Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Let Debate on Parliamentary Reform Act Begin

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Let Debate on Parliamentary Reform Act Begin

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Let debate on parliamentary Reform Act begin

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Dec. 8:

To call Canada's Parliament dysfunctional would be an understatement. It fluctuates between two extremes: all scandal all the time, and rote debates with MPs not daring to say what they believe or vote independently.

For four decades, parliamentarians have been wringing their hands ineffectually as a succession of prime ministers and their unelected officials have appropriated power that once belonged to the people's representatives.

Last week, in a welcome move, Michael Chong, a thoughtful Conservative backbencher, introduced a private member's bill designed to redress the imbalance between party leaders and their MPs and make parliamentarians more accountable to their constituents.

His timing was astute. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has imposed a rigid code of conformity on his Conservative colleagues, has been weakened in recent months by an embarrassing expense scandal in the Senate and an erosion of the unquestioning loyalty he commanded from his caucus for seven years.

Even so, the four-term MP faces plenty of opposition. Backroom organizers, cabinet ministers, pundits and political scientists immediately jumped on his bill, warning that his plan would destabilize Parliament, allow undesirable candidates to get elected and disrupt the business of government.

Chong reacted calmly. "I expect that many MPs will rightfully want to review the bill, understand it and make a determination," he said.

The proposed Reform Act would make three principal changes:

It would give the parliamentary caucuses of all political parties the power to trigger a leadership review, as they can do in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Such a review would be triggered by a written request from 15 per cent of caucus members.

It would restore local control over party nominations by lifting the requirement that the party leader approve a prospective candidate. …

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