10 things to know about the Reform Act - Macleans.ca

10 things to know about the Reform Act

The pitch and its potential


Conservative MP Michael Chong tabled a bill on Tuesday that would give MPs more power. 

1. Exhibit A: The legislation:

The Reform Act

2. This is what Chong had to say as he introduced his bill:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have the honour to present my bill. A bill that would strengthen the principle on which our democratic institutions in Canada were founded. The principle of responsible government. Mr. Speaker, this bill is based on some very old ideas. Ideas that people like Robert Baldwin and Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine, a monument to whom is standing behind this Centre Block on Parliament Hill, ideas that they put forward that established the principles on which modern Canadian political institutions are based. These ideas have laid the foundations for this country and I hope that this bill, if adopted, will strengthen those ideas and allow our Parliament to flourish in the 21st century.”

3. … and here’s his 60-second sales pitch:

4. So what? Maclean’s writer Aaron Wherry explains:

“If you believe the House of Commons is a sad, empty shell of what it could or should be, Chong’s proposals could go some way to fixing that. Each of the changes he proposes follows the same basic idea of shifting power from the party leader to the individual MP. And it is the current imbalance of power—in which the party leaders and their offices seems to be able to control much of what occurs in the legislature—that is arguably at the root of our current malaise.” (More from Wherry here.)

5.  Here’s how some MP responded to the bill:

6. For the record, Margaret Atwood likes it:

7. Paul Wells? Not so much.

8.  Of those who oppose the bill, Andrew Coyne writes:

“Broadly speaking, we can divide the opposition into two groups: the Sophisticated Yawners and the Unbridled Hysterics. The first hold, variously, that the bill is unnecessary, ineffective, or unlikely; the second are united by the belief that it is actively harmful, even if they cannot agree what those harms are.”

9. Speaking of Twitter, which we were, the Reform Act has its own account:

In fact, now so does @MichaelChongMP. He be taking  questions there on Wednesday afternoon:

10. What does it all mean? Here’s Wherry again. (You can read his column here): 

The Reform Act would not fix everything. At least not immediately. It would not automatically make our politics nicer or prettier or smarter. Implementing its measures today would likely not result in profound, or even noticeable, change tomorrow. It might, if passed, eventually result in some new amount of chaos.

“But there is something to be said for chaos.

We should not, no matter how dispiriting the present, too easily become enamoured of change. And total chaos is to be avoided. But something must change to enliven our politics. And in the Reform Act are the sort of changes that might begin to loosen the grip of that which has our House of Commons in a sleeperhold. In empowering the caucus, we might embolden the MP. In moving the nomination process beyond the easy reach of the party leader, we might compel party members and candidates to stand on their own.”



10 things to know about the Reform Act

  1. Chong’s bill is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
    He doesn’t want to lose the central funding and advantage that being a Party member brings him, but he doesn’t want the quid pro quo that should go with it.
    He’s quite happy to tilt the table in favour of the legalised gangs and criminal enterprises that are our political parties, because if he had to stand on his own two feet against real independent politicians he’d fail miserably.
    It’s a pathetic attempt to ensure that the cartels continue to rig our political system while those who purchase their votes get 75% of what they take in bribes covered by the tax payer.
    Why anybody is hailing this as a move towards greater democracy is beyond me, it’s just ensuring that more of the otherwise unemployable now no longer have to stick to the party platform once they are in. They however still prevent real independents from competing because they get the benefit of numbers.
    If Chong gave a crap about real representation he wouldn’t be part of a party but he is, so he doesn’t.

    • The tension between the historical role of MPs as loyal party caucus members but also as locally responsive and keen ombudsmen has never been higher in the Conservative Party. Michael Chong’s bill attempts to swing the pendulum from where it has been welded of late, at the extreme end characterized by utter deference to the party whip, towards the other pole at which local riding constituents direct the votes and activities undertaken by their MP. A happy medium is where we must return, as it would be our very best prospect of “real representation”, as you put it.

      • It’s never been higher full stop. The Libs and the NDP vote as they’re told too.
        All this measure will do is make the local party the boss of the MP and given how Rathgeber’s local association responded to his so called “principled” move I can’t see it doing much other than hiding the cult of personality behind another screen of party apparatchiks.
        MPs represent their entire constituency even those who didn’t vote for them; this move does nothing to remove the democratic deficit there. The majority of the people in the riding are still being dictated to by a small elite in the know.
        Any attempt at electing a candidate that would be independent of the corrupt party system has very little chance of succeeding due to the scam that is operated by all the major parties.
        The whole system is unrepresentative and toxic and the gangs need excising from this festering sore. If this kind of cartel were happening anywhere else the police would be investigating just like it does with the Angels.

    • Considering how the parties themselves don’t stick to the party platform once they’re in, I’m not sure what’s changing. You really think those promises get kept?

      A political party is supposed to be a group of people working for some common goals. It is not supposed to be a cult of leadership where everybody else does what the leader says and people who show independent thought are thrown out (except that’s exactly what we’ve got in Canada).

      Besides, this is how it worked for a majority of the history of the country. If it was good enough for Macdonald, Laurier, and Borden, why do we need strongman style dictators in the leaders chair now?

      • Never underestimate the power of party whips and their well established procedures for crushing party dissent. The problems inherent in today’s party whip abuses are well understood, so it is time for a new synthesis of MP’s obligations to the party and their obligations as local ombudsman to their constituents. Time to try for a happy medium.

    • “real independent politicians” … for example … (fill in the blank)

      • The fact that you ask that question and the answer is zero in the House illustrates only too clearly how badly the political gangs have corrupted the system.
        Proportional representation on a riding basis with NO provision for party lists would go a long way to rectify the situation. It would also allow for MPs to have a range of views that don’t fit into the party paradigm.

  2. Michael Chong’s bill would do little except restore certain things to the way there were from the time of Confederation until 1970. Many of us don’t remember a time when local riding associations held much sway, or when our individual MP’s had a voice they could use on our behalfs to represent us in the House of Commons without fearing retribution from their party leader or, heaven forbid, the unelected PMO.

    We need Senate reform, and we need Commons reform too. It seems to me that this bill is a good place to start.

  3. Right On Michael Chong! PMs Clark, Mulroney, and Martin believed in giving cabinet ministers real power and authority, while keeping the PMO to just a functionary role. By contrast, PMs Chretien and Harper turned the PMO into an extremely politicized Praetorian Guard with unlimited power to tell elected MPs and cabinet ministers when to sit, stand, clap, or mostly when to shut up. Each time an unelected PMO staffer comes up with another stupid idea, then makes changes in real time and orders everyone to sing from the new song sheet, local grass roots party members lose track from one day to the next what the real party policy might actually be. They get a faxed or emailed list of bulleted “talking points” instead, and if you compared them over time you’d see no logical consistency, just constant reaction to the previous day’s events. What a ridiculous way to run modern political parties in this day and age of rapidly, independantly informed constituents.

  4. ..We dont have to bother with this, because no one is going to fix CRTC regulations, as well as GMOs..Despite their effort of reform