Most of the topics I pick to write about in this commentary are things that affect our daily lives in some way fairly directly. They are usually items that are economic, social or public policy decisions which hit home with most of us on a daily or weekly basis. There are times, however, when there are other things that are happening which are probably not top of mind but at the end of the day have a very direct influence on our lives and how our society is structured.
Last week I had the opportunity to go and listen to a presentation by Mr. Michael Chong, Member of Parliament for Wellington-Halton Hills. Mr. Chong is a Conservative Member of Parliament who represents a large mixed rural/urban riding in Ontario. He was first elected in 2004 as an Opposition member. He briefly served as a Cabinet Minister in Mr. Harper’s first government. He resigned from Cabinet because of a matter of principle on policy decisions of his government and has remained a backbench MP ever since.
Over the last several years, Mr. Chong has dedicated his service to his constituents and to the reform of the Parliament of Canada. As we all know, the reform of any part of our parliamentary system is not an easy task and certainly not one that endears you to the leadership of whatever party happens to be in control of the Prime Minister’s Office. Many of you are probably wondering why Mr. Chong would waste his time on such endeavours and what relevance his proposals have to our everyday lives.
As I sat and listened to Mr. Chong last Wednesday evening, he made a very compelling case of why he is doing this and answering the questions that I have raised above. His Reform Act covers three basic areas and what he is attempting to do is put in writing what has been convention in the past and in fact, can happen today in our Parliamentary system if all of the stars line up. I believe if Mr. Chong is successful in getting his Private Member’s Bill through Parliament, we will have a healthier democratic system and therefore have the ability for that system to produce public policy decisions that will make our lives and our country’s direction a better place in which to live and raise our families.
What Mr. Chong is attempting to do is rectify three areas of Parliamentary democracy which are clearly irritants to Canadians because we have seen a steady erosion of the powers of our Members of Parliament and therefore the ability of us as constituents to affect how our Member of Parliament represents us. His Bill speaks to the ability of Members of Parliament to be nominated without the blessing of the Party Leader. It talks about the ability of the elected Caucus to remove a Party Leader with a secret ballot. And it talks about the ability of the Party caucus, i.e. the MPs, to discipline their own members rather than the Party Leader exercising their individual whims.
Mr. Chong’s Private Member’s Bill is only about 4 pages long and can be accessed off the Parliamentary website. Second reading of the bill will be voted on the 24th of September. It will require members of all political parties banding together to make this reform bill successful. I would be really surprised if the various party leaders buy into this proposal even though some have given it lip service earlier on because it limits the power of Prime Ministers and their “un-elected” backroom people.
We have all seen how difficult it is to achieve reform of the Canadian Senate which has a far lesser role in our everyday lives than the House of Commons does. This Private Member’s Bill of Mr. Chong’s in my view is the first real opportunity since Pierre Trudeau changed the electoral laws in this country in 1970 to rectify the balance of power in the House of Commons back in favour of individual voters and their Members of Parliament versus political parties and their leaders.
I believe this law should be adopted by the Parliament of Canada and then it should quickly be adopted by the various provincial legislatures. I will be asking the members of the PC Party of Saskatchewan to take a serious look at adopting these provisions in our party’s constitution and then pushing for their adoption by the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. Putting power back in the hands of individual members and the people who elect them is the greatest safeguard that all of us have of our democratic rights, the rule of law and consequently, the growth of a prosperous society which we can all enjoy. Good luck to Mr. Chong and I am sure he would appreciate the support that any of the readers of this commentary would like to give to his efforts on all of our behalf’s.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.