Political parties don't represent the people.

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Pondering
Political parties don't represent the people.

This isn't really banter exactly but I didn't know where else to put this because I am not seriously suggesting a radical change to our political system because that is virtually impossible. This is more of a thought experiment. 

I see all political parties as groups of people that have their own agenda who want to run the government. They are not there to represent me. In an election we are collectively hiring a company to run the country for four years.  Each of these companies argue that they can run the country best and offer perks. 

Once elected the leader and executive decide everything. (I used to think cabinet ministers had some power)

If I could rule the world, or even just Canada, political parties would have just 10 to 15 members. A leader who would become PM if elected and a team who would become cabinet ministers with specific portfolios. 

Separately we would elect a local representative who would vote freely. 

JKR

Sounds like a presidential system.

Also, under FPTP, the opinion of the minority can override the opinion of the majority whenever there are more than two candidates or two political parties running against each other.

Pondering

Our local representatives wouldn't belong to any political parties so the "president" would have to earn the support of the house. The house would answer to the people not to the "president". The "president" would not have the power to remove a cabinet minister as they would be elected to the position. The "president" could only replace a cabinet minister if the minister resigned. 

JKR

How could people be banned from joining political parties? How could people running to be local representatives be banned from informing the voters that they belong to political parties? Wouldn’t that be unconstitutional?

Pondering

Nobody would be joining political parties. The entire political party would be 10 to 15 people. The leader and whomever the cabinet ministers would be. 

JKR

Wouldn’t it be unconstitutional to ban political parties from having more members?

Pondering

I didn't suggest a ban on membership. The structure would not require it. I haven't thought about how the number of parties would be limited which would be the greater problem. 

My most significant goal would be to separate representatives from political parties so they would actually represent the people not the party. They would be free to say which party they personally support they would just not have any financial association with the party nor any official status. So, two or three people running as representatives could all support the same political party or no political party. 

Pondering

As noted in my introductory post, it isn't meant to be an actual system that would be implemented. Rather it is an expression of my desire to have a local representative that represents the concerns of my community in relation to legislation. 

Local representatives are useless under our current system.  Local representatives are just seat holders for the party. They might as well put mannequins in the seats. PR wouldn't change that. 

Ideally my local representative would be non-ideological.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Pondering wrote:

Ideally my local representative would be non-ideological.

Thank you for providing my laugh of the day. You want a representative who does not have a system of ideas and ideals, concerning economic or political theory and policy.

JKR

As far as I can tell, the only way we could have “non-ideological” representatives at the national level would be if we had a legislature selected via a lottery system. I think that actually would be a very good idea. We could have something like a 800 member Senate selected by lottery which would be representative and less partisan.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

JKR wrote:

As far as I can tell, the only way we could have “non-ideological” representatives at the national level would be if we had a legislature selected via a lottery system. I think that actually would be a very good idea. We could have something like a 800 member Senate selected by lottery which would be representative and less partisan.

In the surface that is an interesting idea but in reality that would likely end up with even tighter control by the Ottawa mandarins and the people they listen to.

Unionist

Pondering wrote:

Local representatives are useless under our current system.  Local representatives are just seat holders for the party. They might as well put mannequins in the seats.

Well, when the Libs introduced legislation to break the postal workers' strike last year, six brave Liberal MPs voted "no". The Liberals also eliminated their Senate caucus, for what that's worth. You don't see that much. Certainly not in the robotic Conservative and NDP caucuses.

Pondering wrote:

PR wouldn't change that. 

That's my biggest problem with all forms of PR. They take for granted that parties are supreme, and may even heighten that phenomenon. I understand there are mitigated forms (MMP, etc.), but no one appears to seriously question the dictatorship of the party (or, as you point out, the Glorious Leader and the back-room gang) over its members, elected and otherwise.

 

wage zombie

JKR wrote:

As far as I can tell, the only way we could have “non-ideological” representatives at the national level would be if we had a legislature selected via a lottery system. I think that actually would be a very good idea. We could have something like a 800 member Senate selected by lottery which would be representative and less partisan.

I think a great way to reform our current system would be to switch our Senate selection from appointment to lottery.  This would also allow us to have a Senate that is more representative of the people (with proportionality requirements for things like age, gender & geography).

I'd go even further, and say that having a lottery every year to replace a few seats in the Senate might actually be something new that gets people more engaged in politics (in a Canadian idol sort of way).  But I suspect most babblers will hate that idea.

cco

Unionist wrote:

The Liberals also eliminated their Senate caucus, for what that's worth.

It's a pretty good preview of how any ostensibly "non-partisan" legislature would work: members who are still definitely on teams, but lying about it.

I've seen people argue before for banning lobbyists, instead of requiring them to register. My objection to that is the same as my objection to banning parties: it seems to require a hypothetical world in which people elect philosopher-kings who then go into seclusion, bestowing their wisdom about the interests of the community when the time comes to vote on a bill, free of the wrong kind of influence, influenced only by the best of us.

