Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Bill to Empower MPs, Reduce Leaders' Clout, Finds Cross-Party Support

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Bill to Empower MPs, Reduce Leaders' Clout, Finds Cross-Party Support

Article excerpt

Tory private bill to empower MPs has support


OTTAWA - A Conservative MP's provocative new bill to rebalance power between MPs and party leaders has gotten an early thumbs up from the NDP and the Liberals.

With a number of Michael Chong's Tory colleagues already supportive, the measure could have serious legislative legs.

Among other things, the bill would give party caucuses the explicit right to review and oust their leaders.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau tweeted Tuesday that he shared the goals of Chong's "Reform Act of 2013."

NDP reform critic Craig Scott said he will personally support the bill and MPs in his party will be allowed a free vote on the legislation.

He said his leader, Tom Mulcair, "wants a system that's fair, where prime ministers actually don't have the kinds of levers of power that have been abused under Stephen Harper and have been used in ways that frankly aren't all that justified by previous prime ministers."

The parliamentarians who showed up at Chong's morning news conference Tuesday also spoke volumes about the mood in Parliament and the potential success of his bill. Chong is a moderate, popular Ontario MP with a long history of promoting stronger responsible government.

Conservative supporters included Alberta MP James Rajotte, Ontario MPs Larry Miller and Stella Ambler and Ontario Sen. Hugh Segal.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Independent MP Bruce Hyer rounded out the cheering section.

"It depends on whether Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair will allow their caucuses to vote for democracy," May said of the bill's prospects.

"If they do, then the pressure on Conservatives will be that much more and I think the bill would then pass, but no Conservative is going to risk the ire of their leader if they think the Liberals and the New Democrats aren't on board."

A Conservative source estimated that up to a quarter of the caucus, or 40 MPs, could back Chong's proposals.

Chong's bill has three components, the most controversial of which would give party caucuses in the Commons the right to vote to review the party leader and to trigger a leadership race.

If 15 per cent of a caucus applied in writing for a leadership review, that would open the door for a review vote in caucus. …

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