Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the "peanut gallery"...

Seriously Olive the problem with our Legislature is politicians like yourself who keep wanting to "out" people in our business Community over the PNP so you can score a few points in the media, not unlike your partner in crime Jim Bagnall... maybe something positive for a change would be welcoming news and I'm sure that is why Regis and Kelly are so popular as they always have sometime positive to say... I on the other hand am not in a popularity contest so the dribble I spew is irrelevant but the advice I give could be true...

Here's my tip "on how to create a more effective and accountable legislative assembly" and that would be by cutting the number of seats in half (we only have 140,000 people) and increase the salaries for elected members so more creditable candidates will run for election... working for peanuts brings out the "peanut gallery" and I rest my case... hopefully Olive you will be true to your word and refer my idea to your Party...

We need a serious conversation about legislative accountability

By Olive Crane
The Guardian, Dec 27, 2010

As an elected MLA, and leader of the official Opposition, I have read with interest a paper prepared for the Canadian Study of Parliament Group by Wayne MacKinnon.

I thought the title, Muddling Through: the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly, was an interesting title, but not necessarily an accurate one. However, I do believe that Mr. MacKinnon raises some very important issues that are in need of public discussion.

The suggestion that the current legislative process is contributing to a growing lack of respect for the integrity of our politicians is worrisome to me. Frankly, it is disconcerting as an elected MLA to come to the realization that political ‘one-upmanship’ and the pressure to obtain that 30-second clip on television, has transformed our parliamentary process into a bit of a media show.

I have a strong belief that MLAs are elected to ‘serve the people’ to the very best of their abilities. Often, I leave our legislative assembly pondering why Regis and Kelly would receive more public comment than concerns about the lack of services available for parents of autistic children or cutbacks in Registered Nurses in our manors and hospitals.

Mr. MacKinnon makes reference to our legislative committee process and I agree that the committees are often dysfunctional. Further, the committee process is often stymied by a majority of government members for political reasons rather than acting in the best interest of Islanders.

For example, political observers can point to the legislative committee on public accounts, which is expected to be one of the most powerful committees in terms of holding government accountable. This is the committee that has the power to subpoena witnesses. Its role is to ensure that corruption and mismanagement of government programs and services do not occur. Yet, political partisanship continues to stifle this committee from calling witnesses involved in the mismanagement of the Provincial Nominee Program. Let’s not forget that it was the auditor general who raised major concerns about how this program was administered.

The inability of this committee to function properly is not only frustrating to the Opposition, but appears to be violating the rights of Prince Edward Islanders to learn the truth about how this program was manipulated and mismanaged to the benefit of certain individuals.

Generally, the legislative standing committee process does provide an important tool that allows our MLAs to hear from a broad range of Islanders, and to address their concerns.

Notwithstanding the role of this process, however, there are areas that need to be reviewed, revised and improved, to ensure they operate effectively.

Mr. MacKinnon also suggests that MLAs spend too much of their time dealing with often petty constituency matters rather than the broader issues of public concern.

Certainly, Mr. MacKinnon is correct to suggest that MLAs in this province do spend an inordinate amount of time looking after their constituencies as compared to those in provinces with much larger populations. Again, this is a subject that needs further exploration and review.

MLA constituency work may be perceived as work we do to get re-elected, or work that is necessary to help improve the lives of our constituents, both on an individual and community basis. I believe Island MLAs are much more in touch with the people they represent. Our MLAs are literally part of every small community and many of us truly do care about the people in our ridings. We want to help where we can, if we can. Does that undermine our role as MLAs? Again, a subject for discussion.

As for the role of our backbench MLAs, they are elected and should be given the right to speak freely in our legislative assembly and to question the policies of government. Is this achievable?

Overall, I found that I agreed with much that Mr. MacKinnon has written in his paper and I have gone one step further and referred it to our Progressive Conservative party for closer scrutiny as we begin to develop policy and a platform for next year’s provincial election. I would also encourage Islanders who may have positive suggestions for reform to refer their ideas to our party as well.

Finally, I do believe that a serious conversation needs to take place on how to create a more effective and accountable legislative assembly, and I look forward to taking part in that discussion.

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