Transcript: Power and Powerless Politicians | Oct 20, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, checkered shirt, and navy blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Power and the powerless politicians. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says DESPITE WHAT PEOPLE TEND TO SAY ABOUT POLITICIANS, YOU'D ACTUALLY BE HARD-PRESSED TO FIND ONE THAT WENT THROUGH THE ORDEAL OF SEEKING A NOMINATION, CAMPAIGNING DOOR-TO-DOOR AND POSSIBLY GETTING ELECTED, WITH AN EYE TO DOING NOTHING AND HAVING NO INFLUENCE. TO A PERSON, THEY'RE USUALLY MOTIVATED BY A DESIRE TO SERVE THEIR COMMUNITIES. ALEX MARLAND IS A PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY. HIS NEW BOOK EXAMINES ONE OF THE WAYS THAT HOPEFUL AMBITION CAN HIT A BRICK WALL. IT'S CALLED, "WHIPPED: PARTY DISCIPLINE IN CANADA," AND ALEX MARLAND JOINS US NOW FROM ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR...

Alex is in his forties, clean-shaven, with short blond hair. He's wearing a khaki shirt.
A picture of his book appears briefly on screen. The cover is black, with the title in bright green and yellow.

Steve continues ALEX, GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Alex says I'M OKAY. THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Steve says GLAD TO HEAR IT. LET'S START BY MY READING AN EXCERPT FROM YOUR BOOK OFF THE TOP HERE. HERE WE GO.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "The iron hand." The quote reads "Political parties are essential for keeping large numbers of politicians organized; however, the systematic integration of politicians is so successful that some believe Canada has the most rigit party discipline of any liberal democracy and that party government has supplanted parliamentary government. The tight binds of partisanship among Canadian politicians are at odds with political parties' loosening grip on the electorate. The near iron hand of party discipline that keeps parliamentarians in the fold is arguably the greatest frustration that Canadians have with their system of government."
Quoted from Alex Marland, "Whipped: Party discipline in Canada." 2020.

Steve says LET'S GET INTO THIS, ALEX. HOW DO YOU SEE THAT FRUSTRATION MANIFESTING ITSELF MOREOVER?

The caption changes to "Alex Marland. Author, 'Whipped: Party discipline in Canada.'"
Then, it changes again to "Following orders."

Alex says I MEAN, I'M GLAD THAT YOU HAVE THAT QUOTE BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS THAT ARE IN IT. I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS TO THINK ABOUT IS, THE MORE THAT CANADIANS LEARN ABOUT POLITICAL PARTIES, I THINK THE MORE FRUSTRATED THEY WOULD GET. ANYBODY WHO BECOMES A CANDIDATE WITH A POLITICAL PARTY INSTANTLY STARTS REALIZING THAT THEY ARE NOT A FREE AGENT, THAT THEY ARE JOINING A POLITICAL CLUB, THEY ARE PART OF A TEAM, THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO FOLLOW THE RULES OF THAT TEAM, AND THEN YOU BECOME AN MP OR AN MPP, AND THE RULES GET EVEN TIGHTER FOR YOU, AND YOU START REALIZING THAT, WOW, I'M NOT HERE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. I'M HERE TO REPRESENT MY PARTY. I MEAN, THIS IS NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR. AND SO GENERALLY I WOULD SAY THAT THIS IS THE CHALLENGE FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE. THEY BECOME REDUCED TO VOTING MACHINES. THEY BECOME PARTY ROBOTS. THEY BECOME TRAINED SEALS. AND FOR THE AVERAGE CANADIAN, IT'S NOT A GOOD LOOK. IT DOESN'T MAKE US THINK THAT WE HAVE A VIBRANT DEMOCRACY WHEN PARTIES ARE SO POWERFUL.

Steve says AND HOW DID YOU CONCLUDE THAT WE SEEM TO HAVE THE STRICTEST SYSTEM OUT OF ALL OF THE WESTMINSTER-STYLE PARLIAMENTS?

The caption changes to "Alex Marland. Memorial University."

Alex says WELL, IT'S NOT SO MUCH THAT I'VE CONCLUDED THAT, IT'S THAT POLITICAL SCIENTISTS HAVE SAID THAT A NUMBER OF TIMES. SO THE RESEARCH THAT I'VE DONE HAS LOOKED EXCLUSIVELY AT CANADA, BUT DRAWING UPON WHAT OTHER RESEARCHERS HAVE DONE POINTS OUT THAT, YOU KNOW, CANADA HAS SOME OF THE STRICTEST. SOME WORK THAT IS BEING DONE THAT DOES LOOK AT CANADA SAYS THAT, YOU KNOW, THERE WERE POLITICIANS IN THE LAST PARLIAMENT WHO VOTED 100 percent OF THE TIME WITH THEIR PARTY. 100 percent. THERE WASN'T A SINGLE TIME THEY VOTED AGAINST THE PARTY. I MEAN, HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? AND A LOT OF THEM WOULD SAY, IT'S BECAUSE THEY INHERENTLY SUPPORT THE PARTY. THEY SUPPORT THE LEADER. BUT A LOT OF US WOULD SAY, WELL, IT JUST DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. SURELY THERE HAVE TO BE TIMES AND YOU DISAGREE. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE SYSTEM THAT COMPELS YOU TO ALWAYS VOTE FOR YOUR PARTY.

