Friday, November 12, 2010

“Canada’s Institutions Need New Blood And New Ideas”

This column is provocative, but has some merit in a broad sense:
For democracy to be healthy, the people who represent us need to know that they work for us and not the other way around. In the recent U.S. mid-term elections it was considered a massive wave of new blood as incumbents losing their seats seemed to be the theme. Turns out that was false.

The re-election rate for incumbents that sought re-election was 86%, down just slightly from the usual rate of about 90%. According to an analysis of re-election rates for incumbents conducted by, things here in Canada aren’t much better. In the last five elections the lowest re-election rate for the bums already filling the seats is 82.7%. Since 1968 the rate has remained high, with the exception of two elections: 1984, when Brian Mulroney swept to power, and 1993, when Jean Chretien reversed the tide.

If Canadians are fed up with politics as usual, as the polls seem to tell us they are, then there is only one answer: Throw the bums out.

Nothing will change if we keep putting the same people in and let them get cosy.

This column, obviously inspired by outgoing Liberal MP Keith Martin:
“Canada’s institutions need new blood and new ideas, it is neither sensible nor fair for someone to stay too long”

Amen brother!

I believe Canadians do want to "throw the bums out", they literally CRAVE new blood, new direction, new ideas, fresh and timely, without the baggage and bullshit that pervades our political discourse. The problem is, despite obvious indifference and apathy, the polls rarely move, primarily because our system is so entrenched it's basically the status quo or stay home.

To often, an MP is elected and rarely does he/she face any real challenge after they establish themselves in the riding. This circumstance isn't unique to Canada, but a truly progressive approach would incorporate mechanisms to ensure nobody gets to "cozy", locks up a riding and turns it into their personal fiefdom. Good luck to any upstart, nothing but loyalists and food chain partisans.

Who's kidding who, there are many, many MP's in Ottawa essentially going through the motions. You can see it in the body language, the forced, robotic outrage, it smells stale and it looks old. Seems more about status and perks, than a real burning desire, in many cases, across party lines.

As an aside, it is sheer comedy for the Liberals to think they can project a fresh direction, reinvigorate their brand, while putting the likes ofRalph Goodale in front of the cameras, on what seems EVERY issue imaginable. Stand down Ralph supporters, take out the emotional attachment, it's hard to see how an old Liberal government warhorse is optically attractive when your brand suffers like it does. I'll say it, the optics are crap, regardless of what a great man, respected, etc. Canadians want to see NEW faces, new perspectives and we give them the blast from the past more than any other MP, by a country mile. I'll never get it, and to me it represents a hint that we just don't quite get the mood out there just yet. Again, not a personal attack, Goodale effective, intelligent, seasoned, respected, just the antithesis of fresh and current, what we desperately need to jumpstart this tired presentation.

I would like to see some revolutionary ideas in terms of incumbency. I would like to see parties adopt some mandatory guidelines that continually mix up participation on the riding executive level, and further to the MP's themselves. I would also like to see a party leader who isn't afraid to say "it's time" and refuse to sign nomination papers. Whatever, one thing is clear- our political system is overwhelmingly biased towards the status quo, entrenched self interest. You can't really effectively claim the "change" mantra, when you rarely do yourselves.


Dana said...

I can't disagree with the sentiment of Mr. Martin's statement.

That was one of the raisons d'etre of the Reform movement too. Look where that got us.

With the debasement of our civil discourse we face yet another dilemma too. What kind of individual would be attracted to political life in Canada today?

They'd certainly have to be thick skinned. Not caring much or at least not being much affected by what's said about them or to them would be a requirement.

Uncaring, unfeeling people would probably not be ideal candidates though. Besides we have lots now. Plus they don't tend to have ideas other than self serving ones.

We live in a civil climate now where its almost impossible to get the best people possible interested in service. The people we would really need to inject those "new ideas" would have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the podium.

It can almost, almost, be said that anyone with a burning ambition to achieve federal political office in Canada is unfit to serve.

I would happily vote for a reluctant first time candidate over someone enthusiastically trying for the second or third time.

And nobody knows the way out of this kind of mess.

Curtis said...

Good points. All parties need new blood and ideas all of the time to balance and/or temper the experienced members. However, to bastardize an old saying, we don't need to throw out the oldies with the bathwater.

Also, some minor edits are needed.
"Too often, an MP … " and
"Who's kidding whom, there are … "

Dman said...

A most compelling thesis you put forth, my good man Steve !!!

Steve V said...