Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Democrats get all MPs' voting records on line

Anyone who has ever tried to navigate the incomprehensible procedural kaleidoscope that is the House of Commons Journals to find out how your MP, or a party voted on an issue in the House has a reason to thank the New Democrats and their house leader Libby Davies.

As Alexander Panetta reports here:

“MP Libby Davies sent House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken a letter bemoaning the lack of transparency in Parliament.

She noted that Americans could, for instance, see that Barack Obama missed 37.4 per cent of votes in the U.S. Senate, and voted in line with the Democrats 96.7 per cent of the time.

"Each of us finds signs of growing voter disengagement – like declining turnout in elections – worrisome," Davies wrote to Milliken in March 2008.

"And each of us desire to find ways of opening the House and its deliberations to greater public interest and knowledge. . . Compiling and presenting these records on the public Internet site is a rather modest, yet at the same time critically important, step in modernizing the relationship between Canadians and their members of Parliament."

Commons technical staff began working on the design, and the chamber's board of internal economy agreed at a meeting last month to launch the feature.

Starting next week, the website will also include a search engine that allows people to see how MPs have voted since October 2004.”

Even internet rights guru Michael Geist is celebrating Davies' and the NDP's accomplishment too.

Now, you can already hear murmurs from the cynics saying “MPs always vote the party line anyway”. But is that even true? Maybe. Maybe not. We kinda rely on the media and other political parties to tell us, don’t we?

The point is this: unlike in the US, it’s been almost impossible for citizens - and citizen journalists - to figure out which MPs have voting for, or against what issues for ourselves. Until now, that is.

Sometimes the most practical advancements in accountability don’t look like this -- they look more like this.

1 comment:

janfromthebruce said...

thanks Libby - principle over opportunism.