Steve says I FOUND ONE OF THE INTERESTING NUMBERS IN YOUR BOOK RELATES TO A GUY WHO REPRESENTS A RIDING IN THE CAPITAL CITY HERE IN ONTARIO, HIS NAME IS NATHAN SMITH AND I'VE REGARDED HIM AS A BIT OF A MAVERICK WHO WOULD BE PREPARED TO BUCK HIS PARTY WHEN HE FELT HIS CONSCIENCE REQUIRED HIM TO DO SO, AND YOU TELL US THAT HE VOTED WITH HIS PARTY 96.1 percent OF THE TIME WHICH WAS VERY EYE OPENING TO ME. WHICH OF THE FEDERAL PARTIES ACTUALLY IS THE MOST DISCIPLINARIAN WHEN IT COMES TO VOTING?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Alex says ODDLY, FROM WHAT I'VE SEEN, IT ENDS UP BEING THE NDP. IN A WAY, THAT'S ODD BECAUSE WE THINK OF THE NDP AS, YOU KNOW, SUPPORTING DEMOCRACY. IT'S THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY. BUT PART OF THE REASON FOR THAT IS BECAUSE OF THE IDEOLOGICAL COHERENCE IN THE NDP THAT, YOU KNOW, IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE A MEMBER WITH THAT PARTY, YOU SUPPORT ORGANIZED LABOUR, YOU SUPPORT ALL SORTS OF PRINCIPLES IN THEIR CONSTITUTION. THE REAL TEST IS REALLY WHETHER YOU ARE IN GOVERNMENT OR WHETHER YOU'RE IN OPPOSITION. WHEN YOU'RE IN OPPOSITION, YOU'RE NOT OBLIGED TO VOTE THE PARTY LINE WITH THE SAME AMOUNT OF PRESSURE AS WHEN YOU'RE IN GOVERNMENT. AND FOR ME, THIS IS PROBABLY THE MAIN THING THAT I FOUND THAT IS SO TROUBLING. IF YOU ARE A PART OF THE GOVERNING PARTY AND YOU ARE PART OF THE GOVERNMENT SIDE OF THE HOUSE AND YOU'RE A BACKBENCHER, MEANING YOU'RE NOT PART OF CABINET, THERE'S STILL AN EXPECTATION THAT YOU VOTE WITH THE GOVERNMENT ALL THE TIME. AND NOT ONLY VOTING WITH THE GOVERNMENT, BUT YOU'RE PROMOTING GOVERNMENT MESSAGES. SO YOU BECOME A MESSENGER FOR THE GOVERNMENT, WHEN REALLY YOU'RE MEANT TO BE HOLDING THE GOVERNMENT TO ACCOUNT. IT'S A REAL FRUSTRATION FOR HOW THE SYSTEM IS DESIGNED.

Steve says WELL, THAT'S INTERESTING. THAT TRANSFORMATION HAS REALLY BEEN QUITE PROFOUND. BECAUSE ONCE UPON A TIME THE WAY YOU JUST DESCRIBED IS IS THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE. BACKBENCHERS WERE PART OF THE SYSTEM TO KEEP THE GOVERNMENT AND THE CABINET IN CHECK. IN FACT I THINK THE EXPRESSION YOU USED IS THEY'RE NOW BRAND AMBASSADORS. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THAT CHANGE?

Alex says RIGHT. SO, YOU KNOW, PART OF WHAT I'M SUGGESTING IS, POLITICIANS HAVE MOVED FROM BEING FOREMOST LAWMAKERS AND THEN THEY BECAME CONSTITUENCY CASE WORKERS AND NOW, AS I SEE IT, THEY'VE BECOME BRAND AMBASSADORS, THE IDEA THAT THEY ARE PROMOTING MESSAGES OF THE PARTY, OF THE LEADER, AND ON THE GOVERNMENT SIDE, OF THE GOVERNMENT. THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS THAT THAT STIFLES FREE DISCUSSION AND DEBATE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. SO YOU END UP HAVING POLITICIANS WHO ARE GIVING MESSAGES AND ARE CONSTANTLY PROMOTING THESE MESSAGES. THEY CAN'T REALLY GET INTO ANY SUBSTANTIVE CONVERSATION, OTHER THAN SUPPORTING THE PARTY LINE PUBLICLY, BECAUSE IF THEY DO, IT'S CONTROVERSIAL. THE MEDIA WILL PICK UP IMMEDIATELY. OPPONENTS WILL DRAW ON IT AND SAY, OH, MY GOSH, THIS PERSON IS DISAGREEING WITH THEIR LEADER. THIS IS A BIG NEWS STORY. SO THERE'S ALL THESE PRESSURES ON POLITICIANS TO STAY WITH THE PARTY WHENEVER THEY'RE SPEAKING PUBLICLY, WHICH OF COURSE DOESN'T SOUND VERY MUCH HEALTHY FOR DEMOCRACY.

