Does consensus government provide enough accountability?

This interesting question came up at one of the doors tonight. The voter was unhappy with the low standard of accountability required of the government during the 17th Assembly. And she’d like to have a say in who becomes premier, rather than leaving that decision up to the MLAs. She wondered if parties would answer some of these questions.

The fact is, they would. Parties would provide structure. They would group like-minded candidates together around a common set of values to pursue public policy priorities. They could provide resources to candidates to help them organize and finance their campaigns. This help would be especially useful for women trying to get elected. Having parties would allow all voters to have a say on who would be premier and what the government’s priorities should be, rather than leaving that decision up to the 19 MLAs. Parties would also provide discipline and influence among a disparate group of regular MLAs and improve government accountability. And maybe best of all, parties would attempt to field a candidate in every riding and thus bring the sorry practice of acclaiming candidates to an end.

The last time parties were tried at the territorial level – the NDP fielded candidates in 2003 – none of the candidates were elected.Since then, the cabinet has become increasingly remote, operating as executive decision makers. There have been numerous complaints from regular MLAs that they hear about decisions in the media like the rest of us. Regular MLAs have had trouble exercising their influence – and power – because they don’t act as a cohesive group most of the time. Maybe it’s time to talk about parties again.

Let me recommend a thorough summary of consensus government as it exists now, warts and all: http://uphere.ca/articles/norths-own-game

Lots to think about when the dust settles on this campaign.