| Mar 20, 2019

What do Jody-Wilson Raybold and Randy Hillier have in common?

They are both Canadians and they are both politicians. That’s where their apparent similarities end.

Wilson Raybould is an indigenous lawyer from BC. Hillier is an electrician from Lanark County. Wilson Raybould is a Liberal, Hillier is not. Wilson Raybould is dedicated to Indigenous rights, Hillier is dedicated to landowners rights. Wilson-Raybould was embraced by her party leader as soon as she was elected for the first time and ushered into a prestigious cabinet position as Minister of Justice for Canada. Hillier was one of the longest serving Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP’s when his party finally took power after 12 years in opposition, and he was not chosen for a cabinet post.

But the two do share something else in common aside from being Canadians politicians. Over the past few month, they both found themselves at odds with their leaders, or more to the point, the people in positions of power within the offices of their leaders.

And they are both now on the outside looking in. Again, there are differences. Raybold left cabinet of her own accord and for the moment she is still a Liberal MP, whereas Hillier was summarily booted out of his party caucus on a slim pretext.

Wilson-Raybold was removed from her post as Justice Minister because she would yield to the will of the Prime Ministers Office. While she has not said that explicitly, the fact that she has not been offered the chance to confirm or deny that makes it all the more apparent that it is indeed the case. Hillier was removed from Caucus because he did not show the right amount of deference to the Premier’s office.

This is the common denominator in these cases, and it reflects the reality of politics all over Canada. Although we elect individual MP’s and MPP’s, the governments that emerge from those elections centralise all the power within the Prime Minister or the Premier’s office.

The role of MP or MPP is certainly relevant as far as local advocacy is concerned, and perhaps in terms of grants for the riding, but in terms of decision-making, members and even cabinet ministers have to defer to the unelected officials who are in place because they are appointed by the leader.

There are two ways to make this system more fair. The first would be for the party’s in power to change that reality. That is not going to happen.

We have been headed down this path ever since Trudeau senior was in power in Ottawa, and under Prime Ministers Mulroney, Chretien, and Harper it became more and more entrenched. And the same is true in Ontario.

In our system, when there is a majority government, the Premier or the Prime Minister, and by extension their personal office, have unchecked power save for the potential of a caucus revolt. Given the fact that the leader also controls the party apparatus, the chances of a caucus revolt, for a party in power, is slim to none.

The centralisation of power in the Premier or Prime Ministers office is an indelible feature of modern Canadian politics.

But when we go to the polls we elect a representative, not a party. Our voting system is out of step with the way our governments operate.

Since, as we have seen so graphically in these two cases, the party and the leader have full control over the government in our times, it is even more undemocratic that electoral reform has been shelved in both Ontario and Canada.

Since the leadership of the party in power had all of the legislative power and local representatives have become irrelevant in terms of policy development in provincial of federal politics, we need a new system.

If we can’t reform our Parliamentary system, then let’s be honest and move to a Presidential system, with a 50% threshold. There are two advantages to that system over what we have now in Canada.

First, at least the name of the leader who will exercise such power, will be on each of our ballots. Second, we can put checks on that power in place.

Right now, our Premiers and Prime Ministers have a level of unchecked power that is beyond anything that could be imagined in the United States, for example.

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