Steve says LET ME, FOR ARGUMENT'S SAKE, MAKE THE OTHER... PUT THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ARGUMENT OUT THERE, WHICH IS, IN CAUCUS, WHICH ARE SUPPOSED TO BE PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS, MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT OR MEMBERS OF THEIR PROVINCIAL LEGISLATURES ARE ENCOURAGED TO BE COMBATIVE AS HECK. THEY'RE ALLOWED TO HAVE GOOD, VIBRANT, ENERGETIC DEBATES ABOUT THINGS. BUT THAT ONCE THE PARTY COMES TO A DECISION, WHATEVER THAT MEANS, THEY'RE EXPECTED TO SING FROM THE SAME HYMN BOOK AND GO OUT THERE AND BE LOYAL TEAM MEMBERS. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?

Alex says SO A LOT OF POLITICIANS SAY NOTHING IS WRONG WITH THAT AND IN FACT YOU HAVE TO DO THAT BECAUSE IF NOT, YOU'LL GET EATEN ALIVE. HERE IS A FUNDAMENTAL THING THAT I'M NOT SURE EVERYBODY IS FULLY AWARE OF. IF SOMETHING HAS FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGED OTHER THAN OBVIOUSLY ALL THE CHANGES WITH THE MEDIA IS THAT STAFF NOW HAVE A PERMANENT PRESENCE IN CAUCUS MEETINGS. THAT DID NOT USED TO BE THE CASE. THAT IS SOMETHING THAT HAS TRANSFORMED IN THE LAST 10, 15 YEARS. IT SEEMS TO BE INTENT TO FIND... CERTAINLY THERE'S A LARGE PRESENCE OF STAFF IN JUSTIN TRUDEAU'S CAUCUS MEETINGS AND OTHER PREMIERS. AND THE STAFF WILL SAY, WELL, THEY HAVE TO DO IT. INFORMATION MOVES SO QUICKLY NOWADAYS THAT THEY NEED TO BE THERE AND HEAR THINGS IN REAL TIME. HERE'S THE PROBLEM: STAFF HAVE AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF POWER OVER THE CAREER OF A POLITICIAN. AND EVEN IF THE STAFF SAYS THEY DON'T REALLY, THE BOTTOM LINE IS THE POLITICIANS THINK THAT THEY DO. SO WHAT HAPPENS IN THE CAUCUS MEETING THEY DON'T FEEL FREE TO SPEAK UP. A LOT OF THE FREE DIALOGUE YOU TALK ABOUT HAPPENS IN THE REGIONAL CAUCUS MEETINGS, IN THE SMALLER MEETINGS, WHERE STAFF MAY NOT BE PRESENT.

Steve says I WONDER IF AS WELL THERE'S A GENERATIONAL THING HERE. BECAUSE A LOT OF THESE STAFF TEND TO BE IN THEIR 20s AND 30s AND A LOT OF ELECTED POLITICIANS TEND TO BE IN THEIR 40s, 50s, AND 60s, AND I'M GUESSING PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY WENT OUT, TOOK THE COURAGE TO PUT THEIR NAME ON A BALLOT, GOT THEMSELVES ELECTED, DO NOT WANT TO BE TAKING ORDERS FROM A BUNCH OF YOUNG WHIPPER SNAPPERS; IS THAT IT?

