Monday, September 13, 2010

Layton Shows Canada a Moment of Real Democracy

The long-gun registry is polarizing Canadians, seemingly along rural versus urban lines, but I do know some here in the big city against the registry too. This post is not about the merits of the registry but of the upcoming vote in the House of Commons.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have vocally opposed the registry and said if in power would abolish it, it was not the government who put forth the bill to do so, but a private member. The Tories will, of course, support it, and the Liberals will oppose, and they're doing it in traditional Canadian Parliamentary style: tell all the MPs to vote the way their leaders want them to, not their constituents or on what they campaigned on. But the NDP are breaking away from whip-style politics, and they're getting a lashing for practicing democracy.

The NDP officially support the registry, but recognizing how passionate people are and not all NDP supporters are for the registry, NDP leader Jack Layton has decided not to whip NDP MPs into submission but instead use suasion to have them vote against the bill. For one brief moment, Layton is showing Canadians how the democracy they've been demanding looks like and works.

Yet many Canadians are howling against Layton, calling him a poor leader. Au contraire: a leader who can persuade the people who follow him to his point of view, as he's starting to do, is stronger than a leader who can only get his followers to keep in line by threatening ostracization. And when there's a conflict between party needs and Canada's needs, the party whip will ensure the former is met not the latter. Layton-style democracy puts the latter in the forefront. Although whipping MPs into line may seem to be a good idea on this bill, what about many previous ones where it hasn't been good for Canada, only for parties to avoid an election? The kind of democracy Layton is demonstrating may be scary, but it is what we keep asking for. Laud it Canada!

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