Opinion Column

THE DUEL

Party leaders have too much power of elected representatives 0

By Laila Yuile, The Duel

Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Chong walks from Parliament Hill to a news conference after tabling his private member's bill aimed at giving MPs more power, in Ottawa December 3, 2013. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Chong walks from Parliament Hill to a news conference after tabling his private member's bill aimed at giving MPs more power, in Ottawa December 3, 2013. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on the Site C dam was Laila with 59%.

This week’s topic: Would the proposed Reform Act improve our system of government by redistributing power from party leaders to Members of Parliament?


Earlier this year, I had a compelling conversation with a friend who had immigrated to Canada from Egypt shortly before the start of the country’s political riots. I asked if democracy was still as elusive as it had been prior to the revolution, and what she thought of Canadian politics.

“Laila,” she said, “I brought my family from Egypt because I wanted to raise them in a democratic country. I wanted them to see how true democracy works. Then we come here, I start really following Canadian politics, and see that democratic process here is broken as well. Harper can do whatever he wants to do, it seems. No one in his party will speak up against him. He can even close the government for no reason. It is different, and better, but still not what I thought it was.”

Read Brent Stafford's column

Her comments were stark, observant and right on the money. It’s no secret party leaders wield extraordinary power over Members of Parliament, in particular when it comes to the party that governs. Instead of power lying with the MPs who have been duly elected to represent their constituents, the power is largely centralized in the party executive.

This is why Conservative MP Michael Chong introduced his private member’s bill last week called the Reform Act. The bill is intended to return some of the power currently held by party leaders and executive, back to MPs and hold the executive accountable for their actions.

Under the Reform Act, party leaders would no longer be able to kick MPs out of caucus — all MPs would govern such actions. MPs would also be able to remove their party leader with a majority vote, and party leaders would not be able to vet potential candidates at the constituency level.

Without a doubt, the bill is not perfect. Many are worried that without a leader making the final decision on candidates, special-interest groups could take over constituencies and choose unpalatable candidates. Others are concerned that if MPs have too much power, they could control the caucus, leaving a leader — and party members — at the mercy of their agenda.

I never imagined I would applaud a Conservative MP, but this bill affords Canadians a chance at true representation and responsible government at the federal level — something we haven’t seen in Canada for a long time.


Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.

 

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