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Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada's Failing Democracy Hardcover – Apr 15 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Canada; First Edition edition (April 15 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307361292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307361295
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 612 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steven on April 18 2014
Format: Hardcover
Tragedy in the Commons is an expanded compilation of the MP Exit Interview report produced by Samara Canada which offers a distinct insider view to life in Canada’s Parliament through the eyes of former parliamentarians.

Through dozens of intense interviews the authors collected an image of the life for Canadian politicians in our national body. What Loat and MacMillan discover is in no way particularly flattering to our grand national institution and in fact hints a deep rot or dysfunction in Canadian democracy.

The title of the book is a direct allusion to the economic concept of the tragedy of the commons. To briefly summarize the idea, with a common good there is a benefit for all to preserve the resource for the future, but none of the stakeholders have the incentive to not exploit the resource to full advantage contrasted to his/her peers. As a result the resource is exploited to its complete ruination because the best interest of the individual is so completely at odds with the long-term interest of the collective.

This reference is emphasized by Loat and MacMillan. As they detail the litany of problems in the House of Commons, arguably building towards crisis, they refer to the simple fact that any one politician is powerless to influence the current political culture despite the fact that it serves their own interests. The forces of status quo keep Members of Parliament from obeying their own consciences and upholding their own rights.

Each chapter of the book addresses an area of political life that any MP must navigate: winning nominations, elections, conduct within the House of Commons, committee work, relations with their party and leadership, and even the basic understanding of what an MP is.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Huntley on June 13 2014
Format: Hardcover
Anyone interested in Canadian politics, and many who are not, should read this book. It tells us much about what is wrong with how we are governed, though not everything.

The authors interviewed 80 former members of parliament to find out their experiences with the nomination process, getting elected, being introduced to the job, and what they sought to accomplish. It is pretty depressing. One gets the impression of chaos. One also gets the impression that the ex-MPs were not entirely truthful; for example they generally would not admit to being interested in the ‘job’, nor of participating in the daily ‘entertainment’ called question period.

Can a typical MP accomplish anything? Only rarely. They are becoming, like the record store, disintermediated, unnecessary except for their votes, as everything is determined in the leaders’ offices, whether government or opposition.

How did we get there? Some key events such as placing party names on the ballots, and the requirement that party leaders sign nominations are emphasized. These two things led to the tendency for people to vote for party leaders rather than candidates, and for MPs to be reluctant to defy their leaders.

Where lies the blame? Are there cures? The blame clearly lies with the MPs themselves, the media, and us. Michael Chong’s bill will help a little, if it becomes law.

Only two of the MPs mentioned the electoral system as a problem. This is perhaps the most important issue, though outside the scope of the book. With the present system about half the population gets an MP who they voted for. One can do very much better. The ideal is to have groups of like-minded people elect one of their group to represent them.
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Format: Hardcover
I echo the views of reviewer Steven. Thanks to this book, I finally understand, better than ever, what goes on at Parliament Hill, and how that compares to what is supposed to be going on. Any candidate for federal parliament in 2015 who fails to read this book is really putting themselves at a marked disadvantage. This book clearly describes the chaotic snake pit that is our federal parliament.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christina Agrell on May 21 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Interesting report on exit interviews with MPs. Unfortunately it leaves the impression that MPs all see themselves as renegade outsiders who managed to achieve very little while in office. Surely this is not true.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
The truth about Ottawa's parliament June 21 2014
By Ghislaine Dean - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book tells me a lot of my suspicions are true. It is a sad picture of what we call democracy but isn't.
Clear and disturbing June 16 2014
By Bonnie Ferrante - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
When this book arrived in the mail as a giveaway for review, my first thought was "Why did I put my name in for this? I probably won't understand it." I was wrong. Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada's Failing Democracy is readable and easy to follow. It is a compelling nonfiction book.

The authors interviewed numerous former Members of Parliament. They focused on why these people ran for office, their attitude toward being politicians, how they won, what happened when they arrived in Parliament, their frustrations with the job, and what they think should be changed. The writers ended with an examination of these interview results, a discussion of the MPs ideas for improvement, and suggestions of their own on how our political system could be more effective.
I have to say that the facts uncovered in these interviews are both shocking and disappointing. One of the most troublesome was that newly elected Members of Parliament are unclear as to their duties and given little to no support or training for the job.

A major problem with our political system is the pressure MPs receive to vote with their party against their own better judgment and the desires of their constituents. Quite often the "public good is sacrificed on the altar of short-term political gain". The Members want to ensure party support in order to receive peach assignments and, hopefully, become a member of the Senate when they retire. The suggestions offered by Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan are achievable, sensible, and require courage and unity from MPs who truly wish to improve the system of government and serve the people's best interests.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in politics or of voting age. I dearly hope that this book is the impetus for real change and progress in creating a true democracy for Canada.

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