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In Tragedy in the Commons, Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan, founders of the non-partisan think tank Samara, draw on an astonishing eighty exit interviews with former Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum to unearth surprising observations about the practice of politics in Canada.
Though Canada is at the top of international rankings of democracies, Canadians themselves increasingly don’t see politics as a way to solve society’s problems. Small wonder. In the news, they see grandstanding in the House of Commons and MPs pursuing agendas that don’t always make sense to the people who elected them.
But elected officials make critical choices about how this wildly diverse country functions today and how it will thrive in the future. They direct billions of dollars in public funding and craft the laws that have allowed Canada to lead the way internationally. Even with so much at stake, citizens—voters—are turning away. How did one of the world’s most functional democracies go so very wrong?
In Tragedy in the Commons, MPs describe arriving at their political careers almost by accident; few say they aspired to be in politics before it “happened” to them. In addition, almost without fail, each MP describes the tremendous influence of their political party: from the manipulation of the nomination process to enforced voting in the House and in committees, the unseen hand of the party dominates every aspect of the MP’s existence.
Loat and MacMillan ask: Just what do we want Members of Parliament to be doing? To whom are they accountable? And should parties be trusted with the enormous power they wield with such little oversight or citizen involvement?
With unprecedented access to the perspective and experience of Canada’s public leaders, Tragedy in the Commons concludes by offering solutions for improving the way politics works in Canada, and how all Canadians can reinvigorate a democracy that has lost its way, its purpose and the support of the public it is meant to serve.

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Tragedy in the Commons
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Tragedy in the Commons
May 11th, 2014
"Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada's Failing Democracy" gives voice to over eighty former MPs and what they experienced as political participants in Canada's (now) near dysfunctional democracy. As more and more power is enforced by the party and is centralized in the Office of the Prime Minister and in the hands of the Prime Minister him/herself, MPs play the role of "clapping seals" filling seats in the House of Commons for the sole purpose of voting the party line. Dissent, freely expressed opinions, free votes and individual initiative on the part of MPs has been so eroded as no longer to exist in what should be the primary role of the individuals sent to Parliament to represent and promote the views and needs of their constituents. "Tragedy in the Commons" paints a bleak picture of democracy in Canada today and the reasons why so many Canadians view politics and politicians with distain and disrespect and why they stay away from voting in ever increasing numbers. Democracy in this country is broken and, under successively oppressive and subversive governments, is in grave danger of being extinguished altogether. Until MPs "grasp the nettle" and fight back to regain what is rightfully their role, nothing will change and the democracy Canadians deserve and care about will be forever lost. "Tragedy..." offers present and future MPs advice on the measures they can and must take to restore to Canadians what is rightfully theirs: a properly functioning, vibrant and meaningful democracy.
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