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Author Topic: Election promises- Keeping government honest
Josh Matlow
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posted 12 April 2004 06:15 AM      Profile for Josh Matlow   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Should parties that break campaign promises once elected be penalized by legislation? If so, what should these penalties look like?

[ 12 April 2004: Message edited by: Josh Matlow ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
charlessumner
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posted 12 April 2004 06:49 AM      Profile for charlessumner     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
That Josh Matlow should run for a different party next time?
From: closer everyday | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
verbatim
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posted 12 April 2004 06:58 AM      Profile for verbatim   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
How the heck could you tell? I'm imagining that legislation like this would simply cause all election promises to be even more tenuous and vague than they already are. ...I suppose you could make the legislation regulate how election promises were framed, so as to control their content. Some sorts of promises would be much more amenable to such regulation than others.

Above everything else, I think the largest barrier you'd face would be getting a government to pass that sort of legislation. What's in it for them, after all? Sometimes you don't really know how well your plans will work out, or even how you're going to make them happen. Nobody is going to knowingly weld shut their own escape hatch.


From: The People's Republic of Cook Street | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Josh Matlow
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posted 12 April 2004 10:22 AM      Profile for Josh Matlow   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Very cute Charles!

As for the question I raised, I agree it won't come from a party that's currently in government but perhaps should be on the platform of a party that would like to be. Perhaps there should be a promise on their platform that they cannot break their promises!

I'm looking for input because I want to move this idea forward.


From: Toronto | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 12 April 2004 10:30 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't like the idea. Because if a party promises something stupid (you know, like most of Mike Harris's promises) and then either overwhelming public opinion or convincing arguments to the contrary make them change their mind, I want them to be able to break the promise without being penalized for it.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 12 April 2004 11:24 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Universal male suffrage was only granted when the ruling classes were convinced that the system of parliamentary democracy was such that parties would be free to vote against the interests of their vote base, and "in the interest of society as a whole", ie in the interest of the ruling classes. The fear was that working class parties would vote for radical changes that would damage the position of propertied classes. But the pressures of the state beyond parliament, and civil society, were such that working class parties rarely had sufficient strength to vote in the interests of their vote base. It soon became clear that insofar as working class parties had militancy and social unrest behind them, parliament was a brokerage house where class interests could be bartered in the interest of broader "social peace". This particular function was dominant and institutionalized after the second world war, when peace with labour needed to be bought.

That style of bourgeois "consensus" politics came to an end in the Thatcher era. Right-wing, pro-propertied parties felt free to vote entirely in accordance with the wishes of their base, because they had the power to do so. Thus was born the politics of confrontation, and the unilateral enforcement of a new dispensation. In contrast, parties that wished to vote for social redistribution of any kind other than upward, or in any way challenge the interests of capital, did not have the power to do so. So much so that apparently "left liberal" politicians came to adopt the motto "compromise at any cost".

That parties betray their promises is something embedded in the nature of the capitalist state, and the history of parliamentary democracy. If you're not looking at solutions at that level of depth, the solutions won't work.

[ 12 April 2004: Message edited by: rasmus raven ]


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
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posted 12 April 2004 11:51 AM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I do not think it is workable to penalize parties which break their promises.

First, one would need a system of determining whether promises were broken. To do so, one would have to create a judiciary empowered to punish elected parties (because unelected parties cannot break a promise of what they would do in power when they are not in power.)

Next, one would have to determine whether the broken promise can be justified. We already know some excuses: "The Tories lied about the ecomony, it's worse than we knew!"

Also, unexpected events do occur: if a party had agreed to cap health spending, and a SARS crisis broke out, keeping the promise would be bad policy.

So, over all, I think parties should be punished only in popularity. If they break promises they ought to have kept, throw them out. But if they break promises which need to be broken, more powe rto them.


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
The Oatmeal Savage
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posted 12 April 2004 12:27 PM      Profile for The Oatmeal Savage   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Here's one answer,

http://www.taxpayer.com/ltts/sk/April7-04.htm

Saskatchewan needs recall law

Every so often elected governments commit egregious offences against democracy and the very people who elect them. The 2004 Saskatchewan budget is one of those times.

Times like these precisely illustrate the need for recall legislation. We must have the right to fire our politicians for gross mismanagement of public funds and for lying to voters.

As it stands, we don't have that right.

There is no debate here. The NDP expressed repeatedly in their election platform their commitment to ongoing tax reduction. They promised throughout the campaign that school taxes would be addressed through the recommendations of the Boughen Commission. The Boughen Commission has come and gone, and nothing is being done to address the issue.

Our government looked us squarely in the eye and lied to us.

We should have the right to fire these people. Not just every four years, but whenever they break their promises or foist upon the electorate policies that run counter to the bill of goods we bought on election day.

Recall legislation provides voters with an opportunity to hold their politicians accountable more than for five seconds every four years as we put a checkmark on a ballot. If voters are dissatisfied with the performance or behaviour of their politicians, they can seek to trigger a recall by launching a petition drive. If enough signatures are collected, the MLA is formally fired and a bi-election is called. The recalled MLA can run to get his or her seat back.

The trick with recall is setting threshold for the number of signatures required. We need to strike a balance between putting the trigger at a percentage that can be accomplished by the electorate in a reasonable amount of time, while at the same time preventing frivolous recalls. In British Columbia, 40 per cent of the registered voters in the previous election will trigger the recall - which translates to around 70 per cent of votes cast. Clearly, the BC legislation was designed so that very few, if any, politicians would ever be recalled.


From: top of the food chain | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
charlessumner
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posted 12 April 2004 12:30 PM      Profile for charlessumner     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
An approach to the same problem less stringent but easier to implement: how about something like a Westminster three line whip? Well, the description from the parliamentary site I linked to doesn't say as much, but I've read elsewhere that the three-line whips - i.e., confidence motions - are used only on major party policy that was part of the last electoral platform (and, I'm gathering, a few most important important regular measures like budgets), and every other vote is treated as somewhat more a free vote than they would are here. More: Wikipedia: Whip

The only penalty that would really appeal to me in a system as Josh suggests: calling a new election.


From: closer everyday | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
charlessumner
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posted 12 April 2004 12:40 PM      Profile for charlessumner     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Actually, this all reminds me of a parallel idea I floated somewhere else years ago: parties or candidates could make a regular promise, subject to the winds and the tides, or they could make a "mandate promise," which would be registered with the elections agency and appear on, say, posters or booklets displayed at voting locations. And the election of a candidate would also be treated as a quasi-binding-referendum on at least their legislative actions to implement the mandate promises.

I know, I know, I can see plenty of arguments against, especially with FPTP: Say the Liberals and the New Democrats, in an Ontario '99-style election, adopted exactly identical wording on certain issues, maybe to text prepared by NGOs like the Ontario Health Coalition, People for Education, oh, even Earthroots. These centre-left mandate promises would have won a majority of popular votes, but others flying in the face of them would have won a pretty good majority of seats and thus the legislature would be bound to opposing mandate promises.

Now, if the majoritarian mandate promises still had to be implemented, this would be an interesting new cross between direct democracy, FPTP, fusion and PR, and I should just shut up and let Wilfred Day talk.

[ 12 April 2004: Message edited by: charlessumner ]


From: closer everyday | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged

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