Wafting Westminster

Frustration with the House reform process

Well, the Liberals have abandoned some of their most “contentious” plans for reforming the House. That’s good. But the remains still fail the democratic sniff test.

The reforms left on the table are pretty tame. But the process to pass them won’t be. The Liberals justify pushing the remaining reforms through—likely with a whipped vote—because they’re campaign commitments. This makes sense for most policies, but how many voters voted specifically to reform some arcane House rules? This isn’t a question we can answer, of course. It doesn’t take much, however, to realize that changing House rules and procedure is a different matter than most policy issues.

The House has evolved over time, with varying degrees of opposition input. House reform isn’t a bad idea. It’s not the substance of the reforms I disagree with so much as the process to achieve them. When reforming one of the key institutions of our democracy, it seems important to incorporate more than merely the majority view. That is to say, if you’re going to reform the House, do your democratic reform democratically.

Sure, “democracy” is a word with multiple meanings. Depending on how you look at this, the Liberal majority passing the remaining reforms would be “democratic.” But it doesn’t quite pass the democratic sniff test: the governing party doesn’t seem to have the support of the major opposition parties. When reforming the very rules and procedures which govern the working relationship between the governing and opposition parties, working to write those reforms together is essential.