A Modest Proposal: A Parliamentary Lab

It’s not an emphasis of the piece, but this op-ed from Preston Manning mentions something that I’d like to explore, if just for a moment.

“With respect to advancing innovations in the operations of Parliament and the legislatures – for example, innovative changes to Question Period, committee work, the confidence convention, voting procedures – it must be recognized that such innovations cannot be initiated by Parliament or the legislatures themselves. This is because of the inability to get all-party agreement and the political risks involved should an innovation experiment fail.

“Thus the Manning Centre has proposed the creation of a properly financed model parliament for Canada which would serve as a laboratory for parliamentary reforms, from which innovations successfully tested could then be transferred at low risk to the country’s real parliament and legislatures.”

He gives the idea a bit more shape in this 2008 piece, but focuses more on a model parliament as a training vehicle (also a decent notion, but separate from the model’s laboratory potential).

He’s recommending, at least it reads to me this way, as a lab for political science experiments on changes in parliamentary composition and/or procedures.  To try and shove it into Congressional parallels, this would be like developing a smaller sized Congress where we could test changes in procedure.  Such an experiment might test how changing the rules for Senate holds or filibusters would influence the rest of the institution.

Manning’s (a retired Canadian politician with 15 years experience in conservative parliamentary politics) Centre lacks additional details on this proposal, but I would certainly watch it with interest should it ever happen.  If such a real-time small-scale process proves daunting, I hope alternatives – like computer simulation – could be made useful.  Because Manning’s right about the peril of doing this first on the real article and failing.  In addition, it becomes harder to undo what was initially done.  But that doesn’t mean that this type of experimentation is not worth doing; it just means the proper lab space needs to be created.

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One thought on “A Modest Proposal: A Parliamentary Lab

  1. Pingback: Dem bones at McGill; innovation from the Canadian business community?; the archiving frontier; linking and copyright « FrogHeart

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