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The challenge of commitment: Accountability

Is a member’s seat in the House more important than that member’s personal integrity?

By Georges R. Dupras

The world is a stage

When young men and women join our military ranks, they agree to serve their country. This decision may inevitably cost them their lives. Unfortunately, death and serious injuries are a very real part of military service. Those in our armed services, not prepared to lay down their lives for this Country, have chosen the wrong career path.

Candidates seeking a political career also make a commitment. I’m talking of one that goes beyond the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown; the one they make to the People. This can, at times, challenge the member’s personal ethical standards. On occasion the member might be at odds with the party they are aligned with. The Hon. Jody Wilson Raybould and The Hon. Jane Philpott are examples of this dilemma.

The cost of integrity

Is a member’s seat in the House more important than that member’s personal integrity? What if the member is at odds with his party leader, a particular policy perhaps, or with something they are asked to do? Should the member bow to pressure from the party whip or should that member stand his ground?

Candidates seeking a political career also make a commitment. I’m talking of one that goes beyond the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown; the one they make to the People.

Much like the soldier on the front line a choice must be made. Do you fight the inevitable, knowing you will lose, or do you surrender your beliefs with the hope of future victories?

Republicans in the United States House of Representatives face that dilemma today. Many of them do not support President Donald Trump, but feel bound, or pressured by party lines, to defend the President regardless of their personal beliefs, or even their country’s best interests. If they are not prepared to risk the inevitable in the interest of their beliefs, have they not chosen the wrong career path?

The difference

The cost of having made the wrong choice has its consequences, but they are miles apart. On the battlefield a soldier may be killed, mutilated or incapacitated for life. For their dedication, and assuming they survive, they get a meagre pension and our thanks once a year on November the 11th.

‘Have you ever wondered why… we call “Question Period” by that name? That’s because though a question may be directed to a designated official, that member is not obliged to answer.’

A Minister, can lose a portfolio and be forced to resign. Short of being re-assigned as an Ambassador, he or she leaves with only a government pension, indexed to the cost of living. A second-term member of Parliament, may also be forced out with only a lifetime pension, indexed to the cost of living. Both may be offered a seat in the Senate.

The stage

Have you ever wondered why, when the House is in session, we call “Question Period” by that name? That’s because though a question may be directed to a designated official, that member is not obliged to answer. The official might decide to ignore the question all together and instruct the House on how to bake blueberry muffins. Where the play undermines the electorate is that the Speaker of the House has no power to insist that the question be answered. If the Ministers and members were required to answer, it would be called the “Question and Answer” period.

Loss of faith

During election years, politicians and some journalists, are openly critical of people who fail to vote. This failure I would suggest is understandable and justifiable up to a point. Why should anyone who has lost faith in our system lend credibility, through their ballot, to a Government they don’t believe in?

‘It is time we reform our system, beginning with the responsibilities of the Speaker of the House. Make the Commons more accountable to the people of this Country.’

If I don’t like a play, I simply walk out, and quite frankly I don’t particularly like this play and most assuredly many of the actors. That said, I still vote and encourage others to vote as well, even if the vote is cast in protest, this for the sake of those who gave so much for what they believed in.

Marionnettes or puppets

On this stage we are all marionettes, someone somewhere is pulling our strings – children, aging parents, family pets, co-workers, clients, banks, etc. Nothing wrong with that. It comes with the territory and becomes a problem only when we go from being a marionette to a hand puppet and relinquish all independent thought.

Reform

It is time we reform our system, beginning with the responsibilities of the Speaker of the House. Make the Commons more accountable to the people of this Country. It is also time that members of parliament put the people of Canada ahead of their party’s interests, as well as their own.

I close by extending my respect and admiration to both The Hon. Jody Wilson Raybould and The Hon. Jane Philpott for their integrity and commitment to the people of Canada.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of WestmountMag.ca, its publishers or editors.

Feature image: See page for author [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Read also: other articles by Georges Dupras


Georges Dupras

Georges R. Dupras has advocated for animals for over fifty years. A member of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA), a Director of the Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC), Quebec Representative of Zoocheck Canada and past Board member of the Canadian SPCA, he worked on the original Save the Seal campaign in 1966 that culminated in the founding of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 1969. Georges Dupras has published two books, Values in Conflict and the eBook Ethics, a Human Condition, and currently lives in Montreal, Canada.


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  1. Linda Hammerschmid

    I will only comment on the topic of voting.
    Regardless of whether or not one has lost faith in the system voting remains about the most important right the people still have and abdication of this right is indefensible, particularly if one has lost faith.

    No matter the candidates in one’s polling station, the people have an obligation, nay a duty, to vote. I have no issue with spoiling the ballot by marking an X on all the names or not marking any X and returning a blank ballot, so long as the person takes the time every 4 years to perform this fundamental right.

    Not doing so, when so many countries don’t allow free and uncoerced voting is a slap on not only democracy but also on those in the military who have sacrificed so much so that we may continue to have this fundamental right of citizenry!

    I salute your statement that you encourage those you know to vote. So do I. Otherwise those who don’t must hold their tongues for the period until a next election as they have been foreclosed from uttering criticism of the system in which they took no part.

  2. Joan Sargent

    I so agree with this article. And I was surprised that some of my acquaintances were critical of the ethical stance of Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould, those who felt party interests should come ahead of ethics!


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