Doug Rutherford

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New MPs

May 2011
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I am  suprised by the number of people who automatically assume that the NDP will fail as an official opposition party. Interestingly enough, almost no reason is given for this presumed failure… and when one does show up, it’s usually that their MPs don’t have a great deal of experience.

I find this particularly strange since all of the other parties have a number of new MPs. For example, the Conservative Party has  37 new MPs, 22 from the province of Ontario alone, yet no one is saying that the party will fall apart because of their inexperience. The Liberal Party has only 2 new MPs out of 34 seats, but they have far greater problems than inexperience on their back. The Bloc has a single new MP,  but that also represents 25% of the 4 seats they hold. And, of course, the Green Party’s single seat is also filled with a new MP.

So, why would inexperience be an issue? Policy is not set by new MPs, but rather by the parties themselves. And, it’s not like all of the members are new, just as is the case for all of the other parties (other than the Green Party). All parties have methods for ensuring the training and indoctrination of new members into parliamentary procedure and function. The House itself also runs training for new MPs. It seems strange that people would put forward a reason for poor performance that crosses all party lines.

Actually, I don’t have an answer as to why the NDP would perform more poorly than any of the other parties. Let’s be honest. They do have a leg up on other parties. For example, the Liberal Party doesn’t have a leader (and the last one they had wasn’t even capable of defending himself against out of context or just invented slights put forward by the Conservatives, so would hardly be capable of running either an opposition, or heaven forbid, a federal government). Yes, he did teach at Harvard but is a perfect example of where book smarts don’t work out in all contexts. Worse yet, the best bet for an interim leader, Bob Rae, probably won’t garner any more respect than Michael Ignatieff or Stéphane Dion. If they make him permanent leader, my first assumption is that the party won’t exist after the next election… if it does before the next election.

One thing to note. A number of those new NDP MPs are currently, or were currently, political science majors. This probably gives them far more insight than new MPs with a background in business or law. I’m expecting the NDP will do an excellent job at holding the government accountable, or at least as good a job as any opposition can do against a majority government. At the very least, since I haven’t really supported any particular party for the last 10 years, I’m willing to do the responsible thing and at least give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, it seems to be a better approach than whining, which has been far more prevalent…


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