Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Chong's Bill to Reform Parliament Welcome

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Chong's Bill to Reform Parliament Welcome

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Chong's bill to reform Parliament welcome

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An editorial from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, published Dec. 6:

Is declining voter turnout in Canada due, at least in part, to more and more voters losing interest in lining up to elect "trained seals," as former prime minister Pierre Trudeau once famously called MPs?

The argument, though not new, certainly has merit. Changes brought in under the 1970 Canada Election Act gave federal political party leaders a veto over the nomination of local riding candidates. For anyone hoping to get elected or re-elected, that made pleasing their party's leader considerably more important than reflecting their constituents' wishes, many experts argue.

That's but one example of the growing power of the prime minister's office, which, regardless of who's been in power, has concerned political observers for decades. A common refrain has been that as MPs' relevance to, and reliance on (other than at election time), their constituents has weakened, it's not surprising many Canadians have increasingly felt disconnected from the political system.

That's why Conservative Ontario MP Michael Chong's newly-introduced private members bill to reverse that trend, dubbed the Reform Act, has provided such a welcome, and important, opportunity to debate ways to re-empower MPs and restore some balance to Canadian federal politics.

Mr. Chong's bill would remove the party leader's veto over local riding nominations, returning Canada to the system that had existed ever since Confederation.

Some point to former Progressive Conservative leader Bob Stanfield's 1974 refusal to sign the nomination papers of then Moncton mayor Leonard Jones -- because the mayor opposed the party's bilingualism policy -- as support for the rules in place. …

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