Re: The year of the independent MLA (B.C. Views, Dec. 29)
Tom Fletcher’s column gives an accurate perspective on our current state of politics. Taxpayer revolt, MLA recalls, revolts in party ranks, both leaders driven from office — all happening around the same time — may be signalling a fracture in the basement of our politics.
When you step back and trace back the prime cause of all these events, it all comes down to one common denominator: the inordinate concentration of power in a few people, and the abuse of it. Those few who hold power in our system do so by the imposition of “party discipline” on elected members, and with this device they control the political system completely.
Party discipline is not a law, but a convention, as are most things in the Westminster parliamentary system; in fact, it is not written anywhere. However, revolts have been inevitable throughout time because this doctrine when abused clashes with all that is inherent in natural human behaviour. It usurps the authentic self and individual identity of the elected members and subjugates them to the sole purpose of subservience to the party leaders.
The voting public feel they are left without fair representation in important decisions. There have always eventually been revolts against this square-peg-in-a-round-hole control strategy when it has been used badly, just as what is occurring now.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 2(b) guarantees the right of everyone to have their own opinion, beliefs, thoughts and the free expression thereof. Section 32(b) states these rights apply specifically to provincial legislatures. These provisions in law are abridged when anyone is subject to censure or punishment for exercising these rights, which is exactly what party discipline does.
In the cases of MLAs Bill Bennett and Bob Simpson, the law was broken because both of these men spoke according to their Charter rights and suffered censure and punishment for doing so. The Charter has provisions for court remedy in cases of contravention, so these men could take legal action against their former parties.