The Senate committee on rules, procedure and the rights of Parliament will finish its consideration of the Reform Act on Tuesday, after hearing from former Speaker Peter Milliken and Liberal MP Stéphane Dion (Dion voted in favour of the bill at second reading in the House, but against the bill at third reading).
The Reform Act’s cause seemed to be bolstered on Friday by a statement of support from Conservative Sen. Bob Runciman. On Sunday, Michael Chong appeared alongside Conservative Sen. Don Plett, a critic of the bill, for a little debate on CTV’s Question Period.
Plett invoked David Wells’s problematic numbers, but also seemed to cite polling results that suggest voters are more interested in party leader and party brand than they are in electing an MP. I don’t doubt those findings, but to fully accept them is to a) ignore how our system actually works and what a vote is actually for, and b) endorse a quasi-presidential system we don’t have. (Those who are offended by the idea of MPs having a statutory say in their leader might actually be better off arguing in favour of moving to a presidential system.)
Indeed, the purpose of the Reform Act, and various other reforms that should follow, should be to increase the significance of the people we actually vote for and rebalance a system that is almost entirely dependent on party leader and banner.
(Stewart Prest takes a run at Senator Wells’ arguments in an op-ed published today.)
On Thursday, I spoke over the phone with Michael Chong about the bill. Part of that conversation aired on Maclean’s on the Hill, but here is a longer version.