29 April 2010

If Parliament is paramount, why not let it govern?

"The fundamental role of Parliament is to hold the Government to account." - Peter Milliken
"The parliamentary system means government in Parliament and with Parliament, but not by Parliament." - C.E.S. Franks

Speaker of the House Peter Milliken's ruling for primacy of Parliament over the government seemed somehow inevitable even if it produced a sigh of relief. To rule in favour of the government would have in effect reversed the order of our parliamentary system, placing government above the elected representatives of the people rather than at their pleasure. Or, perhaps more correctly, given the grossly excessive power of the position, placing the Prime Minister above the elected representatives of the people.

Despite this reaffirmation of Parliament's supremacy, as C.E.S. Franks, Professor of Political Studies at Queen's University, reminds us, it does not govern. Its function, in Milliken's words, is rather to hold government to account. This is something that deserves great consideration. Why should the elected representatives of the people not govern, or at least be intimately involved in governing? Why should legislation not emerge from legislative committees rather than from Cabinet? And why should the heads of these committees, elected by their members and approved by the legislature at large, not become the cabinet ministers? And why should the legislature at large not choose the Prime Minister? If we adopted a proportional representation voting system to ensure Canadians were fairly represented, such a system would in effect be involving all Canadians in their governance. What an idea -- a people effectively governing themselves! The democratic ideal achieved.

At this time, one of those rare moments when thoughts of democracy are uppermost in the public mind, it seems appropriate to dream of such things.


  1. Thanks for this blog, Bill. Very good questions! I'm sharing it over at a couple of groups in the hopes some discussion ensues.

  2. I'm flattered by your interest. Good luck with the discussions.