Saturday, February 11, 2006

Welcome to the Era of Powerful MPs

When Stephen Harper announced his cabinet on Monday, he turned heads by announcing former Liberal David Emerson would become his new Minister of International Trade. Predictably Liberals reacted loudly to the decision, but I am surprised by the number of Conservatives who are concerned about the move.

Stephen Harper's cabinet looks strong with representation from cities because of his careful planning. He also has a person with a wealth of experience in an excellent position to help solve Canada's softwood lumber dispute with the USA.

I understand that the backroom deal making that was involved in putting this cabinet together was not very transparent, unfortunately that's today's reality. It's also true that David Emerson will have to explain to his constituents next election why he campaigned against the party he has now joined.

However, calls by MPs for laws that limit a member's ability to cross the floor are wrongheaded. Pierre Trudeau called Members of Parliament "trained seals", Jean Cretien and Paul Martin continued that tradition by forcing members of Parliament to vote the party line by refusing promotions or otherwise shutting the members out of the decision making process. Taking away the right to change parties would only serve to strengthen the central parties at the expense of individual members.

The Conservative Party has already advocated the use of free votes, add to that the simple fact that minority governments mean that every MP's vote counts and it becomes clear that politicians in this parliament will be more than trained seals. We live in a representative democracy it's a positive trend that our representatives are are able to make individual decisions.

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