Michael Chong's Reform Act - Macleans.ca

Michael Chong’s Reform Act

The highly anticipated bill is tabled in the House of Commons


Conservative MP Michael Chong has now tabled “An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (reforms).” It is seconded by Conservative MP James Rajotte.

Here is the text of the bill. And here is a backgrounder from Mr. Chong’s office.

See previously: Who is Michael Chong? And what does he want to do with our Parliament? and Let the Reform Act debate begin


Michael Chong’s Reform Act

  1. I don’t see anything at all in this bill about navigable waters or changes to the Canada Pension Plan. Doesn’t this Chong fellow know how parliament works?

    • I realize your comment is sarcasm, or shall I say, in the spirit of a true cynic (yo, brother), but I’m surprised at how many people voted this up.

      Canadian politics are so crazy right now that this has a chance of becoming real. Stay tuned, and support this bill in any way you can.

      • DVS: I upvoted it out of fellowship for the sarcasm and hilarious use of the navigable waters reference, and likely others did too.

  2. Finally, an announcement from a conservative, made without having to hang an ” ECONomic Action Plan ” sign behind him.

  3. I expect that detractors of this bill will point out that “party discipline” would be weakened resulting in more frequent and spectacular Bimbo eruptions. And that may be true, but the fact is that people as useless and sleepy as Rob Anders could be removed from their party by the caucus itself rather than being stubbornly protected by a party leader with his own agenda. .

    • Agreed. Democracy should be a bit messy at times, I’d argue. Party discipline is a more efficient system of getting things done, but then so are dictatorships.

      • Justin? :-)

        • Well played. LOL

      • Nicely put. Been thinking quite a bit these days about dictatorships watching Rob Ford in Toronto and his rock solid approval ratings. That, and reading Francien’s endless (ENDLESS) comments on a variety of boards really does explain to me how dictatorships come into being.

        • Been thinking much the same myself!

    • I guess one could say: “So what”? If an MP want to self destruct, I say the more power to him/her.

  4. What a pleasure it is to see Liberals like Aaron and Nick and others on these pages falling over each other to praise such a worthy venture put forth by Chong. Even Stephane and Justin want to have tea with Michael. Finally all have seen the light and are willing supporters for a proposal named after Reform that could have been written by Preston Manning and probably used his wisdom to construct.

    Let`s hope that you all remain consistent and continue your unconditional love for this document when you see Chong sitting down with Stephen Harper sometime in the New Year to discuss these reforms he proposes in conjunction with a more democratic Senate.

    These must be wonderful times we live in to see a young Conservative MP bring forth such a democratic initiative with the combined support of senior caucus Members, including the PM, and, of course, the above mentioned Liberals.

    • PMSH supports the bill? I haven’t heard one way or the other. Where’d you read that?

    • Your bitterness seems to spoiling the effect of your sarcasm. Sarcasm should be applied with precision. Difficult to do when all you have is a backhoe.

      • I find it difficult taking lessons on sarcasm from someone as irony-deficient as yourself.
        And hey, I don`t get the bitter dig, (backhoe?). I`m thrilled to see all of us working together.

        • I was irony deficient once. The doctor told me to increase my intake of steak and spinach.

        • I get more then my fair share of irony thanks, just ploughing through the winter stubble that guys like you seem to leave behind them wherever they post.

    • When the PMSH, Chong, every premier, representatives of aboriginal groups, woman’s groups who aren’t REAL Women and other minorities are all sitting down discussing senate reform, it will indeed be interesting and noteworthy.

      Till then, yawn.

  5. So this means, if you wanted to stage a coup against a Party Leader or PM you would try to do it at the constituency nomination level.
    This bill sounds like a forward move, but you might create a constant state of turmoil at the local level if the Leader doesn’t have any power over nominations.

    So I guess this would change the outcome of something like the Martin/Chretien battle.

    It’s a big change.
    But more democratic for sure. Harper needless to say will never allow it.

