Reclaiming Democracy: ReformAct

Canadian FlagPolitically, Canada is a mess. Our 19th Century inequitable winner-take-all electoral system needs to be brought into the 21st Century. Canada needs Proportional Representation if we are to have a real democracy.

Whatever democratic checks and balances we once had have long since been eroded or compromised. Far from being the independent representative of our sovereign, the Office of the Governor General in the person of David Johnson seems to be functioning as a Public Relations arm of The Harper Government.

Rather than providing a house of sober second thought, Canada’s Senate is instead a house of scandal. And everything is made even worse with the concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

The problem we are facing is, strangely enough, NOT Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Nor is it the Conservative Party of Canada.

The problem is a system that allows ANY political party to have so much power.

Over the last few days there has been a lot of talk about Conservative back bencher Michael Chong‘s Private Member’s Bill called The Reform Act which seeks to limit the power of the PMO.

Andrew Coyne summarized it thus (via Rachel La of SmartChange):

  1. A leadership review vote could be triggered at any time on the receipt of written notice bearing the signatures of at least 15% of the members of caucus. A majority of caucus, voting by secret ballot, would be sufficient to remove the leader, and begin the process of selecting a new one.
  2. membership in caucus would no longer simply be up to the leader to decide.
  3. the riding association, and not the leader, would decide who its nominee was. There would be no leader’s veto.

If this bill does what it purports to do, it will make the Prime Minister accountable to the MPs of the Prime Minister’s Party. It will not make the PM or the party any more directly accountable to citizens (we need Proportional Representation for that) but it is a start.

It would be a first good step towards decentralizing power, Which is, incidentally, a feature of democracy.

I wouldn’t trust Mr. Tom Mulcair with the keys to the kingdom, any more than I would trust Mr. Justin Trudeau with the unaccountable power vested in the PMO these days, just as I certainly don’t trust Mr. Stephen Harper with this power. I might trust Ms. Elizabeth May for a single term, but I would prefer not to have to.

Democracy must have checks and balances.

MPs should not serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister must serve at the pleasure of our Members of Parliament. When MPs are made to vote the party line, they are representing the party, not their constituents.

Which is why every MP needs to vote for this private member’s bill.

Any MP who does not vote for this will be telling their constituents — and Canada — that they do not want a voice in parliament. The thing is, if they don’t have a voice in parliament for themselves, they certainly can’t speak for any of the people they are supposed to be there to represent.

Most of us don’t understand how our government actually works. Even after taking every history class going when I was in school, I was unaware of what they call “Whipping.” To understand why we need Mr. Chong’s Reform Act, every Canadian should watch Sean Holman‘s excellent documentary Whipped: the secret world of party discipline Documentary that explains how it all works. Although the film looks at the process at the provincial level, the same thing happens federally.

“In Canada, citizens exercise only one franchise, one vote at the federal level: A vote for their local Member of Parliament. And they rightfully expect that their local member be empowered to respond to their views and aspirations,” Chong said.

MP Michael Chong will be hosting a Twitter live chat Q&A at 6:00pm EST today, Wednesday December 4th, 2013

@MichaelChongMP Due to the overwhelming response, I have decided to do an hour long Twitter Q&A tomorrow at 6PM EST. #ReformAct #ReformActQA

Act Now
The Leadnow Letter Campaign in support of The Reform Act

An you can always contact any or all of the Members of Parliament
(Sending them snail mail is free, too.)

The Reform Act Support Report is an ongoing listing of which MPs support the Reform Act.

One of the first supporters of this bill that I heard was Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who likened it to CPR for democracy on a CBC interview last week. Ms. May will be withdrawing her own Private Member’s bill C-503 Democratic Local Nomination Act  in favor of Mr. Chongs as it does not go as far as Mr. Chong’s.

Further Reading

Private member’s bill proposes to give MPs more power over leaders

Pirate Party Supports Vital Caucus Reforms

Andrew Coyne: Reform Act bill would change Canada’s parliament forever

Pierre Poilievre Suggests Tories Don’t Need Reform Act

Andrew Coyne: The forces of inertia gather to halt a concrete plan for repairing our damaged democracy

Liberals Invite Tory MP Michael Chong To Discuss Reform Bill

Group of Tory Backbenchers Pushing To Limit Prime Minister’s Power

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2 thoughts on “Reclaiming Democracy: ReformAct

  1. I agree that Proportional Representation (PR) would be a good thing for Canadian Democracy. For example we wouldn’t have Free Trade because the Progressive Conservatives under Mulroney brought in Free Trade with only 43% of the popular vote. All other parties opposed Free Trade. That means the will of 57% percent of Canadian voters was ignored due to our present deficient electoral system.

    The point I want to make is that many people tout Proportional Representation as a political panacea, which is not. Canada’s main problem with politics and political parties is not just who represents them, but how Canadians are being represented. What is the huge benefit in getting the party in that you wanted when the party leaders all tell their MP’s, our representatives how to vote. When I vote, I vote for the representative to vote for what we believe in the constituency; we do not vote for what the leader or what their party believes.

    To refine the idea, do we want our opinions considered or do we want to have someone think for us? To elect someone to think for us is to say we want the status quo of a Parliament of leaders representing peasants. In the dark ages the leaders had education and the peasants had to have someone to think for them because they were too ignorant to think for themselves. Do we want a modern democracy where we are smart enough and informed enough to give our input to our representatives and they take our wishes to Ottawa, or do we want to stay as ignorant peasants that need someone to think for us?

    I once told an MP that I expect a representative to ask the constituents what they want and vote in Parliament accordingly. She said to me, “I was voted in to make the hard decisions for my constituents”. I asked her if she thought that I and the other constituents were too stupid to think for ourselves. She saw the corner she had painted herself into and so she said “they do not have all the information like I do” at which I answered “So whose fault is it that your constituents are not being informed”.

    It is not what party is representing the People that is the problem, the problem is HOW we are being represented, and the attitude of those that representing us, and the Party System that both allows them to misrepresent us

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