Two weeks ago I wrote about how leaders in our country are chosen, last week, I addressed qualities they may have. To finish off as a trio, I will address political election in general, and what politicians ought to do.
As a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy, we have the benefit of being able to select our members. Currently, they are chosen in 308 electoral districts, which as per a 2011 law will be expanded to 338 districts. Each district has one seat at Parliament in the House of Commons. The candidate running in the election with the most votes in the district, or riding, wins the seat.
They will hold this seat until an election occurs. Elections occur when the Governor General, almost always with the advice of the Prime Minister, dissolves parliament. It used to be a common practice to hold elections sooner than every four years; one would have parliament dissolved when they were doing well in the polls to secure an easy victory. Now, new laws exist to make sure elections happen at regular intervals every four years. Considering things like minority governments, coalitions, and that the Prime Minister still has the power to ask the Governor General for an election, elections may still occur outside of a four year span.
Just because a government losses confidence of the house does not mean an election has to occur. When an important motion of the government, for example a money bill or budget, fails in parliament, this means the House of Commons has lost confidence in the government. It is quite possible and constitutional for a new group or party to ask the Governor General if they can form government. “Government” exists as a ruling group, including cabinet, in the House of Commons, but the House of Commons can defeat the government of the day. This is a power our representatives hold.
There are two main theories as to how political representation should work. The delegate model, and the trustee model. The delegate model holds that someone sent to the House of Commons ought to represent their people and their wishes to the fullest extent, voting yes and no entirely at the wishes of their constituents. The trustee model believes that someone is elected as a trustee of that position or office: they should act according to their beliefs as to what is good.
Imagine the two models sitting on an axis. I think that politicians ought to act more on the trustee side than delegate side. First, a politician will, on average, know much more than a constituent on many issues; they have read the documents and sat on the committees. Second, our politicians are sent to parliament to discuss and debate. It would be odd if we arm politicians with answers before addressing the issues. Thirdly, I think the extreme closest to the mean in this case is to act as a delegate. If politicians only did exactly as their constituents demanded, we would have less of a country and more of a sack of money from which to steal benefits for constituents. If one does only what they think is best while completely ignoring their constituents, they may actually get something done if they are the kind of person responsible and virtuous enough to carefully consider the debate and documents at the House of Commons. Edmund Burke put the matter best when he said “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”