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7 GRAHAM STEELE BOOK -- REVIEW

This is a past due expose of the perversion of our Legislative traditions. This book should be compulsory reading for every teen age student in every school in Canada, they are the ones who will suffer for my, and the next generations, malfeasance. Every voting age person should suffer great guilt for allowing this social cancer to grow. I am so very ashamed when I am asked “You were there, why did you not do something about it.”

I bought this book as soon as it arrived in the book store and read it through immediately. I had learned most of the same about politics over 30 years ago when I served 2 terms in the Nova Scotia Legislature. There has been no improvement, and never will be until our Politicians serve the Province before serving their Political parties. Unlike the author, I had been involved in Nova Scotia Politics since I was in my teens, when it had been a different world.

The early chapters, and the last, hang out the dirty linen of the proceedings in the selection and use of elected representatives of the citizens. The practice of nomination by signing up members in a Constituency Organization hardly assures selection by the capability to deal with the problems of Government. It very well may provide members that the leader can control. The leader and political masters may be more interested in “mushroom members”, “Those that are kept in the dark and fed manure”. The lack of duties commensurate with the remuneration paid for members shows a sad waste of talents.

The book deals with how the Legislature is supposed to work, but fails to examine if it meets the circumstances of the current status of Society and Communications. To read about the function and conduct of members in the Legislature almost made me sick, because I remembered what it was like. The childish and useless conduct that is learned by new members has been passed on because leaders do not lead. The concentration of both Legislative and Administrative powers in the office of the Political leader opens the door to many evils.

The author states “Party discipline drives all real debate behind closed doors”. If there is indeed any debate. Even in Caucus, debate is tempered by reliance on the Minister and his Deputy and a lack of effort by members. Debate in the Legislature is about the politics instead of the substance. As the saying goes both Government and Opposition members would “ choke on a gnat and swallow a camel”. In the discussion of the “The Rules of the Game” the Author points out that “Policy Debates are for losers”. Imagine a group of members, one asks “What is our policy on so&so?” Some one answers “Who was the last person in the Leaders office?” At which everyone laughs. A sad but true story.

What the book does not contain are any thoughts on how, or if, the political disease can be cured. During a recent conversation, a new MLA was experiencing the shock of his new position. The author quotes the maxim of Enoch Powell that “all political lives end in failure”. Mine did. I want all present and future members to know that they too will fail to make a difference unless they take control of their actions unto themselves.

Stop the foolishness in the House. No more desk pounding and catcalls. Ask sensible questions and give sensible answers. Be respectful of your colleagues of all parties, they are as good and wise and wish the best for their province, as you do. Actually do the work you are paid for, study the legislation, make sure it says what it should. Remember that “No legislation has been passed, nor ever will be passed, that does not take away some freedom from some people”. Seek members, whatever their party, and tackle things together.

As the author says “The current way of doing things is not working to make life better for Nova Scotians”. Things can be better but there is a limit to what should be done by Government. I have a  quotation, although I forget its source, “How small, of all that human hearts endure, a part that Government can ease or cure.”