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.”