Dear first-time political candidate,
I am writing to invite you to the public premiere of Whipped, my new documentary on the secret world of party discipline.
I know many of you are running in this election with the best of intentions. I know many of you are running to make a difference in the legislature. But what you might not know is how little of a difference you'll likely make.
As you may have heard, MLAs belonging to both the BC NDP and the BC Liberal Party are usually required to vote the party line.
In fact, I've discovered, out of the 32,328 votes cast between June 2001 and April 2012, just 80 or 0.25 percent were cast by MLAs voting against their own party.
That means a party with a majority can essentially do whatever it wants in the legislature -- so much so that last time a government bill was defeated was 1953, the same year Joseph Stalin died. But those numbers also suggest, as one former MLA told me, "There's got to be times -- random chance if nothing else -- that some of us actually disagree with what we're voting on."
It's a position, if you're elected, you could find yourself in.
The reason that's tolerated is MLAs are supposed to have a chance to discuss the public's business in private before coming out with a position each has agreed to uphold. But, because of cabinet and caucus confidentiality, British Columbians really don't know if those secret debates are actually taking place.
Your party leaders and campaign handlers, of course, would know. They might not feel comfortable talking to you about this subject. But if you come to the premiere of my documentary, you'll discover such discussions sometimes don't take place.
For example, another former MLA told me he found out about a major government decision just 45 minutes before it was announced. That decision went against the interests of his constituents. Nevertheless, he said, "I have to be there in the legislature, pounding on my desk, smiling."
Of course, I don't mean to discourage you from running for public office. I think more good people need to be involved in politics. But I think it's also important that you understand why many good people don't run for politics -- or get out soon after being elected. And I think it's important for British Columbians to understand why it may seem like you're not listening to them once you're in the legislature.
I look forward to you joining us for the premiere.
Whipped: The Secret World Of Party Discipline premiers at the University of British
Watch the trailer for Whipped: