How Michael Chong's proposed bill would give MPs power to eject leader - Macleans.ca
 

How Michael Chong’s proposed bill would give MPs power to eject leader

Straight shooter becomes standard-bearer for rebalancing power between Parliament and the PMO


 

OTTAWA – A Conservative MP is set to introduce a bill that would give party caucuses significant powers — including the ability to vote out their leader.

Michael Chong has been working on the private member’s bill for years, and has become a standard-bearer for rebalancing the power between the Prime Minister’s Office and Parliament.

His proposed legislation would also give party riding associations the ultimate say in electoral nominations, removing the leader’s signature from the equation for the first time since 1970.

But the measures that focus on MPs are the most likely to stir debate in the House of Commons, particularly at a time when the power of the executive is in the spotlight.

Details of how Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s staff allegedly tried to manipulate a Senate committee report and an independent audit were laid out in an RCMP affidavit filed last week in court.

Conservative sources familiar with Chong’s bill say it’s not a direct reaction to what’s currently in the news, and wouldn’t even come into effect until after the next election. Chong had been forced to introduce the bill or risk losing his place in the order of Commons consideration.

When asked about the bill Friday, Chong said, “I’m going to wait until the bill is introduced in the House before providing public comment.”

One measure would entrench in the Parliament of Canada Act that the different Commons caucuses — also referred to as parliamentary parties — have the power to trigger a leadership review vote, as long as 15 per cent of the caucus applies in writing for one.

After that, a simple majority of MPs, 50 per cent plus one, could vote to turf the leader and have a leadership race.

Members of Australia’s Labour party caucus recently used that power to eject leader Julia Gillard, at the time the prime minister. Conservative MPs in Britain have the same power.

In the case of Chong’s bill, the power would be restricted to the House of Commons caucus, and not the larger national caucus that includes senators.

Theoretically, the MPs would be cautious about how they vote because of their new, closer relationship to the riding associations that helped send them to Ottawa. The idea would also be to make political engagement more attractive to Canadians, with the knowledge they have more power at the grassroots level.

Commons caucuses would also have the right to elect their own chairs and to call for a review of an MP, as well as to eject or readmit them.

Right now, it is the prerogative of the leader alone — as Harper showed this year when MP Dean Del Mastro was shown the door after being charged under the Canada Elections Act.

Chong’s bill is expected to be introduced next Thursday, and would potentially see second reading debate in February or March.

When asked about the bill, Harper’s parliamentary secretary Paul Calandra said his party already allows caucus to have direct input into legislation.

“Look, if you want to be a good MP, you want to do your job, you want to have an impact in this place, it doesn’t matter what party you’re in, you can,” said Calandra, noting he hasn’t seen Chong’s bill.

“You want to be lazy, and you want to blame other people for your inability to get things done, you can also be that type of MP.”

There is a relatively discreet but substantial section of the Conservative caucus that has bridled against Harper’s control, which has extended to their questions and votes in committees, and what they say on the floor of the Commons.

This spring, they rallied behind MP Mark Warawa’s bid to give MPs the right to make statements of their own choosing in the Commons.

MP Brent Rathgeber left the Conservative caucus in June, complaining about the gradual transfer of power from members of Parliament to the Prime Minister’s Office and cabinet.

Chong is a popular figure in the Conservative caucus, regarded as a moderate and measured straight-shooter with a lot of integrity.

He himself resigned from a cabinet post in 2006, saying he did not agree with a government motion recognizing Quebec as a nation.

In order for Chong’s private member’s bill to fly, he will need more than just the support of his own colleagues. MPs from other parties will also need to come on board.

Dominic LeBlanc, deputy Liberal leader, said it was too early to say what his party’s position would be, but they are taking interest because of Chong’s long work in the area.

“He’s a thoughtful guy who left the Harper cabinet on a matter of principle, he’s been consistent in wanting to improve parliamentary institutions, from question period to committees and so on,” said LeBlanc.

“The fact that he would do it now tells me he’s being encouraged by a number of his other Conservative colleagues who are probably feeling a little downtrodden. Harper’s been so abusive and so domineering of his own caucus, that this is probably the thin end of the wedge.”


