Are MLAs partisan or non-partisan?
Some of you will recall Bob Simpson, former BC NDP MLA and former BC Liberal activist cum independent MLA, seen below celebrating the incredible lightness of being independent.
Mr. Simpson's most recent blog calls for MLAs to shrug off the chains of their respective Parties and "rise up" for a new democracy. I accept Mr. Simpson is unlikely to find himself comfortable in any collective effort. His record of failure to play well with others in either the BC Liberal or BC NDP sandboxes makes that clear.
I believe Mr. Simpon is wrong headed for NDP MLAs to consider for a number of reasons:
- While all elected officials carry a measure of ego necessary to run for public office in the first place, those who forget they got there because of the help of many do so at their peril;
- Party discipline is how we helpers are assured our efforts were worthwhile. When I help to elect someone, I want assurance they'll not vote to criminalize abortions, cut funding to social services or gay pride parades etc etc;
- Like it or not, represenatative democracy involves political parties - seems pretty consistent throughout the globe. If progressives stopped organizing in this way the right would clean up in elections.
Mr. Simpson's exhortation is also concerning because it reflects a tension within politics in British Columbia between party members and MLAs which is corrosive to internal party functioning and damaging to capacity to campaign effectively. As he points out, it is interesting to note that the victors in both the recent BC Liberal and BC NDP leadership campaigns did so without significant backing of members of either caucus. In both cases, a majority (albeit narrow) of party members chose the outsider. Time will tell which Party is able to reconcile with their MLAs and be in shape to win the next election.
But for here, perhaps a few questions to discuss. Is appropriate for MLAs to act independently of Party after we elect them? If so, when is it appropriate? When and how do Parties hold their MLAs accountable when they act inappropriately?