Conservatives mull position on colleague’s parliamentary reform bill

by Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet have yet to weigh in formally, but a Conservative MP’s bid to reform Parliament is already creating a lively debate within the party caucus.

At their weekly meeting Wednesday, Harper did not say whether he would allow a full free vote on Michael Chong’s so-called “Reform Act of 2013.” MPs are usually allowed to vote their conscience on private member’s bills, but whether Harper would extend that liberty to cabinet ministers is unknown.

In the meantime, the level of support among both opposition parties and Conservatives might well figure into the calculation by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I love it, absolutely,” declared Alberta MP Leon Benoit.

Chong has been inundated with tweets, emails and calls since unveiling his bill earlier this week. He has a date with Tory colleagues early Thursday morning to brief them fully on the legislation, and will visit opposition caucuses next week.

The proposed measures seek to rebalance power between MPs and the executive, going so far as to give caucus the power to call for a review of the leader and even eject him or her from the job.

It would also give electoral district associations for the various parties the final say in who represents them in elections, rather than giving the leader the final sanction.

Supporters of Chong’s bill caution that it’s still too early to gauge whether it will pass, and that most MPs haven’t had a time to actually read the bill.

“Michael’s a good friend of mine, one of the smartest individuals in this House,” said Ontario MP Larry Miller.

“I trust him on it, but I took the time to read the bill, I’ve actually read it seven times. There’s some minor things in there I think will create some discussion, and I’m willing to have that discussion.”

Said Manitoba MP James Bezan: “I think there’s some good parts in there and some parts that I have problems with, and that’s something I’ll talk with Michael about and see how we move forward.”




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