An elected public servant expresses his grievances:
MPs are failing to fulfill their primary roles as legislators and are influenced more by career advancement and party loyalty than serving their constituents as the PMO makes all the decisions, says Independent MP Brent Rathgeber, who quit the Conservative caucus last year and has written a book on the decline of democracy in Canada.
“You are inundated very early after your election, probably at your first or second caucus meetings, on the importance of your new family, the caucus,” Mr. Rathgeber said.
“The more carrots that a Prime Minister has to hand out, the more solid his grip on discipline and party loyalty will be.”
To a certain degree it has been always thus. Gilbert and Sullivan were making much the same complaints in Iolanthe. A parliamentary system, however, requires party discipline in order to function. The open question is always how much. The modern consensus, at least from those who don't work in the PMO, is that way too much power is concentrated at Langevin Block. As this blog has noted over the years the best solution is to allow MPs to elected their leaders. A leader who could be dismissed by an angry caucus is an accountable leader. This is how our system of government worked, give or take, until the late 1960s.
No, it isn't that Pierre Trudeau ruined everything, he just ruined most things.
But at the base of politics isn't mechanics, it's the electorate. With an electoral class so indifferent to political life the details hardly seem to matter. If the voters wanted better government they could likely find people willing to give it to them. But the voters don't want better government, they're not interested in government as anything but a dispenser of goodies. Does the welfare bum really care how his check gets to the mail box?
The emergence of the Imperial Prime Minister is ultimately a product of Big Government. A citizenry that views itself as incapable of fending for itself will seek a protector. In primitive societies they turn to a tribal Big Man who dispenses favours, punishes disloyalty and feathers his own nest. After a century of welfare state politics we are closer to that tribal understanding of government than anything Gladstone or Brown would have appreciated.