Political debate in western democracies such as in Canada, the U.S. and Britain has become empty theatre, full of rhetorical flourishes with little meaning for citizens, according to a new book by a former minister of finance in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.
What I Learned About Politics
(Nimbus, 2014) by Graham Steele is an insider's account of his 12 years as an elected politician. The book explains that Canadian politicians behave with shockingly bad manners in the Canadian Parliament and provincial legislatures because ordinary members have so little power. The important political decisions are routinely made elsewhere, behind closed doors, well away from the public scrutiny.
Steele argues that the prime minister and provincial premiers in the Canadian parliamentary system are close to being absolute rulers with more power than monarchs or presidents of the United States.
served for eight years on the opposition benches in the Nova Scotia legislature firing rhetorical questions at government cabinet ministers to score political points. After his party won a provincial election, he sat with the government as minister of finance and took his turn fending off questions that he found both superficial and irresponsible.
Steele, who is now retired from politics, is a member of the New Democratic Party, Canada's center-left social democratic party. The subtitle of his book, Inside the Rise --- and Collapse --- of Nova Scotia's NDP Government
, refers to his party's rise and fall in the elections of 2009 and 2013.
In this interview with the New Books Network, Graham Steele takes us on a political tour from inside the Nova Scotia legislature, where he says little goes on that really matters, to the government's cabinet room across the street where real decisions are made in secret.