Alex says THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR A LONG TIME. YOU MAY HAVE HEARD THE EXPRESSION BOYS IN SHORT PANTS, WHICH IS NOT EXCLUSIVE TO BOYS BY ALL MEANS. A PERSON WHO HAS EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE IS TOLD BY A YOUNG WHIPPER SNAPPER, YOU'RE NOT DOING THIS RIGHT OR YOU BETTER DO THE FOLLOWING. THE CHALLENGE I THINK THAT STAFF ARE NOT ALWAYS FAMILIAR WITH IS HOW MUCH POWER THEY CONVEY JUST BY REPRESENTING THE OFFICE OF THE PREMIER OR REPRESENTING THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER OR ANY LEADER'S OFFICE, THAT IT'S A PERCEPTION THAT IS HELD BY THE PEOPLE THEY'RE SPEAKING WITH, THAT THEY THEMSELVES MAY NOT ALWAYS BE AWARE OF.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Steve says NOW, LET'S DO A REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE HERE. OF COURSE, THERE ARE TONS TO PICK FROM. ONE OF THE ONES YOU RAISE IN THE BOOK... IT JUST SAID EVERYTHING ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE RAILING AGAINST HERE. WAS A BRITISH COLUMBIA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT BY THE NAME OF DAVID WILKES, AND WE'RE GOING BACK ALMOST A DECADE NOW. AND HE'S, I GATHER, IN A DINER OR COFFEE SHOP OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT TALKING TO SOME CONSTITUENTS ABOUT SOME ISSUES RELATED TO THE UPCOMING BUDGET. HE WAS A STEPHEN HARPER MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT. AND HE JUST WAS SORT OF EXPLAINING TO PEOPLE WHY HE HAD TO VOTE THE WAY HE HAD TO VOTE, AND IT TURNED INTO A HUGE CONTROVERSY AND REALLY AFFECTED HIS CAREER. FILL IN THE BLANKS, IF YOU WOULD, ON THAT STORY.

Alex says OKAY. SO DAVID WILKES WAS A BACK BENCH MEMBER OF THE CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT WITH STEPHEN HARPER. HE HOLDS A MEETING WITH A NUMBER OF CONSTITUENTS, AND THEY'RE SITTING AROUND SAYING, WHY DON'T YOU JUST VOTE AGAINST THE BUDGET. THIS IS WRONG. WE DON'T WANT YOU TO SUPPORT THIS. SO HE EXPLAINS HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS. HE SAYS, LOOK, AS A BACKBENCHER IF I VOTE AGAINST THE BUDGET, I'M NO LONGER GOING TO BE PART OF CAUCUS. THAT'S SIMPLY THE WAY IT WORKS. IT'S A CONFIDENCE CONVENTION. FOR ANYTHING TO REALLY EFFECT CHANGE ON THE BUDGET, THERE WOULD HAVE TO BE MAYBE A DOZEN BACKBENCHERS WHO WOULD STAND UP AND SAY WE'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS. THERE'S REALLY NO POINT. IF I VOTE AGAINST THE BUDGET, THE NEXT DAY I WILL NO LONGER BE PART OF THE PARTY AND MY POLITICAL CAREER WILL PROBABLY BE OVER. SO THEY'RE ALL TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THIS. AND HE'S VERY DEMOCRATIC AND HE SAYS, SURE, I DON'T MIND IF YOU RECORD THIS, THAT'S FINE. SO SOMEBODY RECORDS IT, PUTS IT UP ON YouTube. YOU CAN GUESS WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THAT. ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE, THERE'S ALL THIS CONTROVERSY, IT'S IN THE MEDIA, IT'S TALKED ABOUT ALL OVER THE PLACE. AND EVERYBODY IS SAYING, THIS IS TERRIBLE. HOW CAN HE BE SAYING THIS? AND MORE THAN THAT, PEOPLE START DEMONSTRATING. THEY START MOBILIZING SAYING WE NEED TO GET 12 TORIES ALL TOGETHER TO VOTE AGAINST THE BUDGET. ANYWAY, HE GETS CALLED INTO THE WHIP'S OFFICE. HE'S TOLD TO APOLOGIZE. AND HE'S TAKEN OFF SOME COMMITTEES. HE ENDS UP NOT BEING VERY SATISFIED ABOUT HIS POLITICAL CAREER, AND NOW HE'S A MAYOR AND I THINK THAT HE'S MUCH HAPPIER AS A MAYOR THAN HE WAS WHEN HE WAS IN OTTAWA.

Steve says BUT IF I REMEMBER FROM YOUR BOOK, STEPHEN HARPER ACTUALLY HAD A CONVERSATION WITH HIM ABOUT THIS TOO, DIDN'T HE?

Alex says YEAH. THIS IS ONE OF THE INTERESTING THINGS. A LOT OF US THINK THE LEADER'S FINGERS IS ALL OVER THIS, ESPECIALLY SOMEONE AS POWERFUL AS STEPHEN HARPER. BUT FRANKLY A LOT OF IT GETS DELEGATED. I'VE BEEN TOLD THAT IT'S NOT A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE THE PRIME MINISTER OR OTHERS BOTHERED BY THESE SORTS OF DETAILS. IT'S STRESSFUL. AND SO WHAT HAPPENS IS IT GETS DELEGATED. WHETHER IT'S TO STAFF OR THE WHIP OR SOMEBODY ELSE. THEY'RE THE ONES WHO ARE DEALING WITH ALL OF THESE INTERNAL CHALLENGES THAT ARE GOING ON ABOUT GETTING PEOPLE TO TOE THE PARTY LINE. SO A LOT OF THE DISCIPLINE IS ACTUALLY MORE OF A COLLEGIAL DISCIPLINE THAN IT IS NECESSARILY COMING FROM THE LEADER DIRECTLY.

Steve says I ASK THIS NEXT QUESTION COGNIZANT OF THE FACT THAT I'M SITTING HERE IN THE WILLIAM G. DAVIS STUDIO, NAMED AFTER THE FORMER ONTARIO PREMIER HERE AT TVO, AND THE QUESTION IS THIS: YOU KNOW, I WONDER IF, AS MUCH AS BACKBENCHERS DON'T LIKE THE PHENOMENON YOU'VE DESCRIBED, THEY DO PUT UP WITH IT TO A GREAT EXTENT, UNLIKE MANY IN THE UNITED STATES WHO SEEM TO RELISH THE HURLEY BURLY ASPECT OF POLITICS DOWN THERE. I WONDER IF, IT'S BILL DAVIS ONCE SAID WHEN ASKED WHY DO YOU RUN SUCH A BLAND, BOTHERING GOVERNMENT, HIS ANSWER WAS: BLAND WORKS. I WONDER IF OUR CANADIAN TEMPERAMENT, WHICH PRESUMABLY EXTENDS TO THESE POLITICIANS, POSSIBLY ACCOUNTS FOR THE REASON WHY THERE'S SO FEW REVOLUTIONARIES ON THE BACKBENCHERS.

Alex says THERE'S SOME TRUTH TO WHAT YOU'RE SAYING. I THINK POLITICAL PARTIES CERTAINLY WANT THAT. THEY WANT PARTY SOLDIERS WHO ARE NOT CAUSING TROUBLE. BUT, YOU KNOW, OUT HERE IN NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR, THERE'S BEEN A NUMBER OF COLOURFUL PERSONALITIES OVER THE YEARS AND PEOPLE LIKE JOHN CROSBIE AND BRIAN TOBIN HAVE REALLY FOUND A WAY TO DEVELOP THEIR OWN PERSONALITIES. I WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU TO THINK ABOUT THE CURRENT CABINET AT THE FEDERAL OR PROVINCIAL LEVEL, THINK ABOUT BACKBENCHERS. IT'S REALLY HARD TO THINK OF MAVERICKS AND STRONG PERSONALITIES THE WAY THAT THEY USED TO EXIST IN THE PAST. SO I WOULD SAY THAT WHAT'S HAPPENING IS, WITH SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE ABILITY TO MONITOR WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING, WE'RE REALLY SEEING POLITICAL PARTIES EXERT THEIR CONTROL AND SAY, LOOK, YOU BETTER NOT GO OUT OF LINE PUBLICLY. YOU HAD BETTER STAY WITH THE MESSAGE. BECAUSE OTHERWISE, THERE'S GOING TO BE TROUBLE.

Steve says LET'S STATE THE OBVIOUS HERE AS WELL WHICH IS YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO TO THE BACK BEVERAGES TO FIND THESE EXAMPLES. WE HAD ONE IN THE LAST FEW YEARS IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL WHERE JANE PHILPOTT AND JODY WILSON-RAYBOULD, TWO MEMBERS OF THE CABINET OF JUSTIN TRUDEAU, WERE UNHAPPY WITH THE WAY THAT HE HANDLED THE SNC-LAVALIN AFFAIR, AND AS A RESULT, MADE THE... ULTIMATELY MADE THEIR CONCERNS KNOWN OUTSIDE OF CAUCUS AND BOTH OF THEM WERE DRUMMED OUT OF THE CAUCUS AND OF COURSE JANE PHILPOTT IS OUT OF POLITICS NOW AND JODY WILSON-RAYBOULD CAME BACK... WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO GET RE-ELECTED AS AN INDEPENDENT. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THAT SITUATION, WHAT CONCLUSION DO YOU COME TO?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Alex says WELL, THANKS FOR RAISING THAT BECAUSE I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO INTERVIEW BOTH OF THEM FOR THIS BOOK AND THERE IS A SECTION ABOUT THE SNC-LAVALIN CRISIS OR AFFAIR, I GUESS. THERE'S A LOT OF LAYERS TO IT. I THINK WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE SNC-LAVALIN DISPUTE WAS FOREMOST A POLICY DISPUTE WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT. BUT THEN IT TRANSFORMED INTO A PARTY ISSUE ONCE THOSE TWO WOMEN WERE NO LONGER PART OF CABINET. WHY WERE THEY NOT ALLOWED TO STAY WITHIN THE LIBERAL PARTY? WHY IS IT THEY ENDED UP GETTING THE BOOT? AND PART OF IT WAS BECAUSE THEY WERE STILL SPEAKING AND COMMUNICATING WITH THE MEDIA. THE IDEA IS ESSENTIALLY ONCE YOU ARE PART OF THE CAUCUS AND ONCE YOU ARE A BACKBENCHER, YOU ARE MEANT TO STAY QUIET, STAY OUT OF IT. IF THEY HAD NOT SPOKEN TO THE MEDIA WHATSOEVER, THEY WOULD HAVE DONE A DISSERVICE TO CANADIAN DEMOCRACY, BUT THEY WOULD HAVE DONE A SERVICE TO THE LIBERAL PARTY OF CANADA. AND SO THAT'S A DIFFERENT WAY OF LOOKING AT HOW OUR DEMOCRACY WORKS.

