01 December 2013

If you're a democrat, instruct your MP to support Chong's Bill

An opportunity to strike a blow for parliamentary democracy has suddenly arisen and all democrats should take advantage of it. On Thursday, Michael Chong, MP for Wellington-Halton Hills, will introduce a Bill in the House that would dramatically devolve power from party leaders to MPs and constituency associations.

The Bill, entitled An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (reforms) or simply the Reform Act, 2013, would
  • give party riding associations the ultimate say in electoral nominations, removing the need for the leader's signature. There would be no leader’s veto.
  • entrench the right of the Commons' caucuses to demand a leadership vote, with the support of 15 per cent of the caucus. A simple majority would be sufficient to remove the leader.
  • give Commons' caucuses the right to elect their own chairs and to call for a review of an MP, as well as eject or readmit one.
This isn't about Stephen Harper or any other party leader—the Bill would not take effect until after the next election. Currently, all MPs must defer to their party leader as he can arbitrarily eject them from the party if they displease him or refuse to sign their nomination papers and thus end their political careers. The leader is not similarly obligated to caucus. This offends the proper democratic relationship of leaders deferring to those they lead. Michael Chong's Bill would right this upended relationship.

In our democracy, we elect Members of Parliament to represent us. We don't elect Prime Ministers (at least I've never seen one on my ballot). Parliament is intended to function through the MPs, not through the PM, not even through the ruling caucus, but through all the MPs of all the parties/caucuses.

We have lost sight of this, increasingly allowing ourselves to be ruled by a presidential system where the prime minister is supreme. Presidential systems legitimize such power by having the president elected by all the people. Our prime ministers have no such legitimacy, yet under the present government we have become dangerously close to rule by PMO rather than rule by Parliament. Michael Chong's Bill would be a significant step in curbing the growing excess of prime ministerial power.

So, arise democrats, instruct your MPs to do the right thing and help restore the integrity of our parliamentary democracy.

1 comment:

  1. I dare Mr. Chong to cross the floor and join one of the other parties.