Work in Progress
By Ivan Morgan
So just hear me out.
I know this is a loopy idea, and I can think of many reasons why it won’t work, and yet it has a strange appeal. It has the potential to solve a lot of problems with how we govern this place.
Should we adopt the system of a citizen’s assembly?
A citizen’s assembly is the idea that regular people are chosen by lottery to serve in the legislature. In our case, I see this as 40 people of legal age chosen from the population to serve a four-year term in the House of Assembly at the current MHA salary (and fabulous pension). Sort of a watered-down version of the Set For Life lottery (with a few strings attached).
Far fetched? We already do this with jury duty. People are pulled from the population to decide the fate of a fellow citizen accused of a crime. Why not a crew picked at random to decide all our fates?
Loads of people selected will move heaven and earth to weasel out of it, just like they do now with jury duty.
Nah, it’ll never work.
Except . . . Look where our current system has gotten us. The people we have elected over the years have made, by even the lowest standards, a complete and utter hash of it. The collective decisions of successive governments have led us to the brink of bankruptcy and the near ruination of our health care system, just to name a few disasters. It doesn’t look like picking folks the old-fashioned way is working. Could 40 randoms be any worse?
Another big plus in my mind would be no political parties. I worked for a political party and I am sadly all too well versed in why they don’t work. You think your MHA has any real say over his or her decisions? Ask Paul Lane. He will tell you – hell he has told us! He has shown us all the benefits of an independent MHA. Imagine 40!
But, you say, the people chosen will have no experience! How closely do you pay attention to the goings on in the House and in government? MHAs are quite often only there to be told how to vote. Imagine if they could talk among themselves and reach a consensus.
It would never work. Its not democratic. Is our current system? Mount Pearl has two seats in the House, Labrador has four. They are roughly the same population. There are rural seats with less than half the voters of Topsail-Paradise. Yet each district has one vote in the House. So that means if you live on the Northeast Avalon your vote isn’t as important. (Not picking on districts, just making a point.) Simply put, under the current system, some people have more say over how your tax dollars are spent than you. That’s not bias or prejudice – that’s math. Is this democratic? Obviously some think so. Do you?
What about careers of the chosen being put on hold? The House doesn’t sit many days. MHAs chosen by lottery don’t face re-election, so they wouldn’t have to spend the considerable time most elected MHAs now spend working for their re-election. But what about people who need help? We would keep constituency assistants. It’s they who do most of the work anyway.
Think of it. No more professional politicians. No more unelected party officials controlling your elected officials. No more big ideas coming down from the mountaintops and rammed through (think Muskrat Falls). Campaign financing problem solved.
Nah, it’s a silly idea.
I know one thing this idea is ideal for: if you want to start a racket at a family barbecue this summer bring it up. It should do nicely.