Steve says LET'S PULL ANOTHER EXCERPT OUT OF THE BOOK HERE. SHELDON, I AM AT THE BOTTOM OF PAGE 3. IF YOU COULD BRING UP THIS QUOTE...

Another quote from Alex's book appears on screen, under the title "Democracy without parties?" The quote reads "Just 4-5 percent of the Canadian electorate prioritizes candidate factors in elections, a percentage even lower in urban areas among less informed voters and outside of Quebec. Voter assessments of local candidates matter to the outcome of elections in only 10-14 percent of seats. This means that candidates make a difference in close races but otherwise have no practical bearing on who wins or who loses. If political parties did not exist or even if party labels did not appear on the ballot, then voters would be more attuned to their local representatives."

Steve says THIS IS... I MEAN, THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE AND IT'S GOT TO BE INCREDIBLY DEPRESSING FOR THOSE WHO PUT THEIR NAMES ON BALLOTS AND THINK THOSE NAMES MATTER AT ALL. I MEAN, HOW DEPRESSED... HOW DEPRESSED SHOULD WE ALL BE ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE PEOPLE WHO TAKE THE TROUBLE TO PUT THEIR NAME ON BALLOTS AND KNOCK ON 30,000 DOORS AND IT ACCOUNTS FOR NEXT TO NOTHING AT THE END OF THE DAY?

Alex says YEAH, I MEAN, THAT'S THE CHALLENGE, ISN'T IT? YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO LOOK AT THE GOOD AND THE BAD. AND THE GOOD IS THAT WITH, YOU KNOW, THE SYNTHESIZING OF MESSAGING, WE HAVE A LOT OF CLARITY ABOUT WHAT POLITICAL PARTIES STAND FOR. SO WHEN SOMEBODY IS GOING TO VOTE AND THEY'RE TRYING TO THINK ABOUT LEADERS, THEY'RE TRYING TO THINK ABOUT PARTIES AND THEIR POSITIONS, AT LEAST THERE'S CLARITY. THAT'S A GOOD THING. THE CHALLENGE, OF COURSE, IS THAT YOUR AVERAGE REPRESENTATIVE IS NOT GOING TO MAKE MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE TO THE PARTY ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THEY'RE ABLE TO WIN OR LOSE THE SEAT. AND A NUMBER OF PEOPLE I'VE INTERVIEWED TELL ME THIS SORT OF THING. THEY ARE TOLD ALL THE TIME: LOOK, YOU ARE PROBABLY GOING TO MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 10 percent OF WINNING OR LOSING. YOUR CHANCES ARE... 90 percent OF THE VOTE IS COMING FROM THE LEADER, IT'S COMING FROM THE PARTY, SO YOU BETTER DO WHAT WE TELL YOU. BUT ON THE FLIP SIDE WHAT THE PARTIES ARE SAYING WE NEED YOU TO KNOCK ON DOORS BECAUSE WE NEED YOU TO GENERATE DATA ABOUT CONSTITUENTS. WE NEED YOU TO PUT THIS IN IPADS THAT ARE GOING TO BE UPLOADED TO THE CLOUD SO WE CAN IN TURN ASK PEOPLE FOR MONEY, ASK THEM TO SHOW UP FOR AN EVENT. AND IF YOU DO ANYTHING WRONG, YOU'RE GOING TO BE CUT OFF FROM THAT DATABASE, WHICH IS EVEN MORE CHALLENGING.

Steve says LET'S ASK THE BIG "IF" QUESTION HERE, WHICH IS, AND I'LL MAKE THE COMPARISON TO WESTMINSTER IN THE UNITED KINGDOM WHERE THEY DO ALLOW A LOT MORE FREE VOTES AND WHERE BACK BENCHERS ARE ALLOWED TO ACT MORE INDEPENDENT THAN THEY ARE IN CANADA. IF WE ALLOW THAT MUCH INDEPENDENCE ON THE BACK BENCH OR AMONG CABINET MINISTERS IN THIS COUNTRY, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE IMPLICATIONS WOULD BE?