Even when designing a utopia, that seems a little optimistic to me. I don't agree with my neighbours on everything, and indeed, communities would have to be strongly ideologically sorted to create a system where elected officials could vote only based on community consensus. If I'm an MP in a non-partisan legislature, and the town I represent is split 50/50 for and against a new pipeline, should I vote based on my own convictions? Run a poll (Reform Party-style) and take whichever position edges out the other?

It's not possible to remove people who care about an issue from influence over the politician deciding on that issue – if for no other reason than it will be a vote driver. PR does indeed enshrine the position of the party (though I'd say it merely formalizes it), but it also gives the opportunity for voters to vote for other parties based on priorities besides "Keep those guys out!". If the NDP under PR betrays me on a given topic, I can vote for a more minor party or start my own.

As for the idea of electing the cabinet directly, it can lead to all kinds of absurdities. What would a nationwide campaign for the position of Heritage Minister look like? How about National Defence? Or Health? If the nationally elected health minister wins on a platform of "spend more", but the finance minister wins on a platform of "spend less", who wins? Do they both just make their case to the parliament of non-partisans? At that point, people voting for their local MP might have concerns other than local community issues – like whether that MP would vote for more health spending or less. Those are the kinds of things voters could know by looking at which party an MP's running for. A party has to assemble a coherent budget for the entire country, not just horse-trade a pipeline for a cut in road funding. And if an MP gets to direct all local community spending, you're electing a warlord, not a representative.

JKR

kropotkin1951 wrote:

JKR wrote:

As far as I can tell, the only way we could have “non-ideological” representatives at the national level would be if we had a legislature selected via a lottery system. I think that actually would be a very good idea. We could have something like a 800 member Senate selected by lottery which would be representative and less partisan.

In the surface that is an interesting idea but in reality that would likely end up with even tighter control by the Ottawa mandarins and the people they listen to.

In any case, I think there is no way our politicians would ever go along with establishing a legislature elected by lottery.

Pondering

cco wrote:
Unionist wrote:

The Liberals also eliminated their Senate caucus, for what that's worth.

It's a pretty good preview of how any ostensibly "non-partisan" legislature would work: members who are still definitely on teams, but lying about it.

I've seen people argue before for banning lobbyists, instead of requiring them to register. My objection to that is the same as my objection to banning parties: it seems to require a hypothetical world in which people elect philosopher-kings who then go into seclusion, bestowing their wisdom about the interests of the community when the time comes to vote on a bill, free of the wrong kind of influence, influenced only by the best of us.

Even when designing a utopia, that seems a little optimistic to me. I don't agree with my neighbours on everything, and indeed, communities would have to be strongly ideologically sorted to create a system where elected officials could vote only based on community consensus. If I'm an MP in a non-partisan legislature, and the town I represent is split 50/50 for and against a new pipeline, should I vote based on my own convictions? Run a poll (Reform Party-style) and take whichever position edges out the other?

It's not possible to remove people who care about an issue from influence over the politician deciding on that issue – if for no other reason than it will be a vote driver. PR does indeed enshrine the position of the party (though I'd say it merely formalizes it), but it also gives the opportunity for voters to vote for other parties based on priorities besides "Keep those guys out!". If the NDP under PR betrays me on a given topic, I can vote for a more minor party or start my own.

As for the idea of electing the cabinet directly, it can lead to all kinds of absurdities. What would a nationwide campaign for the position of Heritage Minister look like? How about National Defence? Or Health? If the nationally elected health minister wins on a platform of "spend more", but the finance minister wins on a platform of "spend less", who wins? Do they both just make their case to the parliament of non-partisans? At that point, people voting for their local MP might have concerns other than local community issues – like whether that MP would vote for more health spending or less. Those are the kinds of things voters could know by looking at which party an MP's running for. A party has to assemble a coherent budget for the entire country, not just horse-trade a pipeline for a cut in road funding. And if an MP gets to direct all local community spending, you're electing a warlord, not a representative.

They would run as a team. So for example Trudeau would have had to run on Morneau being finance minister, Freeland on Trade, JWR on Justice, etc. Then it would actually matter if the ministers had some knowledge and actually did run their respective ministeries. When voting we would know who would be looking after which ministery and be able to question them and evaluate their backgrounds. Once elected the minister would have more clout. JWR could not be replaced unless she chose to resign because when we elected the team she would be the the person on the team running for the justice position. Cabinet would have real clout. The Prime Minister would really be chairman of the board and representative of Canada not ruler. 

Electing a team rather than an individual would tell us much more about how the country would be run. As a team they would run on specific goals for the future and would have collective positions on issues. 

When deciding which "management team" to choose I could compare the finance ministers which is probably as important or more important than the leader. I would question potential health ministers on what direction they think health care should go in. They would not be elected individually so the team would have to work together to get things done. 

I really don't want someone who is ideological. I want someone willing to use solutions from the left or right as long as they work. 

Almost everyone is against social conservatism but some individual communities are very socially conservative so their local rep would be. That rep would be free to vote their conscience at all times. They would truely represent their community. 

