Sunday morning. Brown toast with apricot jam and a hot cup of Kick Ass coffee (that’s right, it’s a trade name; organic and fair trade and very good; ground and packaged in BC).A few days ago, Dwain Lingenfelter, leader of the NDP opposition in the Saskatchewan legislature, called our honourable premier, Brad Wall, “the little thief from Swift Current.” It’s been all over the StarPhoenix since. Seems the people of Saskatchewan are clucking their tongues in unison and the clucking is deafening. How dare Lingenfelter accuse anyone of being from Swift Current!?!
I don’t have to tell you what infantile behaviour is generated by the question periods and debates in those bastions of democracy—our parliaments. (Parliament: Middle English from Old French: speaking.) The reason for it seems obvious to me; democratic structures—in particular the adversarial party systems—have remained stuck in the “Old English” period and as time eroded the stiff-upper-lip politeness in our cultures, the gloves came off and parliamentary debate degenerated into a spectator sport.
I regularly get appeals for donations from a political party. Their come-on is not “let’s work together to make Canada a better place by . . .,” rather, it’s, “it’s time and it’s important to throw the current party out of office.” Something is wrong here. We’re wasting everyone’s time, money and energies on childish competitions for power.
Here’s a modest proposal: political parties are abolished. Independent candidates are put forward in each riding by one hundred (give or take) voters and their election hinges on their perceived quality as legislators. Following the election, an orderly process occurs among the elected candidates to appoint a government, committees, ministries, and they’re off. Not having party antagonisms to feed the rancour of debate anymore, legislators would be confined to dealing with the merits of the issues and the proposals put forward by the government or their fellow legislators. The senate, of course, is abolished.
Elections occur every four years and each duly-nominated candidate is limited to a campaign budget of, say, $5.000. Numerous physical and virtual town hall meetings are the primary means for the public to “parliament” before deciding which candidate deserves their support. Granted, election night would be a big bore with no “team” to cheer for, or against, and getting people to vote might take some concerted public education.
Sounds a lot like municipal government, you say? Or like Nunavut governance? Bingo. That’s where we need to go.
I think I’m done with party politics. If no strong independent candidate is proposed in my riding in the future, I may hand in a ballot with “none of the above” scrawled across it.
And Mr. Lingenfelter, there is no good reason to use the word “thief” and the name “Swift Current” in the same sentence. You’re tempting your rivals in the Saskatchewan Party to find out where you and each of your colleagues are from, and then a whole new round of undeserved epithets will take up another week’s debate in the ledge.
Who needs it?