4 ABOUT THE MLA OR MP
I now have regrets, as I am sure many others do, that I fulfilled my two terms as MLA without taking more action when I was in a position to do so. My, and others, failure to accept the responsibilities expected of those elected to serve their constituents has resulted in growing disrespect for politics and government.
What is that single responsibility of an elected representative? It is to dedicate completely and exclusively to the welfare of each and every constituent and their society as a whole. Not to a political party, not to family, not to their profession but only to the people who are their constituents and those who pay their remuneration. The great rise in remuneration for serving in elected office has been justified by the claim that those without supplementary financial resources should also be able to serve and would be more representative of the rest of the members of their society. The danger thereby created is that the main reason for seeking nomination is not service but remuneration.
The members of the legislatures are highly paid for performing their legislative duties on behalf of all people. A supplementary role has developed, because of the expanded role and complexity of Government, to mediate differences between the constituent and the bureaucracy. In any other employment, the amount of remuneration paid members would be expected to provide a high level of dedication and performance. Sitting in the Legislature listening to speeches of questionable content and voting the way their political masters tell them to, is of no value to the people paying them. Section by section consideration, and the overall effect, of Legislation in a Committee setting would be more effective than false debate in the House. But not committees that are simply dedicated to political aims. The members should work at understanding the legislation in detail,and thinking about its effect on the people that they represent. But that does not happen. The members mostly play a child's game of party politics. Party politics has no place in the Legislature. Neither has the childish desk pounding and catcalls. Once the members are elected they are on the public payroll and they are not being paid to play politics. There is no need for the Legislature to sit except infrequently for the official creation of the Legislation that should have been already been thoroughly considered by Members. There should be no Caucus discussions of bills, it is using the time and effort of members being paid by the taxpayers to play politics. Instead of Question Periods, questions should be submitted in writing and the question and answer published. Voters should have the full text, rather than the one liners picked up by the media, available to them. The false theatricals are play acting instead of serious debate.
What needs to be done? Party house leaders and whips must be eliminated. Voting must be by members conscience with due consideration of the wishes of their constituents. Seating in the house should not be grouped by party, but in a way that assures more harmonious interaction. Time should not be wasted on speeches for their own sake. Speeches introducing Bills should clearly outline their intent and background so that administration fully complies with the intent. The Committee structure must become the vehicle not only for considering new Legislation but also for reviewing that already existing. Committees should be established on a Departmental basis both as support for Ministers and as monitors on behalf of the public. Elected representatives have become full time employees. As such they should be working full time, in their offices when not required elsewhere. With modern communications and software, members can be in constant contact with their colleagues.
An elected member is the only one who shares the interests of their constituents, and those of the rest of the province or country. The unelected controlling the parties only care for the power of the party and how it benefits them. The senior bureaucrats care for their remuneration and status. Elected members have only one thing to give in exchange for the amount that they cost the taxpayers. That is, their ability to use their god given gifts of thinking and moral standards. For the current levels of remuneration there should be a lot of both.
Part of the problem with Government today is the concentration of both Legislative and Administrative power in the office of the premiers and prime minister. Canada being so close and so influenced with affairs in the USA, has adopted the worst of the Presidential and Parliamentary systems. John Adams warned “ If there is one central truth to be collected from the history of all ages, it is this: that the people's rights and liberties, and the democratic mixture in a society can never be preserved without separating the executive from the legislative power. If the executive power is left in the hands of the Democratic assembly, it will corrupt the legislature to the detriment of the people”. Elected members should realize that they have a separate role to play on the governing team. Leaders and Cabinet members may also be legislators, but they are too busy to think, and rely on the bureaucrats to think for them. The bureaucrats are limited to administering the legislation, and give no, or little, thought to the people affected. If they do think, it may be limited to the strengthening the systems that they have developed.
Once a member arrives in the legislative chamber they can only be effective if their mind is completely open. The responsibility should be only to the people they represent, not to a political party, not to what has been, but only to now and the future. The party leaders and the bureaucracy should be responsible to the elected members. Members should not be responsible to their party or their leader. The electors selected them to exercise their ability as they feel is for good government. John Adams also said “A representative must be sensitive of the views of the people, and sometimes must run the risk of their displeasure, or he will never do them any good in the long run.”