    • Read the bill. An expulsion vote by caucus would be triggered by 15% of caucus members signing a request for a secret ballot vote. A simple majority in favour of the leader’s removal would then be sufficient. Sounds a lot easier than trying to mobilize a bunch of riding associations in advance of election, presumably to oust the leader as their first parliamentary act.

      • Ousting members at the riding level by mobilizing memberships doesn’t sound too difficult. Easier than a caucus coup by existing MP’s in my opinion.

        • But riding associations only have the power to nominate members to stand for election. That means if you wanted to stage a “coup” against the party leader, you’d have to nominate candidates in a few hundred ridings who promised to vote out the leader if they were elected. But they’d be running for office under the banner of a party led by the person they are vowing to oust. Am I missing something?

          • yup, it sounds crazy to me too. this would be unlikely to happen during an election. it’s for the Rob Ford scenario, mid-term, and to help return to a balanced power between caucus and executive.

          • I support the caucus part, and maybe you are correct about the riding assoc part,
            But somebody on Kinsella’s site has raised the prospect of single issue movements capturing ridings and nominating new candidates. Yes they should lose the subsequent election, but you are looking at local rabble rousing for sure. And maybe that would be good!

          • Preston Manning’s caucus was – er, colourful, to say the least, as one illustration of grassroots dictacted candidates. But I agree, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of wackiness creeping in (which happens now, anyway) if the gains are substantial. Also, just because someone is nominated, doesn’t mean the voters will put them in office – so there is a check in place.

          • That raises the question of just how many electable Fords there are out there in the weeds.(shudder)

          • Sounds a bit like harpers grand abortive plan for the senate …on a smaller and even nuttier scale of course.

  6. The fact that the Liberals have invited Chong to speak to their caucus , explain his bill and answer questions is a refreshing change from the nonsense displayed in the house. Hopefully they will listen and give serious consideration as these proposal would return the power to them to actually represent their ridings in the way they were originally intended

  7. The only reason I see for MPS to vote against this is if they see themselves as party employees first and representatives of the people second (or third, or …). I expect it to fail.

    • I support the bill, but there may be other objections that MPs could fairly make:

      – 15% might be seen as too low a bar to trigger a review vote

      – I don’t think the bill specifies how often such petitions could be raised (could the same 15% keep forcing monthly votes?)

      – the use of secret ballots would mean that beyond the initial 15% signing a petition, individual MPs would not have such a crucial vote subject to public scrutiny and judgement.

      – while many rail against the current power a party leader has over riding nomination processes, it does mean some degree of homogeneity within a party. This might be a perceived benefit to some MPs who would fear a future of being associated (via party name) with fringe or unpaliatable caucusmates. For example – if the Conservative leader couldn’t block the hypothetical candidacy of a Rob Ford/Ezra Levant/etc… I might not want to share a party label and association with that person).

      – the ability to turf out fellow caucus members might – ironically – create an environment where independent and unpopular ideas are squelched, lest an MP incur the wrath of caucusmates. Instead of being whipped by the PM, members might start whipping themselves.

      – for some, it might not go far enough, and they’d fear the passage of this particular bill would make more ambitious reforms difficult to acheive in the near future

      Just a few thoughts. As I said, I support the bill. But it is possible to oppose it for numerous thoughtful reasons.

      • I’ve heard there are still some governments that use a parliamentary tool, which has fallen out of favour in Canada, called “amendments.” Apparently other elected representatives, not just the government or the bill’s mover, contribute their ideas to address unintended consequences and improve legislation that a majority can then vote for. Maybe we can have that in Canada again some day.

        • Given that committees are pretty much PMO branch plants now, it’s probably a good idea.

        • No time. Global uncertainty is clearly lap lapping at the door.

