Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Parliamentary Reform Bill Weakened, Not Gutted

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Parliamentary Reform Bill Weakened, Not Gutted

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Parliamentary reform bill weakened, not gutted

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An editorial from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, published Feb. 24:

Has Conservative backbencher Michael Chong's private member's bill to give more power to MPs at the expense of party leaders been so watered down that it's meaningless?

That's the sharp criticism now coming from many of the same observers who loved Bill C-586 when Mr. Chong first introduced it in late 2013.

Mr. Chong's bill is scheduled for a final vote in the House of Commons Wednesday. With committed support from all the major parties, it's expected to pass easily in a free vote and be sent to the Senate.

Critics are being unfair to what's unquestionably a weakened, though hardly gutted, attempt to rebalance the clout of individual MPs and party leaders.

The bill originally would have given MPs the power outright to trigger leadership reviews and remove caucus chairpersons and members, while riding associations -- not party leaders, as is now the law -- would have had final say on choosing candidates for elections.

Amendments to the bill, agreed to by Mr. Chong to get it passed, only require caucuses to choose whether they wish to exercise such authority after each federal election. Candidate selection, meanwhile, would be approved by a person (which could still be the party leader) or entity chosen by MPs.

If the bill becomes law, that means there's no guarantee MPs will have the gumption to take on party leaders. After elections, caucuses could vote to leave the power structure unchanged from the way it's been for decades, even if it leaves them in "trained seal" mode. …

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