 

How Michael Chong’s proposed bill would give MPs power to eject leader

  1. This will be an interesting test of my support. I starting supporting Trudeau during his leadership bid and have continued to support the Federal Liberals. However, if I get a whiff that they are not serious about parliamentary reform, I am gone.

    • Parties will no doubt allow a “free vote” on the issue while furious arm twisting of MP’s goes on in the back rooms.

    • ‘Gone where?’, she said dryly.

      • ‘Back to being a political agnostic’, he explained patiently.

        • ‘Not on the ballot unfortunately’, she laughed.

          • above support =$ (wasn’t talking about votes), however

            Although many have claimed Trudeau only announced position in legalization of pot (something I disagree with for pragmatic reasons), they are wrong.

            Trudeau is in favour of Keystone, against Northern Gateway, willing to give the other pipelines a chance.
            Trudeau favours less control on foreign investment than Harper.
            Trudeau has taken a stronger stand against the PQs charter than the other two leaders
            Trudeau supports the EU trade deal

            However, more than any of the above, Trudeau has espoused a new approach to governing: less top down (no parachuting), more transparent (online expenses). He has been clear (not in the Harper sense) that this is more than a simple expectation that he would be different. If he is going to address the structural issues in Canadian governance, Chong’s proposal is a natural point to begin the discussion. Given that this is Trudeau’s main message to date, he needs to deliver. The fact that you don’t view it as a priority is clear, but it is also inconsistent with Trudeau’s position.

            So given it is Trudeau’s most strongly political position, democratic reform is on the ballot, under his name.

          • Well not really. He has only talked in vague terms about policy, because the policy conference isn’t till Feb….so we won’t know much about it until then. And after that there won’t be details as Cons and Dips will be right there listening.

            It’s centrist, involves liberalism, and was in power for about 70% of the 20th century….most of our history in fact….so we have a general idea of what they stand for.

            The party decided on pot…Justin isn’t that keen on it….but it’s a popular policy.

          • How can you say Trudeau’s against parachute candidates after the way he put Freeland in as the candidate in Toronto Center? Or that he’s for parliamentary reform when he’s explicitly stated he’s against senate reform?

          • Because he didn’t put her in as the candidate in Toronto Centre. What he did was recruit a star candidate, she then had to win the riding association’s support according to all the existing rules. She beat out the competition and then ran for the Liberals in the bye election.

            There is a world of difference between a leader overriding the local process and being engaged in getting the best candidates to consider a run.

          • clearly you are a communist who hates democracy.

  2. If this bill passes it will not become law until after the next election. The big question is, would the opposition parties vote in favor, would it be a whipped vote. If it passes, the Liberals would have the power to toss Trudeau out and the Dippers could get rid of Mulcair so this would not only effect Harper…should be interesting

  3. No way this will ever pass. Retribution for MP’s who dare upset the party apple cart will be swift and deadly to one’s political career. My belief is that most politician’s loyalty these days is to 1) their party, 2) themselves and (a distant) 3) their constituents. They’re not likely to risk their their own careers and pensions by biting the hand that feeds them.

    • There are several ways for this to pass. The Liberals and NDP may support it wholeheartedly just to embarrass Harper. It would force Harper to whip the vote (against a Conservative backbencher bill). A dangerous move on Harper’s part either way.

      Harper may have decided this is his last election coming up. If so passing this bill would be a screw-over to Kenney similar to what Chretien did to Martin with the election finance reform. If there is any bit of reform left in Harper (doubtful sure) this bill captures the best elements of Reforms proposals in a more pragmatic and actionable form. It would be a remarkable legacy for a remarkable politician (if not a remarkable PM).

      I don’t think it will pass either, but it could.

  4. Mr. Chong has been working on this bill (or a very similar one) for a long time. I think that it has a good chance of passing … and I believe that it would go long way towards correcting the balance of power between the PM, the PMO, and the rest of the MPs. I applaud his courage!!

