How Consensus Government Would Work Federally
How Consensus Government Would Work Federally
Consensus Government is nothing new to Canada. In fact, our northern territories have been using this party-less legislative system for a century.
The benefits of a party-less system FEDERALLY include better, truer representation of ridings in the House of Commons; better decision-making producing lasting solutions to today's issues; and a strengthening of all MPs voices - making all parts of Canada equally involved in charting the nation's course, since they are now all equal.
Under our current party-based system, MPs of small parties - and indeed backbench MPs of larger parties - have their voices muted by the party under the current system. Parties control who speaks, when they speak, how long they speak, and what they can and cannot ask or say in the House of Commons. How is that Democratic?
Parties in most situations use their Party Whip, House Leader and Party Leader to coerce MPs to vote the way the party wishes them to. The ultimate threat is that the party leader will refuse to sign the MP's nomination papers when he/she is ready to run for re-election. Furthermore, under the current party-based system, parties give themselves more advantages than that: Parties set the bar of voter support beyond which they are granted Official Party Status, and given opportunities to ask questions, speak to proposed legislation, and sit on committees of the House of Commons, where the intricate crafting of legislation takes place. In addition to these things, parties also get large sums of research dollars unavailable to Independent MPs, to MPs of smaller parties and to MPs of parties not granted Official Party Status.
To make matters worse, the big parties have structured the election and political finance legislation so that their election expenses are rebated by you the tax payer. And most recently they have been giving themselves taxpayer subsidies through per vote subsidies. Independent MPs do not get any of this, and neither do parties who fail to elect an MP. How is that a level playing field? Parties can also received donations from donors who get a tax receipt worth up to 75% of the donation...something Independent MPs cannot do.
Under Consensus Government all of this "Party" nonsense vanishes! Each and every MP is now equal. Rules for financing then apply equally to each MP. The Party Research Funds are distributed equally to each MP. This funding should overseen by the Library of Parliament.
At Election time, under a Consensus Government system, elections become a matter of voters answering a single question: Which candidate in my riding will be our best representative?" No more the worry for voters as to which party they have traditionally voted for or against, and no more will the personality of the party leaders factor in to the voters' decision. The simple question is who do I think will faithfully represent the majority view in our riding, issue by issue? Elections therefore are re-focused from the national level to the riding level, where local voters concerns are front and centre. There are no national leader tours, and no federal party leader debates! There are also never any party leadership contests as there are no parties! For the media it will mean dispensing with the easy task of regurgitating one another's ideas and research about which leader promised what...and instead doing their journalistic work locally instead to understand who the candidates are and what the local voters think about the various issues. Under Consensus Government, we don't have 1 big election, we have 338 small ones, and they all matter now.
Once the election is over MPs would meet for an inaugural session in the House of Commons. That session begins with the Governor General chairing things as temporary Speaker, and would see the real Speaker and Deputy Speakers elected by all MPs. Cabinet Ministers would then be elected by all MPs, and ultimately the Prime Minister is elected by all MPs - and all MPs are eligible to stand for any of these positions. Those with the most support (consensus) in the House would fill these positions until such time as the next election occurs or they lose the confidence of their peers.
Once this first inaugural session is over, the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers form Her Majesty's Government. All the remaining MPs form Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. MPs are seated alphabetically by riding name, and the adversarial two sides facing each other seating is replaced with a more helpful horseshoe The beauty in the Consensus Government system is that the government cannot do anything without sufficient support from the Opposition (due to the number of MPs voting in the House of Commons)...meaning a consensus has been achieved.
No omnibus bills and budgets under Consensus Government. Each legislative proposal is dealt with on its own, department budgets are dealt with one by one. They are presented and discussed. After First Reading they follow the normal process of Second Reading, then going off to committee for a detailed examination, then back for Third Reading and amended until consensus is achieved.
The bill would then progress upwards into the Senate, where it would go through the same three readings process, before Royal Assent. Consensus Government would also be applied to the Senate, with all Senators being appointed by the Governor-General (rather than the PM) on advice of the provinces. The provinces would be expected to hold Senatorial elections in conjunction with regular provincial elections. Senators would change therefore, seeing new and departing senators in the Red Chamber. There would be no party affiliations, and all senators would be Independent ones facing re-election with each provincial election. They too would be seated alphabetically by Senatorial District.
As with our current system, no MP faces re-election other than once every four years, on the fixed date. MPs would be tasked with determining the majority view in their riding on the issues and responsibilities of the federal government. This is best done through a Random Voter Priorities Survey. This information would be published in the media so that the MP's direction from his/her constituents is well known. We would introduce legislation to allow for Recall of MPs who do not faithfully represent their ridings. They would be required to stand for re-election in a by-election in which they could be replaced by someone else who would do a better job as that riding's elected representative.
When needed, such as when deciding larger issues that affect Canadian society as a whole, we would want to use binding Referendums. Examples where a referendum would be used would be regarding things like the legalization of marijuana or on the country's embracing of job-killing artificial intelligence, or about abortion, or the death penalty, free trade, same-sex marriage, gun registry, carbon tax, expanding Canada's military, and so on, to cite a few examples where referendums should be used.
Consensus Government ensures that government actually does only those things the people want them to do beyond regular day-to-day operations of government services. In emergency situations Government can still pass Orders-In-Council when a very quick decision is required, and it would afterwards be up for re-approval by the House of Commons if that special decision needed to extend beyond 30 days.
Consensus Government has never been considered federally or provincially before now because it is not in the interests of the political parties (politicians, members, donors) and their loyal voters, who understandably wish to see their own vision of Canada prevail. But let's face it: All MPs of all parties have been known to have had a good idea or two in the past.
The current party system has seen the Liberals and Conservatives take turns governing, and both have done a less than stellar job. Furthermore, when one party replaces the other, they stop pet projects of their predecessor and launch their own. When they get tossed out of power, so too do their initiatives. And so on it goes! A colossal waste of time and scarce tax dollars.
Consensus Government offers a truly better way to operate a modern democratic country in the 21st-Century! And this is a system already used in Canada for a very long time in our northern territories.
Consensus Government measures should also be implemented in the Senate of Canada. As this is an unelected body with only senators appointed by the prime minister, we propose that those appointments of provincial and territorial senators to fill vacancies as they arise will be filled from the names on a waiting list of senator nominees chosen during provincial elections, with the name at the top of the list filling the next vacancy. Those candidates will all be truly independent candidates and will use Consensus practices to determine how their provincial constituents want them to vote and represent them in the Senate.
And one more thing - Consensus Government is a FAR SUPERIOR change than Proportional Representation - specifically because Proportional Representation will only serve to strengthen the parties' grip on Canada's democracy, and weaken local representation of each riding. This is NOT what Canadians want. Now with Consensus Government Canadians have a realistic and superior option for the future to choose!