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

4.4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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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: 15.9 x 2.9 x 23.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 612 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #31,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“This important book draws on the personal experiences of former Members of Parliament to illustrate the growing central control of party leadership—in all major parties—and how this has distorted the democratic process. Offering useful suggestions to address the resulting alienation of voters from the political process, Tragedy in the Commons is mandatory reading for all MPs and Canadians.”
—Michael Wilson, former Minister of Finance and Canadian Ambassador to the United States
“Canadians’ participation in and respect for democracy are fundamental to maintaining a society of which we can be proud. Through the reflections of Members of Parliament, who have devoted themselves to public life, Loat and MacMillan give us insight into how far we have to travel, and how urgent is the cause.”                
— Amanda Lang, co-host of The Lang & O’Leary Exchange and author of The Power of Why
“In every tragedy there is hope. Members of Parliament go to Ottawa hoping and promising to make a difference; but as these riveting revelations show, high priorities get lost too easily in the widening chasm between constituents, party leaders and good conscience. Is it any wonder Canadians feel disengaged from their hard-won democracy? Loat and MacMillan hope that pulling back the curtain will re-engage Canadians enough to keep our House of Commons from becoming a ‘House of Cards.’”  
—Isabel Bassett, former Member of Provincial Parliament
Tragedy in the Commons is a thoughtful analysis of what is broken in our democracy and a must-read for anyone concerned about Canada’s politics. It’s also a cogent and urgent reminder that the struggle to make our Parliament and our politics work falls not only to politicians, but to us all.”
—Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans

About the Author

Alison Loat is a regular commentator on Canadian politics, a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a former consultant with McKinsey & Company. For her work as a co-founder of Canada25, she was recognized as a young leader by Maclean’s and the Public Policy Forum. She was also selected as one of the top 100 women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network, and has received both the Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals for her service to Canada. Loat is also an associate fellow and instructor at the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @AlisonLoat.

Michael MacMillan is the CEO of the Canadian-based company Blue Ant Media. He was previously the executive chairman and CEO of Alliance Atlantis Communications. MacMillan co-founded the original Atlantis Films in 1978, which won an Oscar in 1984 for its short film Boys and Girls. A recipient of the Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals for service to Canada, he is also a co-owner of Closson Chase, a vineyard and winery in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan co-founded the think tank Samara in 2009. Visit www.samaracanada.com to learn more. Follow Samara on Twitter @SamaraCDA.

Customer Reviews

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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 10 2014
Format: Hardcover
Our federal parliamentary system promotes the myth that voters have the collective power to send to Ottawa people they have elected to act on their behalf when making laws that both promote and protect their best interests. While that might be the case theoretically, it is a vastly different world that meets these MPs when they take their respective seats in the House of Commons at the outset of each new session of parliament. Their elected position quickly becomes one that is a catch-all for Loaf and MacMillan, both savvy political analysts, who have composed this study to show what a challenging task it is to win and hold down a seat while being all things to all people: the government, party agenda, constituent needs, personal interests, and campaigning. Many of the MPs interviewed for this book are ones who feel overwhelmed by the colossal demands of a role that is often poorly defined, comes with little training and is often ignored by those in power as inconsequential to the real business of government. Those who survive and flourish as members of parliament are those who go out and do significant free-lancing in an effort to build up their political and public expertise so that they can be invited into cabinet. Those who buck the system by voting against the party on whipped votes pay the price of being denied plum promotions or being booted from caucus. While some personal initiatives do succeed, in the form of private member's bills, for the large part, the working life of a MP can be lonely, unfulfilled, and exhausting. No wonder many walk away from it with the excuse that they need to spend more time with family or there is a better job waiting in the private sector.Read more ›
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, Tragedy in the Commons certainly delivered! I expected to have my eyes opened a little more, and they were. Over the past couple of years, I've been slowly lifting the wool from over my eyes, and having read "Harperland" a couple of years ago, Tragedy in the Commons simply re-inforced my feelings that democracy in word and in reality, are two different things. We voters think that our MPs are there to represent our views. I was surprised when I read that, nope, sorry, that's not why we were elected bucko. The Party comes first ... Now we all do suspect this, and have seen evidence of it in the press, but to read it from the horse's mouth, was just, disappointing. The authors did make a few suggestions to 'repair' the system, which I did find interesting. On the whole, this was a quick, informative read and a good one!
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This is a very important book, which should be studied thoroughly by anyone interested in why Canada’s SUPPOSEDLY democratic form of government is not working properly. and how it is messing up some people’s lives for the stupidest possible reasons. The book covers every aspect of how Parliament works in practice and the difficulties facing federal M.P.’s in their work. For my part, I found in it some very useful explanations for why certain federal M.P.’s were unable to assist me with putting a stop to corruption in big business and certain government departments directed at me personally for 30+ years. Among other things, there is a mass of complex rules of procedure and protocols involved, some of them un-written, which effectively prevent federal M.P.’s from representing the interests of their constituents properly, if at all. Currently there isn’t even an agreed and clear job description for what federal M.P.’s are supposed to do; this means that the M.P.’s themselves are “in the dark” to a large extent and so is everybody else - including the general public (who are the M.P.’s constituents), and the Canadian mass media. One of the 80 federal M.P.’s whom the authors interviewed for the book was a federal M.P. whom I had approached for help on numerous occasions but she could do nothing, and from my standpoint her perspectives on all this, detailed in the book, were particularly interesting.Read more ›
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