Friday, December 06, 2013

#ReformAct Problem -- Caucus Initiating Leadership Reviews and the Coyne Amendment ( #cdnpoli )

In response to a tweet I had sent out that summarized my opposition to the Reform Act, Andrew Coyne pointed me to his article that suggests an amendment that could help me overcome that opposition.

To summarize my opposition, I object to the idea that caucus members should be entrusted with the power to remove a leader given that the general party membership works hard to select a leader.

Andrew suggests that parties change the mechanics of leader selection to give the power to the caucus to select the leader.

While that certainly alleviates the concern -- those entrusted with the firing are also entrusted to do the hiring -- it diminishes the point of party membership.

Let me explain.

People join political parties for many reasons, but if I had to pick the top three it's to nominate local candidates, to participate in leadership contests, and to propose and advance policy. The first two typically cause spikes in membership - some members don't stick around for the last point, getting all excited to get a candidate in or a leader selected.

The Reform Act entrenches the rights of local members to elect local candidates. I think that's good - I'm not sure it requires legislative weight, but it's hard to argue against it. Local members electing local candidates helps build the party's brand in the riding. The Reform Act (and the Andrew Coyne Amendment) would take the power to select a leader out of the hands of members and deliver it to the caucus.

That leaves the policy aspect. On the surface, it's not as exciting to the general public, but it's arguably as important as candidate / leader selection. Party policy is what a candidate campaigns on and what a leader will try to form government and become Prime Minister on.

Parties will continue to run policy workshops leading to a policy convention. A platform is constructed and delivered to the leader. However, the leader is now accountable only to the caucus. The caucus, only accountable to their riding associations. If a leader fails to follow party policy, it falls on the caucus to initiate a review.

Individual members of caucus would be free to follow party policy -- or not. The new Reform Act entrenches free votes and set rules for removal of a caucus member. The leader, provided they have the favour of caucus, would be free to follow party policy -- or not. The party membership could be locked out of the process with no means to censure the party leader.

True, caucus needs freedom to respond to the governing situation of the day, but adherence to the policy framework is necessary.

The answer, possibly, is that caucus would be responsible for proposing and advancing policy. Presumably, they would want to see move forward policy they propose ...

Then, what's a party membership mean?

1 comment:

Bluegreenblogger said...

Hey, I would have zero beefs with any Party wanting to constrain their leader through Caucus, or open nominations. My beef with this bill is primarily that this would be imposed on all party`s by Parliament. Thanks but no thanks. Firstly, new partys come and go all the time, and they have their own ideas about accountability within their ranks. Plus they all start with no caucus. Boy, there are so many problems I do not know how to begin. Let it suffice that Partys all have rules in place covering nominations, and leadership reviews etc. They have a real impact on how a party functions. They can redress any perceived imbalance any time they want within their own ranks.
The committee reforms, and `loosening`up of Parliament might be worth looking at though. Probably overdue for some tinkering with procedures etc, esp. as we now have a Government that completely ignores the traditions and conventions previously in place.