Friday, February 17, 2006

No by...

I haven't commented on the entire David Emerson racket because every other Canadian blogger seems to be doing a pretty good job of vilifying him. Or sheepishly defending him.

However, the NDP is making a big racket about introducing legislation to stop this sort of thing from happening again. By either forcing a MP to sit as an independent first before joining a party or by having to step down and run again in a byelection under his/her new party banner.

See, to me that's stupid.

Now, I appreciate the rage and ire at Emerson. Spin it all you want, it was a fairly...slimy, thing to do. When the general public thinks that many politicians are nothing but self-serving bastards that ooze rather than walk, perhaps pulling a stunt like crossing the floor for a cabinet position a week after your part lost a federal election isn't the way to change their mind.

But I don't want a byelection if you cross the floor for two reasons.

First, it's lazy. Voters do have certain rights and responsibilities. And one of them is to hold elected leaders accountable. And really, if you can't remember that a year or two ago, the guy you elected for the Liberals crossed the floor to go the Conservatives, then you're just lazy. And there comes a point where you really ought to put a little effort into the democratic process.

Secondly, and most importantly, they're a staggering waste of money. The average federal byelection costs taxpayers about $750,000. And far too often, they're held because politicians are being egocentric or sleazy. Yes, some are obviously held because a person dies or their health is in jeopardy. Those are legitimate reasons.

But let's look at the provincial byelection happening Tuesday in Newfoundland. It is happening because Fabian Manning was a political opportunist. He didn't want to sit in the opposition oblivion for 18 more months. So he took a chance on advancing his career by quitting and running federally. Good for him, he's getting a better job. Bad for the taxpayers of Newfoundland, who are on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars for the byelection that has to be called.

Same thing happens all the time federally. A MP gets another opportunity, they see the "glow of the Christmas lights" and decide to resign. Or whatever. Then we have to pay to replace him because they couldn't wait another few months or years before quitting when a general election was coming up.

So why would we want to mandate a byelection for crossing the floor? Yes, it might stop a few from crossing, but some will still do it regardless.

None of the parties are lilly white when it comes to this kind of shenanigans. They've all lured people away from other parties or lost members. Instead of bringing in legislation, we ask voters to step up and act appropriately the next time they get a crack at them in an election.

And if they decide to vote them back in, like they did with Belinda Stronach, well, you can shake your head at it in amazement, but you can't say that democracy didn't happen.

Currently Playing
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - Arctic Monkeys

3 comments:

Corey Tomsons said...

"First, it's lazy. Voters do have certain rights and responsibilities. And one of them is to hold elected leaders accountable. And really, if you can't remember that a year or two ago, the guy you elected for the Liberals crossed the floor to go the Conservatives, then you're just lazy. And there comes a point where you really ought to put a little effort into the democratic process."

Ahhh, yes. Not bothering to remember someone crossed the floor is lazy. But somehow it's not lazy to avoid a byelection that would preserve democratic principles.

Sorry, but that argument doesn't work. I don't have much respect for the position that citizens shouldn't have the burden of voting immediately - especially when they actually want it, as in the case here.

The proper question is not "why don't voters make an effort to remember the hypocracy", but "why should hypocritical politicians who betray their constituency get the benefit of a few years in office before the next election."

As for the cost, I think that's a cheap price to pay for democracy, and never resent tax dollars going towards it. And what might that cost be...?

According to an Elections Canada FAQ:

http://www.elections.ca/content.asp?section=faq&document=faqelec&lang=e&textonly=false#elec11

"The cost of the 2000 general election, including the partial reimbursement of election expenses to eligible candidates and political parties and the maintenance of the National Register of Electors since the 1997 general election, was $200.6 million."

For that election there were 1,808 candidates. So the cost per candidate was about $110,951.33. There were eleven parties running Federally (likely not in every riding, even in Quebec, but we'll take that as a high limiter) so the cost per riding amounts to about $1,220,464.00 (or just $332,853.98 for just the run of the mill three candidates).

So you get a by election for about the cost of a bad hour-long tv drama.

That's small change. Even smaller than you might think. Today there are about 32,460,576 Canadians, according to a niufty population clock at Stats Can:

http://www.statcan.ca/english/edu/clock/population.htm

So the cost of a by election is about 3.8 cents per Canadian.

Pffft.

You're wrong on this one Craig. To quote a wise man, " there comes a point where you really ought to put a little effort into the democratic process."

regards, cat`

Jason Bartlett said...

What if the voter is still satisfied with the MP's preformance of their duties for the district? I disagree strongly with the idea that a voter is lazy if they don't punish their mp for crossing sides. They may not like any of the alternatives who are running or their mp may have been good on a local level.

While I don't think Emerson was motivated by higher principles and has the moral compass of a jellyfish, I'll always be leary of California style recalls. Impulse democracy is dangerous, as the aformentioned California should be an example of.

Democracy does indeed require effort but it should also require some contemplation more then an impulse to punish politicans who jump ship.

towniebastard said...

I knew I had seen the number for the cost of a byelection somewhere. This is a bit dated, but this site:

http://www.chp.ca/WasteReport/Waste4.htm

quotes the Elections Canada cost of when Shelia Copps stepped down over the broken GST promise as $500,000. That was 10 years ago. So I think it's safe to say it would be about $750,000 to hold a byelection today, considering how much the cost of federal elections have gone up during the same period of time.

I appreciate that money is wasted all the time at the federal government, and in bigger amounts than this. But forcing byelection twinges a particular bell with me. I still view them as a tremendous waste of money for often dubious reasons.

As for the legislation to make a MP resign and seek reelection if s/he wants to cross the floor, I still think it's unnecessary and a waste of money. If you're that upset, vote against them in the next election. Democracy in Canada isn't going to collapse because Emerson crossed.

Get him in two years if you're that upset. Or reelect him because he's done a good job. But forcing him to step down and run again is a waste of money, especially when we know there is going to be another election in two years or less...