The house of commons really would be a house of commons. Every rep would genuinely be representing their community and they would pass or fail legislation put forth by the PM and team. My local rep would matter to me as much as the PM. I would want someone with a stellar reputation and probably from my community. They would have to be knowledgable on a broad range of issues. I think activists would have a much stronger chance of being elected individually as opposed to an activist party being elected. 

JKR

I think this kind of change would require opening up the constitution which I don’t see happening for this kind of issue.

Pogo Pogo's picture

 This thread is sounding like a John Lennon song.

Imagine there are no parties

It is easy if you tried,No backrooms, no leaders

Consensus is the way

Imagine all the people, participating in consensus 

And world will vote as one

I may call you dreamers, and I am not the only one.

 

Pondering

JKR wrote:

I think this kind of change would require opening up the constitution which I don’t see happening for this kind of issue.

Did you not read the first post?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Pogo wrote:

 This thread is sounding like a John Lennon song.

Imagine there are no parties

It is easy if you tried,No backrooms, no leaders

Consensus is the way

Imagine all the people, participating in consensus 

And world will vote as one

I may call you dreamers, and I am not the only one.

I love it. Do you think Harper knows this version?

JKR

Pondering wrote:

JKR wrote:

I think this kind of change would require opening up the constitution which I don’t see happening for this kind of issue.

Did you not read the first post?

 

I was replying to your last post, not the first post. I think your thought experiment proves that it is almost impossible to make the kind of changes you are proposing. I think the best we can do for now is to try to figure out some ways to make our system less partisan and more consensus based. PR is just one of the ways being proposed to reduce partisanship and increase consensus.

wage zombie

cco wrote:

I've seen people argue before for banning lobbyists, instead of requiring them to register. My objection to that is the same as my objection to banning parties: it seems to require a hypothetical world in which people elect philosopher-kings who then go into seclusion, bestowing their wisdom about the interests of the community when the time comes to vote on a bill, free of the wrong kind of influence, influenced only by the best of us.

Ok then, selection by lottery.  Representatives are informed in secret, and once it's published in the press that someone is a representative, they lose it and another citizen is secretly selected.

wage zombie

JKR wrote:

In any case, I think there is no way our politicians would ever go along with establishing a legislature elected by lottery.

You're of course right, I would think the only way it could happen is if the Senate ever gets rejigged and only in that chamber.

Pondering

It is unreal even if in comparison to what we know. Think of it as brainstorming in which no idea is too crazy or unrealistic to toss out. Crazy ideas can spark a good idea from someone else. 

This Broadbent poll suggests voters want PR. Yet whenever PR is presented as a choice it is rejected. 

https://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/canadian_electoral_reform

Yet people do want electoral reform. Everyone probably has different things that they don't like about government. 

For me it is that my representative doesn't represent me. They represent the party. Just because I vote for a party doesn't mean I support their platform. It just means they are the best of what was on offer. It would be easier to make my will known if pressuring my local rep. made a real difference. 

The way that cabinet ministers are shuffled around suggests that the job doesn't really require specialization. When a party wins they can only choose cabinet ministers out of the reps. that were individually elected.

 

If when polled people want what PR is but then they vote against it what is going on? They must want something that isn't being addressed.  

So if you want something from a political system that you aren't getting what is it?  If you want an elected senate what is it you want it to achieve? In my imaginary senario in which I rule the world there would be no need to concern myself with the constitution so there would be no senate. 

If tomorrow you could choose how Canada is governeCommd what would it be? Would ridings exist? Would the House of  Commons be larger or smaller? Would ridings be population based? 

JKR

Pondering wrote:

So if you want something from a political system that you aren't getting what is it?  If you want an elected senate what is it you want it to achieve? In my imaginary senario in which I rule the world there would be no need to concern myself with the constitution so there would be no senate. 

If tomorrow you could choose how Canada is governeCommd what would it be? Would ridings exist? Would the House of  Commons be larger or smaller? Would ridings be population based? 

In my imagined scenario Canada’s constitution would enshrine the right for every Canadian to have a sufficient level of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, health care, recreation, human interaction, education, and, income. I’d also have a 500 member House of Commons elected by PR, probably through 5-member STV ridings, and a 800 member Senate elected through a lottery system with 12 year term limits.

Pondering

JKR wrote:

In my imagined scenario Canada’s constitution would enshrine the right for every Canadian to have a sufficient level of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, health care, recreation, human interaction, education, and, income. 

I love that!

JKR wrote:

I’d also have a 500 member House of Commons elected by PR, probably through 5-member STV ridings, and a 800 member Senate elected through a lottery system with 12 year term limits.

Why such high numbers?  

JKR

I like an 800 member “lottery Senate” because it would be representative of the overall population. If I remember my statistics course correctly, an 800 member sample of a population is very representative of the overall population, no matter how large the population is.

A 500 member H of C sounds good to me because it could have 100 5-member PR-STV ridings, and I like the number 100.

I’d also lower the minimum voting age to 16.