Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Opinions That I Had But Never Inflicted on the Anonymous Internet Until Now

I voted Liberal, but I'm glad to see Martin go. What a terrible campaign.

I can see why people are mad at Emerson, but there is no legal remedy and shouldn't be.

I'm leaning to Bob Rae for leader. It would be good to have somebody who learned something the hard way.

The Rothstein hearings went well. This is long overdue. The opposition parties and the CBA embarrassed themselves.

The SCC was right about swinger clubs, but wrong about the Arbutus train right-of-way.

I didn't see Brokeback Mountain, but no significance should be attached to this, since I doubt I will be able to see any movie that is neither animated nor stars Hillary Duff for some time.

Liberal bloggers' collective love affair with the word "wanker" is going to end badly.


Matthew Shugart said...

On Emerson, why should there be no legal remedy?

If one recongnizes that a large portion of vote was not for him as a personal delegate who would follow his own interests or his own interpretation of his district's interests, but was actually based on the party whose endorsement he was given in the campaign, then why not a legal remedy?

What should any such remedy be? One could require a party-hopper to face a by-election. Others?

The status quo strikes me as remarkably unsatisfactory.

PithLord said...

Great question. (And by the way, you are my first non-comment spam commenter.)

Your premise is obviously true. Enough of Emerson's voters voted for him because he was the Liberal candidate that he wouldn't have won otherwise.

A political remedy already exists. Emerson can't run in Vancouver Kingsway again. Harper paid some (maybe transient) political price.

But the problem with a legal remdy is that no system could ever completely accord with a voter's expectations.

For each voter, some component of their choice derives from the party affiliation of the candidate and some portion from the candidate. The amount of these proportions depends in part on what the voter thinks is important, but also on the system in place. A system in which parties are particularly important is a system in which voters pay more attention to party affiliation.

In our system, parties are very important. But there are a few limits, including the ability of the MP to switch or vote against the party line. Voters often find crossing the floor annoying, but they also find voting the party line annoying.

Since what Emerson did was in accordance with the rules under which he was elected, there should be no legal remedy in his case. But I think I would go further, and say that the problem with our system is too much party discipline, not too little. I like parties, but I don't like the degree to which the party leader has an independence from the caucus.

Matthew Shugart said...

you are my first non-comment spam commenter.

I am honored! And I am very pleased that you have been posting more. I have enjoyed your comments at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, and I once checked this blog and saw some really interesting posts from several months ago. I added P&S to the Fruits and Votes blogroll, and was quite excited when it turned up as "ripe" recently.

On the substance, of course, the fact that Emerson "can't run again" in the district is the essence of the problem. He is free to vote against the district because he was a lame duck from the moment he swtiched--even before parliament met. He will never face the voters again, and hence they can't hold him accountable. On the other hand, when a member defects during the life of a parliament and runs again, the voters can reward or punish him for the decision.

I agree with your general point, to a degree. I find distasteful the laws in place in some other FPTP systems like India and Papua New Guinea that forbid (or try to) party-hopping.

I still think a madnated by-election is the best solution. Then the voters get to pass judgment, and, anticipating that, MPs would defect only when they expected their district would agree with their personal choice to go against the party.

PithLord said...

Thanks for the kind words, matthew. I am close to finishing off a book project (obviously, I can't say what it is without reversing my decision to blog anonymously), so I hope to blog a bit more.

I took a look at Fruits and Votes, and I have put you on the blogroll. I don't think I'm offending your proscription of the blogroll-logroll, since while I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have been motivated to do it without your linking to me and now being my first commenter, I enjoyed your site, and share your bias for Parliamentary systems and PR.

Of course, actually reading Fruits and Votes did make me a bit nervous respoding, because you are an expert and I'm just a loudmouth lawyer.

My perspective comes in part from living in British Columbia, where we have had two recent "rogue" premiers, Bill Vander Zalm and Glen Clark, both of whom left in disgrace. (At least in Clark's case, the alleged scandal was bogus, and he was ultimately acquitted of criminal charges, but he was an absolutely terrible premier.)

When their caucuses had had enough, they both made noises to the effect that they would respond to a revolt by bringing the temple down by calling an election. In both cases, the governing party faced disaster if that happened (and, in both cases, disaster in fact followed when an election was finally called under a weak replacement leader.)

There are other reasons to think that the problem with the Canadian system is the extreme centralization of power in the first minister. Since we adopted the American convention system for nominating party leaders in the 1920s, the Westminister balance between leader and caucus has been lost. As in Britain, the PM controls advancement, but unlike the traditional system in Britain (which I understand the Tories brought back), the leader is not the creature of the caucus.

Anyway, the point is that I am reluctant to support anything that strengthened the hand of the leaders and the party apparatus against backbenchers. And mandatory by-elections for floor crossing would do that.

Matthew said...

Thanks for the blogroll addition!

On the substantive point of First Minister power, that's the argument (or an argument) for PR, given that most of these cases are "majorities" only because of the FPTP electoral system.

No solution is perfect, of course, but I am skeptical about efforts to reduce the power of premiers within a parliamentary system, other than by putting checks on them.

Checks can come in one of two ways: Separate institutions (i.e. a strong upper house, or abandonment of parliamentarism altogether) or from other parties in coalitions (facilitated by PR).

Efforts to weaken the premier within the confines of the "British" system tend not to be very successful, other than at the margins. (Granted, the margins can be important.)

I look forward to your book (aside from the detail that I will not know it is your book.)