Brad Trost Maverick Watch

A proposal to change the way committee chairs are elected


The Conservative MP mused last fall about giving more power to backbenchers and this week he tabled a motion to study the possibility of electing committee chairs through a vote of the House.

M-431 — February 27, 2013 — Mr. Trost (Saskatoon—Humboldt) — That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to: (a) consider the election of committee chairs by means of a preferential ballot system by all the Members of the House of Commons, at the beginning of each session and prior to the establishment of the membership of the standing committees; (b) study the practices of other Westminster-style Parliaments in relation to the election of Committee Chairs; (c) propose any necessary modifications to the Standing Orders and practices of the House; and (d) report its findings to the House no later than six months following the adoption of this order.

In 2002, the House adopted secret ballot votes at committees to elect chairs. But in 2006, the Prime Minister put forward his preferred nominees for those posts. In 2007, there was the leak of a manual provided to Conservative committee chairs. Committee membership, meanwhile, is decided by the parties.

In theory, at least from where I sit, giving the House the authority to elect committee chairs would give power to the legislature and bestow a certain amount of independence on those committee chairs.

Here is a useful look at how the committee system here compares to the recently reformed British system.


Brad Trost Maverick Watch

  1. It would be interesting to see how far-reaching this proposal would be. There are some Committee chairmanships that are reserved for Opposition members. Would the House be allowed to vote, by preferential ballot on which Opposition members were chairs? Could someone from the 3rd party be able to sit as a chair? Would the standing orders regarding Opposition committee chairs still be in place, or could, in theory, all chairs belong to members of the governing party.

  2. Good on Trost for trying to promote measures that engage and empower backbenchers in meaningful ways.

    A functional, less partisan committee system would go a long way to obviating the role of the Senate as the forum for sober second thought.

    In the current autocratic regime, it’s too much to hope for.

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