"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Cutting crew (II)

The provincial opposition parties have got it into their heads that cutting the size of the House of Assembly would be a good move.

It wouldn't be.

In Canada, at least, smaller provincial legislatures are less competitive. The relationship between size and competitiveness isn't perfect, but it's good enough. Examining all post-war provincial elections in all provinces except Alberta — which is uniquely uncompetitive, in federal and provincial elections, no matter how many seats it has — this is what you'll find.

First, smaller legislatures tend to result in larger governing parties. At the smallest end of the scale (mainly PEI and the earliest post-Confederation NL legislatures), the governing party typically holds more than 80% of the seats. That figure generally declines (with a bump up in the 60-something size bracket), as the legislature gets larger.

Second, and closely related, smaller legislatures tend to elect more electoral-blowout governments. (A blowout, defined here, is a legislature in which the governing party has 80% or more of the seats).

Third, there is the simple mechanics of running an effective and modern legislature, as foreign as that concept may be in Newfoundland and Labrador. A smaller legislature will not have the numbers, the diversity of views, or the diversity of backgrounds, for anything resembling useful debate or functional standing and special committees. And, given the statistics presented above, a smaller legislature tends to be dominated by a large and powerful governing party, with a small and weakened opposition. The damage and corrosion of the Dannystan years is going to take decades to fully come to light — a process that won't begin until the current governing party is out of office. Institutionalizing a lack of accountability, something which the Danny Williams party so desperately sought, especially in the 2007 election campaign and after, is the very last thing the provincial government and public need.

Want to cut the budget of the House of Assembly? Cut the budget of the House of Assembly. Cut MHAs' pay and benefits. Heck, if you're bold enough, you can even further increase the size of the legislature while at the same time cutting its overall budget, if you're willing to turn a few sacred cows into hamburger along the way.

But a smaller legislature? It's a solution in search of a problem.



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