This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
If we are truly desirous of more independence from our MP’s, then there has to be some acknowledgement that differing views isn’t a sign of weakness. Part of the reason leaders demand "discipline" is because EVERY occasion where an MP goes off script, exerts independence, it is seized upon and it causes optical trouble for said party. Words like "divided caucus", talk of why the leader can’t "reign" in his/her people, all this nonsensical framing occurs which forces a more top down approach. The circumstance dictates tight "message control", allowing MP’s freedom to write their own QP question for example is viewed upon as risky, because of how any deviation will be interpreted.
Milliken’s suggestions are sound, but it’s only part of the reality, and it does develop in isolation, in fact it’s part reaction. In this simplistic world, any evidence of differing views is counter-productive. This is why the leader’s view is the party’s view, is the MP’s view, is what we hear in QP, is what we see in committee, partially because WE can’t handle any spice, it has to bland and repetitive. I’m all for reforms, I want my MP’s to be more independent, but that has to accompanied by a new found maturity in how that freedom is interpreted. At present, the Harper model of iron fisted discipline, total and complete control, MP’s sheep in every sense of the word is the WINNING template. Sad, but true. It’s almost suicidal in this tabloid flavour environment for one party to unilaterally adopt an more open, egalitarian structure.
Moving forward, the Liberals should adopt serious Parliamentary reforms, not the watered down VANILLA stuff we came up with this election. However, much of it must try to incorporate the entire system, rather than unilateral pledges which for the above reasons leave people at a optical disadvantage. Milliken recognizes the problems with present reality, but I’m not sure it acknowledges WHY this is the preferred course.
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