Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Chong's Reform Act Passed by Senate despite Objections by Some Tory Senators

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Chong's Reform Act Passed by Senate despite Objections by Some Tory Senators

Article excerpt

Senate passes contentious Reform Act

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OTTAWA - A Conservative backbencher's controversial effort to rebalance power between MPs and party leaders is on its way to becoming law after surviving a stiff challenge in the Senate.

Michael Chong's Reform Act passed in the upper house late Monday by a vote of 38-14, with four abstentions.

Chong sat in the gallery to watch the nerve-wracking finale to his 19-month crusade to empower MPs and dilute the power of party leaders.

"It was surreal, I couldn't believe that it was actually taking place," he said in an interview moments after the final vote.

"We weren't sure when the vote was going to take place ... or if at all. There was a real risk that the bill was going to be filibustered out and that didn't happen."

Chong was "thrilled" with the outcome and predicted it will mean MPs will be able to do a better job representing their constituents.

"It will lead to freer votes in the House of Commons, where members of Parliament can, on occasion, break ranks with their party to represent their constituents views and that is a significant change from the status quo."

Among other things, the act is designed to give MPs in a party caucus the power to trigger a leadership review, and to subsequently vote to oust their leader.

Two Conservative senators, David Wells backed by Denise Batters, introduced an amendment last week that would have neutered that specific part of the private member's bill.

Passing the amendment would have effectively killed the bill, since it would have forced it back to the House of Commons, which adjourned last week in advance of an anticipated October election.

Wells' amendment was rejected Monday by a vote of 46-14.

But about a dozen Conservative senators who strenuously opposed the bill continued to try several more procedural manoeuvres to block it.

Sen. Yonah Martin moved to adjourn final debate on the bill until Tuesday. That motion was defeated by a vote of 47-7.

Then Batters moved another amendment. After brief, acrimonious debate, that amendment was also defeated by a vote of 39-12. …

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