2008-10-19

Brief Reflections On the Recent Canadian Election

I am satisfied with the result of the federal election last Tuesday.  Why should I find such a lack-luster result satisfying?  We have a minority parliament, anathema to many politicians as dysfunctional and obstructive to government agendas.  In reality a minority parliament necessarily shifts the onus of governmental authority to the one place it rightly belongs in a parliamentary democracy, away from the cabinet and right back into parliament.  I grew into political awareness with the Diefenbaker/Pearson minorities and remember the hard fought battles on the floor of the House of Commons.  In spite of acrimonious, even bitter, debate, parliamentary compromises and accommodations produced legislation that both defines us as distinctly Canadian and reflects Canada back on us as we are pleased to perceive ourselves with far more accuracy than any majority government's legislation afterwards has produced.  Recent decades of mostly majority governments have seen gradual but steady devolution of power out of parliament through the cabinet and into the Prime Minister's Office.  This serves as a steady evolution towards episodic dictatorship which a series of minority parliaments can correct.  At the heart of parliamentary democracy lies the concept of responsibility: the government is responsible to parliament and parliament, in turn, is responsible to the electorate.  Yet too often lately we have seen majority governments use their members to represent their intent to the people, reversing the proper representation flow.  Surely, a second minority government will have to listen more closely to parliament and work more effectively with the opposition to produce legislative results more truly of parliament's will than just of the cabinet's intent. The current election result can only serve to strengthen parliament as our authority over the cabinet and the PMO.