    • Your point about him working on it a long time is very true — and since timing is everything, indeed this timing is interesting too. Michael Chong may be launching his interest in CPC leadership with this.

      • Wow, you really think Chong would go after the leadership. ( I guess maybe as a symbolic gesture to get a chance to pitch his message)

  5. For those in the GTA, Trudeau will be in Georgetown (just NW of Brampton) tomorrow afternoon, in Michael Chong’s riding. This may be an opportune time to let him know how you feel about Chong’s reform bill.

    This bill may be the best shot at democratic reform that Canadians have seen in a long time. If both the Liberals and NDP were willing to support Chong and a few other courageous Cons, this bill might actually pass. But only if the grassroots makes a lot of noise.

    Details are on the LPC website and as follows:

    Event Information

    Justin Trudeau is in town.

    We would like to invite you to attend a meet and greet with Justin on
    Monday, December 2nd at 2:00 pm at Mold-Masters Sportsplex
    (221 Guelph Street, Georgetown ON L7G 4A8).

    If you would like more information about this event please email Matt at cunnington.matthew@gmail.com.

    If you are interested in volunteering at this event and/or
    mainstreeting in downtown Milton to help sign up supporters please email
    André at andre.capaldi@lpco.ca

  6. It’s actually kind of undemocractic to force politicians to act this way. Why not leave it up to each party to govern itself as it sees fit?

    • A very small percentage of Canadians are members of political parties. Increasingly these people have taken to secret ballots at closed meetings to decide upon their policies. Moreover, since the easiest method for this small cabal to exert their dominance over the greater Canadian population is through the leader they alone select, they have worked relentlessly to focus all political power to the leader as a proxy for themselves. They have also forced Canadians of all political persuasions to financial subsidize their sleazy activities to the tune of $2 for every dollar of their own.

      On the other hand, despite the imperfections of Canadian democracy, (first past the post, robocall skullduggery etc) the Parliament of Canada remains the most legitimate voice of all Canadians.

      So who would I rather have make the call about how our democracy should work?

      The legitimate voice of all Canadians or some nasty thugs of Gerstein’s or Davey’s ilk?

      • StewartSmith, I totally agree with you.

        What do I hear the PM him tell me every time he speaks in QP or avoids questions from the media?

        I hear the following words coming from him:

        {{As I have told you at MY convention:}}
        1- “I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        The senate cover up and what I really know.

        2- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        My fishing buddy Rob and what illegal things he likes doing at work and at home. Because after all he hasn’t asked me to legalize pot yet and
        I believe he can deliver votes for me in 2015.

        3- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        My use of a Libel Suit to stop free speech on the case about the offer made to Chuck Strahll.

        4- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        Jim selling GM shares and other assets to mask the real deficit and create a false surplus for 2015.

        5- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        What I really know about the Duffy deal, the PCO or PMO and the erased, (now not erased), Perrin emails.

        6- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        Wanting answers to your questions, because you know by now that I decide to tell you only what I think you should be told.”

        7- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        The taxpayers paying for the legal fees of my staff who were found, or will be found, to have been involved in the senate scandal, even if you think that the CPC fund should cover those fees just like Mr. Mulcair’s legal fees and damages were paid for by his party fund way back when.

        8- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        My throwing my underlings under the bus just to keep the bus from running over me. I have to do this because My Canada needs me.

        9- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        My passing laws to create way more minimum wage earners out of the former middle class and helping my rich friends and supporters get richer.

        10- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        The 59 senate appointments I made because I felt they would be good fund raisers for MY party. I call this MY senate reform.

        11- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        SUN NEWS TV being my favourite viewing channel because they say what I like hearing and after all they know who butters their bread.

        12- I COULD CARE LESS what you think about:
        Anything I plan on doing because if you don’t agree with me you are an idiot!”

    • Are you a bit intellectually challenged? Power corrupts and control mechanisms must be in place to control hitler types like Mr. Harper.

  7. Wow, a bill recognizing, for example, that the Prime Minister serves at the pleasure of the majority in parliament. Holy Democracy Batman!