Alex says IT'S ALWAYS HARD TO KNOW FOR SURE SO ALL WE CAN DO IS LOOK AT THE PAST. THE REALITY IS, ANY TIME YOU HAVE A... A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE BEING PART OF CABINET IS WHATEVER ONE MINISTER SAYS HAS TO REPRESENT THE GOVERNMENT AS A WHOLE. SO THAT WHOLE SYSTEM WOULD KIND OF COLLAPSE, THAT YOU'D HAVE THIS PROBLEM WHERE YOU'D HAVE MINISTERS EXPRESSING DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW AND EVERYBODY WOULD BE SAYING, WELL, WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT'S POSITION? SO THEY ALL HAVE TO STAY TOGETHER AS A UNITED FRONT. THE BIGGER QUESTION IS, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF POLITICAL PARTIES ALLOWED MORE FLEXIBILITY? COULD THEY HAVE MORE FREE VOTES? COULD THEY HAVE MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE TO SPEAK THEIR MINES? SOME PARTIES WOULD SAY WE DO ALLOW THAT ON SOME PRIVATE MEMBER'S BILLS OR THINGS THAT ARE LOW STAKE. OCCASIONALLY THERE ARE FREE VOTES ON THINGS THEY CAN'T GET EVERYBODY TOGETHER ON. THE BOTTOM LINE IS, I WOULD SAY WHAT WOULD BE HEALTHY FOR CANADIAN DEMOCRACY IF WE SAW A FEW MORE INDEPENDENTS ELECTED EVERY NOW AND THEN. WE COULDN'T HAVE TOO MANY OF THEM BECAUSE THE SYSTEM WOULDN'T WORK. BUT SOME MORE INDEPENDENTS WHO ARE FREE OF THE SHACKLES OF ANY POLITICAL PARTY WOULD ALLOW PEOPLE TO SPEAK UP AND SAY THINGS THAT THE OTHER PARTIES MAY NOT BE WILLING TO SAY.

Steve says LET ME GET YOU TO COMMENT ON AN EXAMPLE THAT I'M SURE VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IN CANADA, BUT IT WORKS FOR THEM, AND IT'S QUITE FASCINATING. IN NUNAVUT, THEY HAVE NO PARTIES. THEY HAVE A NON-PARTISAN LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY, AND SOMEHOW, I GUESS, STUFF GETS DONE. COULD THAT SYSTEM BE TRANSPORTED TO PROVINCIAL LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLIES, FOR EXAMPLE, AND STILL WORK, AS IT APPARENTLY DOES THERE?

Alex says GREAT POINT. SO IT'S KNOWN AS A CONSENSUS GOVERNMENT. IT EXISTS IN THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIES AS WELL. WHAT HAPPENS IS PEOPLE RUN FOR ELECTION, THERE'S NO POLITICAL PARTY. AFTER THE ELECTION, ALL OF THE MEMBERS GATHER TOGETHER AND CONDUCT A VOTE TO IDENTIFY WHO SHOULD BE THE PREMIER. AND IN SOME WAYS THAT'S GREAT BECAUSE YOU REMOVE ALL THIS POWER OF POLITICAL PARTIES. I WOULD SAY IT'S IN MANY WAYS ANTIDEMOCRATIC TO HAVE A BUNCH OF ELECTED OFFICIALS DECIDE WHO THE PREMIER OUGHT TO BE INSTEAD OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC HAVING A CLEAR SAY ON WHO THAT LEADER OUGHT TO BE. BUT THAT ASIDE, COULD IT WORK IN THE PROVINCES? FROM THE LIMITED RESEARCH I'VE DONE IN THIS AREA, I'M OF THE OPINION THAT IT COULD POTENTIALLY WORK IN SMALL PLACES. SO IT COULD WORK IN PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, IT COULD WORK HERE POTENTIALLY IN NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR. IT COULD NOT WORK IN ONTARIO. THERE'S JUST WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE. IT ONLY SEEMS TO WORK WHEN THERE'S A VERY SMALL NUMBER OF LEGISLATORS. BECAUSE ONCE THERE'S A LARGER NUMBER, WE CAN SEE THIS IN THE SENATE, PEOPLE START BREAKING UP INTO GROUPS.

Steve says LET ME... WE'RE DOWN TO OUR LAST FEW MINUTES HERE AND I DO WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT THE FACT THAT PEOPLE SPOKE TO YOU VERY CANDIDLY, IT SEEMS, FOR YOUR BOOK. BUT OF COURSE THEY'RE OUT. WHEN PEOPLE ARE IN, YOU KNOW, THIS KIND OF HONESTY ABOUT THE ROT OF THE SYSTEM DOES NOT TEND TO COME TO THE FORE. WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THAT?

