Sunday, December 9, 2012

British Columbia Legislature has to change from "Unicameral" to Bicameral or Multicameral

British Columbia's Legislature operates under a "unicameral" system, rather than a "multicameral".   We thought that the latter system would be more applicable because Canada's, and therefore British Columbia's, have communities containing multiple cultures: "multiculturism".


 In a book called "Publications of the Government of British Columbia 1871 - 1947", on Page 5 of 251, all is explained...... sort of... which led us to have a look at other systems, ones that would stop Christy Clark from preening and grandstanding in front of a camera  .....on taxpayers money as mentioned by RossK aka The Gazetteer.

By now you should be asking yourself just what is this "animal", this Unicameral???????  is it related to the Unicorn..........?    Latin uni, one + camera, chamber

We turned our attention to Google with this search criteria: unicameral legislature.  4.3 million hits.

Wikipedia on Unicarmeral:
In government, unicameralism (Latin uni, one + camera, chamber) is the practice of having one legislative or parliamentary chamber. Thus, a unicameral parliament or unicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of one chamber or house. Unicameral legislatures typically exist in small and homogeneous unitary states, where a second chamber is considered unnecessary.
British Columbia unicameral legislature  has two partners, working hand in hand......
The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia is one of two components of the Legislature of British Columbia, the provincial parliament (the other is the Queen of Canada, represented by the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia).

A "Yahoo! Answers" search for unicameral legislature came up with a differing opinion with Benjamin Franklin putting in his  two cents  by promoting bicameralism:
One of the arguments in favor of bicameralism was that one chamber should represent the wealthy class of society, while the other should represent all free men. In 1789, the state of Pennsylvania considered a change from unicameralism to bicameralism in its government. That year, Franklin wrote Queries and Remarks Respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania to record his opposition to bicameralism.

Wikipedia's take on "Bicameralism:

Bicameralism is an essential and defining feature of the classical notion of mixed government. Bicameral legislatures tend to require a concurrent majority to pass legislation.

Concurrent majority refers in general to the concept of preventing majorities from oppressing minorities by allowing various minority groups veto power over laws. The most vocal proponents of the theory have tended to be minority groups, such as farmers in an industrial society or nonwhites in a predominately white society. The concurrent majority is intended to prevent the tyranny of the majority that can otherwise occur in an unlimited democracy.

As to Multicameralism......

Check out Concept and you'll find this:
Proponents of unicameralism have also argued that it reduces costs, as even if the number of legislators is the same as it would be in a multicameral system, there are fewer institutions to maintain and support.

The main weakness of a unicameral system can be seen as the lack of restraint on the majority, particularly noticeable in parliamentary systems where the leaders of the parliamentary majority also dominate the executive. There is also the risk, depending on how seats are allocated in the legislature, that important sectors of society may not be adequately represented.

In the beginning, the BC Legislature building, the precinct, did not have political parties.  Constituents were represented by their MLA, answerable to the Constituents.  The MLAs decided who were going to be the Premier, who were going to be the Ministers.  If there were "failures", the Ministers would be replaced by another MLA.   No party lines, just a majority of MLAs forming a government whereby there were many MLAs crossing the floor because of the issues at hand.  Over simplification you might say, but the point here is that ...In the beginning.... our Legislature was not built upon Partisan politics, them against us, that now are present.  In the beginning, we all worked to make British Columbia a better place than when we found it.... but now it's more like the Government, the majority will do anything....even use close to $70 million of our money, our tax money, to pave the way to another majority.  That's criminal... if our foreparents, our foreUncle and Aunts, were to see the bickering that goes on now.....

Party government was not introduced into British Columbia until June 1, 1903 when Richard McBride announced the formation of a Conservative administration. The general election held later that year was the first to be fought along formal party lines.

Prior to 1903, elections were fought and governments were formed by groups, or factions. Allegiances were often more personal than political and were not fixed
Source: BC Legislative Library


Scotty on Denman said...

Recall that the sovereign (the LG, in BC) does not recognize parties per se, but rather a commitment by a group, any group, of elected Members of the Assembly to pass legislation. The LG prefers Members to legislate rather than campaign in frequent elections as a matter of timeliness, stability and economy. There is no "party system" except, of course, within parties themselves.

