Friday Fill(ibuster): Getting your fill of being grateful?

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Political News Friday, October 10, 2014 View Count = 1826

Friday Fill(ibuster): Getting your fill of being grateful?

Pierre Trudeau (second from left) wearing dark glasses, arrives with members of his new cabinet for swearing in ceremonies at Government House in Ottawa, July 6, 1968. Donald MacDonald's new memoir tells the tale.

With thanksgiving upon us, should we be grateful or curmudgeonly about the state of our democracy?

Donald Savoie scores one for the curmudgeons right off the bat this week, explaining the decline of caliber of politicians in Canada and the tendency towards career politics. He says that “experience outside politics brings a different perspective to governing that can be tested against the advice of career public servants” but that fewer and fewer folks are bringing such experience to the Hill. The Library of Parliament has a nice graphic showing the professional background of Parliamentarians in the first versus 41st Parliaments.

Also on the ho-hum side of things, it looks like ministers are spending an unseemly amount of time preparing for their daily grilling in Question Period and have been since at least 2006.

Everyday Political Citizen jury member Rick Mercer is unimpressed with the way things are going in the QP. He responds to the non-interventionist approach of speaker Andrew Scheer by proposing in a Rant this week that Parliament replace him with a bag of flour. 

But on the pro side, the Radical Centrist shows that there are plenty of lessons to be learned from alternative QP models in other Parliaments around the world. Might we bring some of those lessons home and reform the way our QP works? An NDP motion to mandate relevancy in Question Period responses failed to pass but did garner support from at least a few Conservative dissenters. And CBC’s Michael Enright has some ideas on how to fix QP in his weekly Sunday Edition radio essay.

And yet, perhaps the House isn’t the place where we should be looking for the best work of parliamentarians anyway. Nick Taylor-Vaisey over at Maclean’s explains why parliamentary committees have more going for them than meets the eye: “Reform comes slowly, but morsels of collegiality are better than chaotic obstructionism. Meanwhile, real work continues in those airless little committee rooms.”

But how can Parliamentarians get any work done in Ottawa if they don’t even spend time there? Paul Wells gives a balanced account of the pros and cons of MPs leaving the Hill to head back to their constituencies as soon as their able: “Of course there’s a tension between the work MPs do on the floor of the Commons and the work they do at home. But it’s easy to see why constituency work is so valuable—despite the obligatory weekly slog between Ottawa and the ridings. In Ottawa, MPs must be disciplined, patient and willing to cauterize the judgment centres of their brains in return for complete fealty to whatever their leader’s office has decided will be the line of the day. In return, they are ignored by voters and mocked by guys like me. Back home, they can provide concrete assistance to neighbours in need, they’re noticed while they do it, and they’re repaid in votes. No wonder the temptation to get out of Ottawa is so strong.”

Speaking of Paul Wells, we can chalk one up in the gratitude column with news that the political editor at Maclean’s will be embarking on a decade-long excursion into the history of Canada with a book deal signed with Random House Canada. Titled Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere: Canada Since 1945, the series will be a three-volume social and political history of our home and native land.

And if new histories deserve our gratitude, there’s at least one more reason to be thankful this week, alluded to in the photo off the top. An excerpt from Trudeau-era cabinet minister Donald Macdonald sheds lights on the way that politics changed in Canada in the 60s and that there are routes to renewal that we might pursue again: “Fresh policies can have an impact, but new people are the best way to bring about organizational change,” he says in this excerpt of his new memoir—which will be released on October 18.

Speaking of fresh blood, a new get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaign in the US aims to get young people riled up about how little say they have when they leave electoral decisions to their seniors. And an initiative from Rock the Vote, reworks Lil Jon's summer hit Turn Down For What and brings in the likes of Girls' star Lena Dunham and celebrity trainer Tracy Andersen to get out the vote. Get it out for what? Find out here.

Getting young people engaged seems a real objective down in Washington, where the White House has adopted the use of Emoji ideograms and smileys to appeal to Millennials. But how engaged in politics do young people even deserve to be? British broadcaster Andrew Marr provocatively suggests that citizens should be barred from becoming MPs until the age of forty. As things stand, a shocking 92% of respondents to the Telegraph’s online poll seem to agree with Marr.

Finally on the news front—and also regrettably on the dour side of the slate—the CBC reports that not only are the operations of our political institutions in trouble but the very bricks and mortar of our Parliament buildings seem to be crumbling: “The internal report from last year […] says the crumbling brickwork and loose window glass pose a potentially catastrophic, life-threatening risk to members of Parliament and others.” That’s not great.

Events and Opportunities


And yet, on this Thanksgiving weekend, perhaps it’s not all so bad. We’re grateful for public servants like Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, who will be in Toronto on October 22 to talk about the role of cities shaping Canada's future.

We’re grateful for friends like journalist and author Alf Herminda, whose book launch we are hosting at Samara HQ in Toronto on October 22. Free tickets are available here.

And finally, for this year, we’re also grateful for Councillor Walters and the City of Edmonton, who are bringing the Everyday Political Citizen Project to Alberta in a big way with this video and campaign. You can read about their adoption of the EPCitizen project in both the Edmonton Sun and the Edmonton Journal.

There’s still time to nominate for everyone in Canada who makes politics part of their life! And for these folks, we think, there’s much to be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, thanks for reading!

(Photo cred: CP)

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