Why bother with a House of Commons? - Macleans.ca

Why bother with a House of Commons?

Aaron Wherry on parliamentary democracy and Peter van Loan’s proposal


Paul McLeod is astonished by Peter Van Loan’s proposal to limit the number of votes an independent MP can compel on a piece of legislation.

So Peter van Loan asked Speaker of the House Scheer to allow a test vote wherein the Conservatives vote down all of May’s amendments in one go. Think about this for a second. van Loan’s logic implies,

1) The government is blindly, dogmatically opposed to any change being proposed by an independent MP.

2) A government shouldn’t have to actually demonstrate this knee-jerk opposition through voting down everything May proposes. Instead they should just have to do it once.

3) The substance of the amendments is of zero importance. Even if all 80 amendments span totally different subjects and sections of legislation, they should all be grouped together as one *because of who proposed them.*

If Mr. Van Loan’s proposal were ever implemented, it would be a profound loss for parliamentary democracy in this country. It would cross a line that, however much it has been trampled, is still faintly there: we would be done even with the principle that the legislature and its individual members mattered as something other than pawns of the party leaders. You could argue that a single MP should not be able to prevent the House from passing legislation (consider the use of the filibuster in the United States), but that’s not the situation here. At most, Elizabeth May will have tied up the House for a day or so. I defer here to none other than Joe Oliver, who, during the vote marathon on C-38, acknowledged that the opposition had a right to force those votes and that the country was not imperilled as a result (scroll down to the 7:25pm entry).

Meanwhile, former Liberal house leader Don Boudria says the rules should be changed to limit the amendments that can be proposed at report stage. Of all the ways the House of Commons might be reformed, I’m not sure limiting the ability of the opposition to delay the passage of legislation should be anyone’s priority. The Conservatives apparently aren’t interested. Nor, really, should they be. One day, presumably, they will be in opposition. And someday, one imagines, they will want to delay a piece of legislation. Those members of the government side who were Reform MPs in 1999 will understand this very well.


Why bother with a House of Commons?

  1. What I don’t understand is why anyone is surprised by this.

    The Con party is like the prairies…..you can see things coming for miles.

  2. The Harper CPC – extending the middle finger to Canada since 2006.

  3. Who cares what Paul McLeod thinks? Is he elected? Does he represent anyone but his own partisan views? Funny how media now likes to report fellow media members as being somehow newsworthy, so long of course if it fits a certain political profile.

    • You would of course have the same objections if Wherry were linking to a journalist who thought VL’s kooky idea was right?

      Who cares what Bill “thinks” is slightly more appropriate in this instance.

      • So you think media personalities should spend more time “reporting” on what each other reports ? I disagree with you on that strongly but to each his (or her) own.

        • I simply haven’t a clue what you’re banging on about. You are aware that reporters report and columnists/bloggers and so forth are paid to give their informed opinion?

          • Sure they are…but do we really need them to now “report” on what other media personalities are “reporting” ? It’s funny how much certain members of the media like to aggrandize themselves these days…Maybe you see that as a good thing, I don’t.

          • Well, in the spirit of the times, maybe you should propose a law limiting bloggers to pre-approved topics.

          • In what way do they like to “aggrandize” themselves, IYO?

  4. “This is just something we have to deal with. Clearly, the opposition is
    trying to delay the passage of Bill C-45. That’s their true motivation,
    not to make constructive changes or substantive amendments, they’re
    simply trying to delay implementation. That’s their end game. We
    understand that”

    These guys really believe they are the victims in omnibus 1 and 2. Not one amendment was accepted for bill c38, not one. Who on earth do they think they are fooling, bar themselves?

    This is just posturing, right? Cuz the alternative is pure unalloyed paranoia.

  5. Why is he astonished? Van loans done this- or attempted it anyway – before. In the matter of Cottler his defence was basically…they picked on sir John A…this is payback. The guy has zero democratic instincts.

    As for Boudria…clever guy, but i never liked him. Everything the Harper crowd learned they learned from partisans like him in Chretien’s govt.

  6. “You could argue that a single MP should not be able to prevent the House from passing legislation “

    Before, when Parliament, with a Loyal Opposition was conceived and planned, citizens chose an individual from their community who best represented their collective interests, and spoke on behalf of that collection to a larger representation. Loyalties were decided in the house based on the responsibility of the legislation to the ideas of “Peace, Order and Good Government.”

    If the collective has a poor idea, an individual should indeed be able to stop it.

  7. We all better start paying attention real quick!! RISE UP CANADA!

  8. This comment was deleted.

    • actually, what am i saying….. this is canada…… you can get away with anything as long as you are a politician.

  9. Just remember, the Harper government is not the Progressive Conservative Party .. They took the name from them to legitimize the “REFORM” Party and many people who voted for them do not know this. If they think they will subvert democracy in Canada there’s 20 million or more of us that do not support it and that’s a fact.