Update – September 25, 2014: The Reform Act just passed Second Reading with 253 in favour, 17 opposed. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start – and it’s a real pro-democracy reform that’s going ahead despite opposition from party insiders. Lots of people have put a lot of work into making this happen – let’s keep building momentum to open our democracy.
Update September 9, 2014: The second hour of debate on the Reform Act is scheduled for the third week of September with the vote on second reading taking place the following week. While momentum in favour of the bill is growing, this is a key time for us to put pressure on our Members of Parliament to ensure this bill goes through. Please show your support for this bill by signing onto and sharing our online campaign.
The Reform Act will give MPs more freedom to stand up for us, the people they represent. The bill is designed to challenge the growing centralization of power in the hands of party leaders. MPs of all political stripes support it but we need your help to make sure they work together to get it passed.
Interest in the “Reform Act” exploded across the political spectrum when it was first introduced by Conservative MP Michael Chong 1, with pundits expressing hope that the bill could “change Canada’s parliament forever”. 2 The bill would shift the balance of power, giving individual MPs more freedom to do their jobs and freely represent their constituents.
The Reform Act contains 3 important changes to “business as usual” in Ottawa: 3
1. It gives MPs, not the party leader, final say over who sits in their caucus. This would stop party leaders from unilaterally kicking MPs out of their party if they vote in the best interests of their constituents instead of toeing the party line.
2. It give MPs from a party the power to trigger a leadership review vote to remove an abusive party leader. This would make the process for reviewing the party leader explicit and the same across all parties instead of hidden away in each party’s by-laws.
3. It removes the ability of party leaders to block candidates from running for their party. This would ensure that MPs can speak freely, without fear that the party leader will force them out before the next election, and puts the power of candidate nominations back in the hands of grassroots party members in local riding associations.
This bill won’t fix our democracy overnight, but it will start to change the conversation. MPs have been forced to become the voice of party operatives when speaking to their constituents; the Reform Act will give them more freedom to represent the voices of their constituents to Ottawa.
We elect Members of Parliament to represent our interests and hold government accountable, but too often, the reality of party discipline means that individual MPs are not able to speak their minds and vote according to their conscience. Whipped votes and pressure from unelected insiders and the Leaders’ offices means that individual MPs risk harsh consequences – from removal of privileges to expulsion – if they refuse to toe the party line. 4, 5
Canadians support vital democratic reforms. Let’s empower our elected officials to do their job and more freely represent their constituents.
Send a message to your MP and all the party leaders right now to show your support for what the Reform Act is setting out to achieve.
- Conservative MP Michael Chong makes bid to fix Parliament
- Andrew Coyne: Reform Act bill would change Canada’s parliament forever.http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/11/29/andrew-coyne-reform-act-bill-would-change-canadas-parliament-forever/
- In praise of Michael Chong’s plan to democratize democracy
- MP Exit Interviews (Samara)
- For a discussion of the role of party discipline in BC’s legislature, see Whipped: The Secret World of Party Discipline by Sean Holman (CPAC) http://www.cpac.ca/en/programs/cpac-special/episodes/21229855/