Canadian politics has been exciting lately, with lots of focus on spending scandals, PMO manipulation and crack-smoking mayors (all alleged, of course!). But even more exciting, to me and to the future of our country, is the Reform Act. It is a private members’ bill in Parliament that would shift the balance of power, giving our individual MPs more freedom to do their jobs and freely represent us.
If you’re like me, you find that Canadian politics is overwhelmingly skewed towards control by the leader of a party. MPs are “whipped” (isn’t that an apt description!) to vote according to how their leader wants them to vote. They can be removed from caucus if they refuse. The effect is that, in general, MPs focus on pleasing their party leader, rather than taking their constituents’ concerns to the party. This happens across the main political parties, not just with the Conservatives.
Some might say that former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell lost support before the last election because he was “whipped” to support the long-gun registry, which many of his constituency wanted scrapped. He himself stated that he would have voted against it if he could have without being removed from caucus.
In a majority government situation, where MPs are “whipped,” the Prime Minister’s Office acts effectively as a dictatorship. This is allowed within our political system. Many people have commented that the current prime minister has taken this to the extreme, but the truth is, there’s nothing in our system at the moment to stop him.
The Reform Act would change that! It would make sure our MPs can speak more freely without fear of retribution from prime ministers or party leaders, by putting power back in the hands of local constituencies.
It would give our MPs the power to remove an abusive party leader – a vital democratic safety valve in between normal leadership races. Finally, it would allow our MPs – not party leaders – to have the final say on whether a given MP should be permitted to sit in their caucus.
Already, the Reform Act is gaining momentum right across the political spectrum, with support from a wide range of Conservative, NDP, Liberal, and Green MPs.
I urge you to go to www.reformact2013.ca to get more information, and to show Conservative backbencher Michael Chong, who proposed the bill, that you support what he’s trying to do. Please also go to www.leadnow.ca/reform-act to show your support for the bill – over 10,000 people signed it within a day of the bill being introduced in the House! Please also write to Ryan Leef at Ryan.Leef@parl.gc.ca and tell him you’re depending on him to vote in favour of it.
Let’s take this rare opportunity to fix our democracy and run with it, folks!
Tanya Van Valkenburg