There are some characteristics that would be difficult to pin on Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart.
Idleness or apathy, for sure. Earnestness, on the other hand, is an attribute the first-term MLA carries in spades.
Fresh from a singular defeat last fall, his lonely attempt to introduce party politics in the Northwest Territories, Testart is back at it again. This time, Testart is proposing regular MLAs in the legislative assembly form something called a parliamentary caucus – kind of like a political party but without the party brand.
A parliamentary caucus – as opposed to how MLAs outside of cabinet behave today and have always acted – would work as a team. They would strategize in secret. There would be internal discipline and a caucus whip to make sure everyone falls in line and votes the same.
In short, they would be much like cabinet who number only seven, but minus the portfolios and fatter salaries.
A red flag shows up in Testart’s five-page report under an item titled “Parliamentary Groups as a Management Tool,” where he proposes such re-organization would “require adequate financial and staffing resources to perform its functions within and outside the Legislative Assembly.”
After all, if cabinet members are entitled to bigger offices and a phalanx of support staff, why not regular MLAs too?
Of course, this leaves us to ask, if a parliamentary caucus of regular MLAs, with its 11 members as opposed to seven on the other side, were to somehow act as a cohesive unit, strategizing together, voting together, commanding caucus staff and as caucus budget together, why not just take over cabinet and become the government?
This scenario doesn’t come up in Testart’s proposal but it seems the most obvious one.
Alas, this latest gambit is about as likely to succeed as his last. MLAs have already expressed skepticism.
We agree that consensus government has many failings — a lack of cohesion and transparency and the primacy of individual politicians over mandates during campaign season, but the fact remains that offering opinions on governing is a heck of a lot easier than actually governing.
Those in decision-making positions are often forced to work in non-cohesive groups to make consequential judgments in an attempt to solve difficult and enduring problems.
If Testart really wants to change the political system, he would probably find more fertile ground outside the legislative assembly than within.
Go ahead and form a political party, recruit candidates and run them in the next election. If any win, they join your caucus. Perhaps over time, and with some strong and effective leadership, voters might elect enough of them to form a government.
That’s how you change the system, not wonkish policy proposals thrust at other MLAs with their own axes to grind.