach is a good one that speaks to the times. This reform, as Trudeau is suggesting, could be infused with principles of merit, competency, and transparency, to bolster the credibility of the Liberal proposals. And this Liberal would suggest ensuring that the appointment process be free from an elite-based orientation.
To be sure, there will be wrinkles to iron out. Senator Campbell spoke to some of these today: He also questioned how the Senate will function in terms of their role in scrutinizing government legislation. He questioned, for instance, who will sit on committees and who will be named critics of which bills.
Ensuring that the elected representatives’ will is carried out and without blockage, is another consideration to be grappled with. And perhaps with that consideration in mind, note Trudeau’s last line in his remarks today:
We want to build public institutions that Canadians can trust, and that serve Canadians. This requires real, positive change. These proposals are the next step in our Open Parliament plan to do just that.
They won’t be the last.
This may be a nod to the democratic reform resolution that the federal Liberal MP caucus has proposed as one of its priority resolutions to be voted upon at the upcoming February biennial policy convention in Montreal, less than a month away now. That resolution, Bolstering Canada’s Democracy, contains this operative proposal:
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, the Liberal Party of Canada institute an all-Party process, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with analysis and recommendations for an electoral system including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent all Canadians more fairly and to allow Parliament to serve Canada better.
Senate reform without reform of our House of Commons would be incongruent. The above proposed resolution would be the beginning of addressing the imbalance that would result if the Senate were reformed without a similar effort being made in respect of the House of Commons. As bad as some of the practices and appointments connected to the Senate have been, the pressing need for reform lies in the House of Commons. Electoral reform to change the system in which we operate is one route. Michael Chong’s reform which accepts the system yet changes the rules is another. The good news is that reform in a big way is on the agenda for Canada.
Liberals are re-embracing reform as a mantle. All in all, a positive development today.