It is party discipline, not parliamentary rule that discourages floor-crossing or to Members voting against "the party line." As long as legislation can pass, the LG could care less about who voted for what. The LG may dissolve the parliament if no majority of Members, any Members, will pass legislation. In this sense, Members may support this or that party's platform to avoid standing for re-election for a variety of reasons instead of upon the merit or demerit of any particular bill.

It's the LG's job to discern which group of Members (or party, as we usually call it) will commit to passing bills into law with continuity and so must presume the bond between individual Members and a party, which avails an election candidate of a party's larger finances in return for a commitment to vote the party line, reflects the same level of understood commitment with regard to parliamentary votes. Again, avoiding elections figures highly to the LG as well as to Members, but not necessarily for the same reasons. Parties have evolved their purpose under these conditions whilst the parliamentary system has remained unchanged; the LG therefore commands the analogous latitude of decision-making as a judge in the common law legal system does: rules are relatively inert whereas practice evolves by precedent and circumstance.

Bicameralism is presumed to counter-balance the development of large, partisan voting blocks in parliament which could railroad minorities, or, in other words, protect minorities from the "tyranny of the majority." Originally the Upper Houses of bicameral systems were intended to protect old money, which is why they were called Senates. Nowadays Senates are called upon to improve representation of the electorate to what has become a plutocracy of politicians in the now party dominated legislatures, the same sentiment that calls for pro-rep, fixed election dates and other reforms ill-suited to the New Westminster parliamentary system.

Scotty on Denman said...

Canada's Constitution is very difficult to amend, rendering many proposed reforms, even those with merit, effectively moot. Provincial parliamentary unicameralism, being Constitutionally enshrined, would be one of those near-impossible amendments. (The formula is a super-majority of Provinces that represents a simple-majority of Canadians.)

Inasmuch as I agree Provincial parliaments have remained the oligo-plutocratic institutions they were originally designed to be, bicameralism might be recommended to prevent the "tyranny" of wealth and power from riding roughshod over the not-so strong- or-rich, particularly because oligarchies are such an increasingly small minority in our so-divided society. I wouldn't balk at the extra cost, a relative pittance like paper ballots and elections and law courts, well worth it. But, because of that darned Constitution, not to mention plutocrats and ignorant masses, it is to let's dream...(the scene is blurred and wavy; a billowing harp echoes arpeggios far, far...far.......away...)

We're talking about an Upper House, at least, what used to be called a Senate when it was created to protect old money but now perhaps more appropriately called a "Plebinate" to reflect the almost complete majority of ordinary, impoverished middle class voters. We might alternatively chose to reflect other dichotomies: an "Urbanate" to reflect the urban/rural divide, cities being small in size but big in population, or the other way round, an "Paganate" or "Heathenate" named after dwellers of the pagus or heath, gigantic in size but sparsely peopled.

We have no working model: Canada's Senate is a complete bastard misappropriated a century and a half ago from Mother England, where peerage was already in decline, to a wasteland (as in "vast") that never did have feudal tenure, an institution rationalized as representing regional interests in our huge country but, unelected, doing neither. Surely this cannot remedy the abuses of unicameral, provincial government. It has nonetheless been the subject of reform, usually trotted out when a government wants to distract attention away from some embarrassment; the tactic is effective because the thirst for better government is so great; debate is inspired, often cogent and sensible; government is sensitive enough to pay lip-service to this circus attraction, tinkering with restricting tenure and allowing for Senatorial elections but never doing anything that would require a Constitutional Amendment, like abolition. Elected Senators are a nice cookie but it remains for the PM to appoint them and, usually, such appointments favour the ruling federal party.

Federal politicians laugh at our misguided, moot, misinformed demands and inappropriate notions of Senatorial rep-by-pop. Look what happened to Mike Harcourt: got vilified for "screwing up" Senate seat apportionment; got called Premier Bonehead. Tsk.
Reality is even if the number of Senate seats was weighted by BC's population, it is totally unrepresentative in effect; moreover, rep-by-pop is inappropriate for determining the number of Senate seats a province gets because, if the Senate really is supposed to represent regional, that is, provincial interests, then each province, being an equal signatory to confederation, should get the same number of seats. Federal politicians rest assured they can get an uneducated electorate all in a lather any time they need to. Even Christy Clark as set this rabbit loose. Facts are the Senate isn't what it should be, we don't understand what it should be, we can't change what it is and, also because of the Constitution, we can't even get rid and be done with it. So if we want to have a provincial Upper House we'll definitely have to start from scratch.

There's still the Constitution BC signed onto. Guess the dream is over for now.