Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thank goodness the NDP has important pieces of legislation to propose

Maybe I'm just in a particularly bad mood today, but Peter Stoffer's floor-crossing bill mentioned in today's Globe & Mail just makes me shake my head.

A caveat to being with - I have not read his proposed legislation, so maybe some of these criticisms aren't warranted. But let's start with a fundamental question. What possible practical outcome will this bill have?

Right now, a disaffected (or courted) MP decides that (s)he prefers the policies of another party. There are a couple of ways of responding to these feelings. The more high-profile way is to cross the floor and join another party - witness the actions of Andre Bachand, Keith Martin, Belinda Stronach, Scott Brison et al. Mr. Stoffer's bill would prevent this, as the MP would have to resign their seat, and seek re-election under the new party banner.

But an MP can also chose to vote consistently against the party line. As far as the passage of legislation is concerned, Stoffer's bill does nothing to prevent this. Indeed there is a long history of MPs breaking ranks with their own parties - even when a vote is whipped. It strikes me that the only way that Stoffer's bill could have the teeth it needs to accomplish his would be to mandate party-line votes on all issues.

This raises a related question. Do voters vote for the MP or for the party? Stoffer's bill is based on the premise that party lines are more important. If it were to pass, this would be even further reinforced, and reduce the role of the individual MP even further, making them mere parrots of their political party's line.

The fact that Stoffer has been working on this bill since 1999 is also discouraging. One would think that his Nova Scotia constituents would rather he had been involved in some more significant and relevant pet project for the past six years.

Finally, and this is entirely cynical, but does anyone think that he would be proposing this bill if any MPs were crossing the floor to sit with the NDP?

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