How I will vote on the Reform Act, 2014 and why

In HouseMP Michael Chong’s revised “Reform Act, 2014”, Bill C-586, seeks to reduce the power of political party leaders, and loosen the leader’s control over the party’s MPs. I agree with this in principle.

One good thing this bill does is give local party associations the right to nominate their own candidate. A party leader will no longer be able to veto or appoint local candidates. Instead, a provincial “nomination officer”, elected in each province by local riding association presidents, will give his or her approval to candidates, signifying that the candidate has passed background checks, is who they say they are, and can honestly represent the party.

But what I am not comfortable with is that C-586 allows a majority vote of the MPs of a party to remove the party leader. In the case of my own Liberal Party, there are only 37 MPs, while the leader was elected by 100,000 party members from across the country, from ridings with and without a Liberal MP.

Earlier this year, I did a survey of a few thousand constituents in Kingston and the Islands. I asked which one of the following statements best reflects their opinion, or is more important to them:

1) Support C-586 so that somebody who wins a local nomination race can run for the party and become an MP, irrespective of what the party leader would prefer. MPs will be more independent and free to represent their constituents if the party leader cannot override the local party’s choice of candidate.

 

2) Oppose C-586 because it overrides a political party’s own democratic process. Giving 35 Liberal MPs the ability to override the choice of 100,000 party members is a step in the wrong direction.

The response was very interesting. Hundreds of people responded and they were almost exactly evenly split between these two choices.

Later in the summer, I asked the Clerk of the House of Commons the following question:

In your opinion, would removing the provision in Bill C-586, which allows a majority vote of the party caucus to remove the party leader, change the bill in principle? Or, in practical terms, if the bill passes second reading, should the Speaker consider amendments to the bill which remove that provision, to be in order?

I then received this response from her office:

The suggested change would need to be made to Clause 9 of the Bill, which deals with caucus operations generally, and specifically to parts 49.5(1)(2)(3)(4), which provides for the mechanism to review the leadership of a party leader, with the ability remove that said leader,  and install an interim one.  To accomplish this, an amendment proposing the deletion of lines 21 to 39 would be required.  Such an amendment would be in order seeing as it removes only one element relating to caucus operations, and thus does leaves the overall principle of the clause intact, which is to institute in statute how caucuses are to regulate their memberships and elect their officers.  Such an amendment would generally not be seen to be contrary to the principle of the Clause, or the Bill, as adopted at Second Reading.

What this means is that amending  Bill C-586 to delete the part which gives the MPs the power to remove the party leader would not change the bill in principle. Therefore such an amendment would be in order and could be effected at committee stage after passing second reading.

 

I therefore plan to vote for Bill C-586 at second reading to support the bill in principle. But I will vote against the bill at third reading unless it is amended so that MPs do not have the power to remove the party leader by themselves.

 

Update: MP Michael Chong has today proposed amendments that would accomplish the things I would like to see. These amendments would be considered at committee only if the bill passed second reading. You can read about them here:

 

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