The Backbench Spring: Bruce Hyer champions independence

'I was not really the one who was punished by the party and by our system here'

Shortly after Dominic LeBlanc had said his piece yesterday, Independent MP Bruce Hyer, formerly of the NDP, stood to add his support to Mark Warawa’s question of privilege.

Before the third reading vote on the long gun registry bill, for example, I was informed by the whip of my former party that if I did not vote as the party wished, then I would be “punished”. After that vote I was instantly punished: no questions, no statements, no foreign travel, no committee representation, no debating time other than asking brief questions of party debaters.

However, I was not really the one who was punished by the party and by our system here. It was the constituents of Thunder Bay—Superior North who were punished. Their voice in the House of Commons was muzzled. The person they had elected was no longer able to speak for them, to ask their questions and to raise their concerns and aspirations.

Tomorrow will be exactly one year to the day since I became an independent. I was scheduled that day to have my first S. O. 31 statement since my punishment had begun. Somehow the party found out that I would use my statement to announce my becoming independent. In the few minutes before my scheduled speaking time, they asked the Speaker to pull my statement, and the Speaker complied. However, now, as an independent, I and my constituents do get a reasonable and adequate number of questions and statements.

The similarities between my experience and that of the member for Langley are striking. We must all recognize that we have developed a problem in Parliament of excessive party control, and we must move to fix the problem before it erodes our democracy any further.