Alex says WELL, THERE WERE A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE IN THE SYSTEM THAT WOULD SPEAK TO ME. THE DIFFERENCE IS THEY WERE MORE LIKELY TO SAY, DON'T SAY WHO I AM. THEY WANTED TO BE ANONYMOUS.

Steve says RIGHT.

Alex says BECAUSE THERE WERE CAREER IMPLICATIONS. WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT? I DON'T KNOW THAT WE CAN DO A LOT ABOUT IT. IT'S A REAL CHALLENGE, ESPECIALLY WITH THE MEDIA. WHEN THE MEDIA STARTS REPORTING ON UNNAMED SOURCES, THERE'S A CHALLENGE THERE BECAUSE THEY CAN USE THE MEDIA TO CONDUCT, YOU KNOW, TRIAL BALLOONS AND MAYBE SAY SOMETHING NEGATIVE ABOUT SOMEBODY, AND WE DON'T HAVE THAT LEVEL OF ACCOUNTABILITY. I WOULD SAY THAT FOR ME ONE THING THAT... ONE PERSON WHO REALLY GOT ME TO RE-THINK ABOUT THINGS IS STOCKWELL DAY. WHEN I INTERVIEWED HIM, HE WAS, ORIGINALLY FOR ANOTHER BOOK, HE SAYS HE ONLY DOES INTERVIEWS IF HE IS ON THE RECORD. AND I THOUGHT ABOUT THAT AND I THOUGHT, WHY IS OUR DEFAULT TO ALWAYS PROTECT PEOPLE'S IDENTITIES. WHY SHOULDN'T THE DEFAULT BE IN ACADEMIA, I'D LIKE TO BE ABLE TO NAME YOU. IS THAT OKAY WITH YOU? IT TURNS OUT WITH THIS BOOK A LOT OF PEOPLE WANTED TO BE NAMES. THEY JUST DON'T WANT QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO THEM.

The caption changes to "So you want to be a Parliamentarian?"

Steve says LET'S FINISH UP ON THIS. IF SOMEBODY WATCHING US NOW IS THINKING ABOUT RUNNING FOR OFFICE SOME DAY BUT NOW IS QUESTIONING THE WISDOM OF THAT DECISION BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TO BE A TRAINED SEAL ON THE BACK BENCH, THEY'D ACTUALLY LIKE TO ACHIEVE OR ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING, WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE?

Alex says SO MY ADVICE WOULD BE TO TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE RESEARCH IS HE SAMARA CENTRE THAT DEMOCRACY HAS DONE. THEY HAVE A LOT OF WORK ON LIFE AS A PARLIAMENTARIAN. THIS PARTICULAR BOOK I'VE WRITTEN, THE FINAL CHAPTER IS A LIST OF... A LIST OF ITEMS: HOW TO BE A STRONG PARLIAMENTARIAN. I COMPILED ALL THE DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW AND TIPS AND ADVICE THAT POLITICIANS PROVIDED TO ME, AND IT'S A SUMMARY. IT SAYS, LOOK, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO. A LOT MORE CAN BE DONE THAT PEOPLE REALIZE. WHAT PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE IS YOU HAVE TO PUT IN A LOT OF WORK TO BUILD A CONSENSUS. YOU HAVE TO BUILD A CONSENSUS IN CAUCUS. YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT INTEREST GROUPS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC HAVE SUPPORT. YOU HAVE TO REALLY WORK HARD TO MOBILIZE. SO THE IDEA YOU CAN JUST WALK INTO A ROOM AND SAY, I THINK WE SHOULD DO THIS POLICY, IS NOT GOING TO WORK. YOU HAVE TO WORK HARD TO EFFECT CHANGE.

The caption changes to "Producer: Wodek Szemberg, @wodekszemberg."

Steve picks up a copy of the book and says I MUST CONFESS WHEN I PICKED UP "WHIPPED," AT ALMOST 400 PAGES ABOUT PARTY DISCIPLINE, I WASN'T SURE THAT THIS WAS GOING TO BE A PAGE-TURNER. I'VE GOT TO SAY YOU HAVE GREAT STORIES IN HERE AND YOU'VE MADE A GREAT CONTRIBUTION TO US BETTER UNDERSTANDING CANADIAN AND PROVINCIAL POLITICS IN THE COUNTRY TODAY. THAT'S ALEX MARLAND, AUTHOR OF "WHIPPED." A PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY IN ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR. ALEX, THANKS SO MUCH. THANKS FOR COMING ON TVO TONIGHT.

Alex says THANK YOU.

Watch: Power and Powerless Politicians