          • Yeah and what if that unelected senate proposed amendments. No can’t take a chance on that happening

      • Those are some pretty fair reasons. I agree that the main danger might be setting up a sort of PM recall( the pressure on caucus could even conceivably come from powerful sections of the membership) But none of this even comes close to the appalling imbalance of power we currently have in our polity.
        What occurred in Australia may have been to the good or even just necessary, but setting up incentives for mutiny among a group of overly ambitious people might necessitate its own checks and balances.
        I imagine the Harper groupies may well fight this on some of those worries…spuriously as nearly always, of course.

        • Agreed. We’ve seen enough evidence from the Chretien and Harper regimes to safely know that something has to be done. I suppose the secret ballot has the virtue of preventing directed lobbying from without, at least.

          • Guess that’s why we debate this stuff. When I raised the question of pressure from outside the caucus being a potential worry, I didn’t connect the dots to the value of a secret ballot.
            In designing this the perfect shouldn’t become the enemy of the good. There are likely no absolute fail safes. Lets crack on then!

          • hear hear!

          • I was going to reply to Sean (who raised good points), but your sentence:

            In designing this the perfect shouldn’t become the enemy of the good

            pretty much summed up what I was going to say.

      • I agree probably on the 15% threshold seeming low. That’s what committees and debate and readings to, adjust these bills as necessary, not sure how a private members’ bill works with that system.

        I like this comment:
        “Instead of being whipped by the PM, members might start whipping themselves.”

        I think that would be an improvement. We need social pressure, but collective pressure is much better than individual overreaching pressure, it’s more democratic.

  8. Great idea but I also believe that there are better ways to give MPs more power than what is contained in Chong’s proposed bill.

  9. While I like the democratic animus behind this bill, I wonder if the resulting new world would leave local ridings and nomination processes open to the predations of single-issue factions (e.g., right-to-life or gun control or white supremacy). What safeguards are there in this bill against such local hijackings?

    While the power invested in the leader to sign nomination papers is, IMO, too autocratic, I seem to recall Chretien somehow booting a locally nominated candidate, somewhere in the Maritimes (N.B., I believe) who had connections to white supremacy or some other nefarious movement.

    Does anyone else have better recollection of that nomination fiasco?.

    • It can happen whenever you have a weak riding association or a weakened party generally. That’s exactly how David Orchard and his nutbar followers almost took over the old Progressive Conservative Party back in the 1990s — the old PC party was at its weakest ebb and had a bunch of local riding associations that had pretty much become skeleton riding associations, with no money and very few members. Not at all difficult to do.

      • So, my question remains: if the leader’s control over signing nomination papers is, despite its autocratic implications, a control against hijacked local nominations, does Chong’s bill provide any equivalent safeguards? Or do we just accept the possibility of “rogue” nominations as one of the risks of unfettered democracy and assume the electorate is wise enough to shun such a candidate at the polls?

        • I’m concerned that if this bill passes we could see people like Rob Anders become nominees.
          But as you say there is still the electorate to save us from him becoming an MP.

          • People like Anders obviously already are nominees. And, having been nominated, they get elected. And re-elected.

        • Shouldn’t it be up to the local electorate? Removing the PM’s power to dismiss candidates also shields him from being accountable for the quality of the candidate.

          To deal with hijacked riding associations, I would suggest giving the outgoing MPs of the party (from the previous Parliament) the ability to decline to endorse a candidate in that riding. The rogue riding association could run the candidate as an independent, since that is what that MP would be if elected (assuming they were expelled after their election).

  10. Yep…but I think it might have been Dion though. He seemed to invite that sort of thing more then JC. Or maybe he was just unlucky.
    Oops…that was for the twitchy dog.:)

  11. http://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2013/12/03/chong-bill-needs-some-sober-first-thought/#.Up4uV_q9LTq

    Another voice of caution. Some good points, but since she raises the question of this kind of herd mentality ( those who like will prefer discipline) being almost uniquely attached to this particular version of the CPC, she then rather causally dismisses the possibility that extraordinary steps might now be inevitable; such as the codifying of parliamentary convention, which this govt has also trampled over.
    Caution and debate are both good ideas, what’s the chance we’ll really get some with these guys at the wheel?