Monday September 01, 2014





MP wary of parliamentary reform bill

'I think that it’s a big shift to give more power to caucus members'

Cathy McLeod

A private member’s accountability bill receiving cross-party support for its promise to rebalance power in Parliament doesn’t yet have the support of MP Cathy McLeod.

According to the social media website Leadnow.ca, a campaign in support of the bill has gone viral, receiving support from more than 10,000 Canadians just hours after it was tabled.

Tory MP Michael Chong’s Reform Act was introduced on Tuesday and provoked a great deal of discussion in the Commons, McLeod said. The bill is intended to grant greater powers to caucus members to challenge party leadership and more freely represent their constituents.

While she applauds Chong’s initiative, the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP feels aspects of the bill require further scrutiny.

McLeod questions a section that would enable a minimum of 15 per cent of a party’s MPs to trigger a non-confidence vote capable of overthrowing the leader.

Through convention voting, 100,000 people or more are involved in choosing a leader. McLeod wonders whether a minority of MPs should be given authority to overturn a democratic decision by thousands of party members.

“Areas like that we need to think about. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong,” she said. “I think that it’s a big shift to give more power to caucus members, but there might be some impact on party members.”

After an initial reading, she favours certain mechanisms in the bill — provisions for election of caucus chairs and nominating candidates.

McLeod said she wants to discuss the legislation with fellow MPs and party members in the riding before taking a firm stand. The bill isn’t expected to go to a Commons vote until spring, leaving plenty of time for fine tuning.

She’s not so sure the party’s grassroots will be as supportive as their representatives in Ottawa.

“To date, it’s been positioned as a rebalancing in Parliament, but what is a rebalancing in Parliament might not be so popularly received by party members.”

While Opposition MPs have signaled support, they see the bill as a means of keeping in check the sort of power and discipline that Prime Minister Stephen Harper exercises over his caucus.

Critics of the bill say that governance is properly decided by party members, not by Parliament.

McLeod said Chong’s initiative shouldn’t be misread as a challenge to Harper’s leadership.

“Mr. Chong has had enthusiasm for democratic reform for many, many years. He made it very clear that the prime minister has his full confidence. This is reflective of his passion for Parliament.”

The Leadnow.ca online campaign calls for MPs to work together across party lines and for leaders to allow a free vote.

The Reform Act represents a rare opportunity to meaningfully improve our democracy and kickstart a conversation about the reforms we need to make our Parliament work better for all Canadians,” Matthew Carroll, campaign director for Leadnow.ca, said in a news release.

“The early outpouring of support shows that more and more Canadians are hungry for practical solution to fix our democratic deficit.”


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