A Virtual Parliament

A Virtual Parliament
Image Source:
W. Lloyd MacKenzie, via Flickr @ http://www.flickr.com/

Lately, while procrastinating about “Felix”, I’ve thought about some old ideas that I could use to create new stories. One of these is what I call Virtual Parliament, where electronic communication is used to change the way parliament works.

One of the problems with governing a large country like Canada, is that  members of parliament and senators spent much of their time in Ottawa and away from the people they represent. This creates a barrier between government and the people.

My idea was that this problem could be addressed if we could create a Virtual Parliament. The technology of the internet could be used to replace the need for parliament to travel to Ottawa to meet. MPs and Senators could live in the constituencies they represent, while they continued to have their parliamentary sessions on-line.

There are pros and cons to this solution, and since my objective is to develop new stories, it is the cons that would provide the conflict needed for a story. I’ll start with some of the pros.

  • A Virtual Parliament would allow politicians to better develop and maintain their relationships with the people they represent. This would give politicians a better sense of what people wanted.
  • A Virtual Parliament would improve the quality of debate. Debates would not need to be conducted in real time. This would allow politicians more of an opportunity to study and review discussions before they asked questions or voted.
  • A Virtual Parliament would create a more transparent environment where people could watch their representatives more closely.

While my initial idea was a kind of a utopian vision of politics, I suspect that there could be some real drawbacks to this approach.

  • A Virtual Parliament would reduce informal contact between members of Parliament. When people rarely meet face to face, formal contacts can lead to conflicts that make it more difficult for politicians to work out the compromises needed for effective government. It is much easier for misunderstandings to arise from communication over the internet.  Anyone who has followed on-line discussions has seen how badly it can turn out.
  • A Virtual Parliament would create a conflict between a politician’s desire to serve their constituents and their desire to maintain political connections. Some will see this as a benefit rather than a problem, but it can also make it more difficult for the politician to be effective.
  • A Virtual Parliament would undermine the importance of political parties. Again, some people will see this as a benefit. However, without political parties, parliament could become much more volatile, which again could undermine its effectiveness.

I don’t think these problems are that serious. To be successful, politicians need strong communications skills and the ability to exercise extreme diplomacy when they deal with people they disagree with or even despise. These skills should allow them to avoid or deal with the problems of communication in a Virtual Parliament.

In my case, I want to see conflicts that could be the basis for stories. It is the pit falls of communication that provide the greatest opportunity for conflict and it is the communication skills of politicians that are the tools they need to resolve the conflicts.

This all sounds very idealistic to me, which makes me wonder if it might not be a good option for story telling. Also, my personal experiences have not given me a real understanding of the communication skills of politicians, which would make it harder for me to write a realistic story.

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