Going through the motions

I am unaware of the origins of the phrase “going through the motions”, but I’m sure Islanders understand its meaning: to do things insincerely or in a cursory manner.

After a couple of sessions in the House, where we literally and metaphorically “go through the motions”, I am increasingly convinced that the origins of the term are political.

In the recent election, Islanders expressed their deep desire for real change, and I share their hope for the dawning of a new attitude in politics; one which is more collaborative, less partisan, and represents a better, more productive type of discourse. Of a House more in line with how it was originally conceived, where Members, who are first and foremost representatives of their constituents, bring forward legislation and motions, and a productive, open debate leads to the development of the best ideas to solve the many problems we face.

Instead politicians in Parliaments everywhere are often just “going through the motions”.

It strikes me that a disproportionate amount of time is spent in our Legislative Assembly talking to motions. I don’t want to denigrate the intent of many of the worthy motions that appear on the floor of the House, but the reality is that motions are non-binding and die at the end of each session. Legislation is entirely different: it is binding and outlives any particular government’s mandate, until or unless, of course it is amended or repealed.

Unlike most Legislatures, PEI has few time restrictions on most procedures in the House. Consequently Members can talk - sometimes literally for hours - on motions which will more likely than not have absolutely no impact on the governance of the Province. I’d personally love to see time limits on many aspect of House business, including talking to motions. More substantive work would get done, and the potential for “grandstanding” on topics would be reduced.

Prince Edward Island, due to its size, and the intimacy of its politics doesn’t have to mimic the sort of political theatre that predominates in so many other jurisdictions. With leadership, we could abandon the brand of politics with which Islanders – and people all over the world – are fed up.

Let’s make our Legislative Assembly a place where we restore the intent of the political process, re-establish Islanders’ faith in the institution and in their elected representatives, and stop simply “going through the motions”.