Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#ReformAct - Good Intentions, but Overreaches

A few days ago I mentioned that Conservative backbencher Michael Chong would be introducing a Private Member's Bill that would, in essence, give more power to party caucuses than what they currently have. The media rumours about it at that time were that Chong's bill would give a party's caucus the ability to remove its leader or fellow members through a vote of just caucus members. This bill is clearly born out of the frustration that backbenchers, particularly Conservative ones though every party has them, feel with the culture within Parliament about adhering to the All-Mighty Whip.

Well, we got our first official glimpse at it today. Some are calling it "a solution in search of a problem," others are heralding it as a turn away from American-style politics. Chong has received support so far from Elizabeth May, and maybe possibly the Liberals though I've only heard that in passing rumour online. The bill does indeed introduce, or at least formalize, the power of party caucuses to throw out the bums if need be. That part I have no issue with (though some parts seem unnecessary).

However, there is another section to this bill that isn't so peachy keen.

The problem comes in with Sections 3, 4, and 5. The idea laid out there is that leader should not have the ability to deny a candidate their prospective party's backing by refusing to sign nomination papers. Instead, we'll give that power over to a "nomination officer" elected by a riding association, who can approve of a candidate instead. I think this is Elizabeth May's influence, as she has pushed for this for a long time, or at least something similar.

Hark back to a post I made not too long ago about my time at the Kingston LPC(O) policy conference. I noticed that there still exists, within the Liberal Party at least, a very reactionary core at the local EDA level that is not too keen on the ideas of inclusiveness and openness that the Liberals have been pushing lately. They're the ones who were originally hostile to the Supporters category, and while unable to squash the idea entirely they did manage to keep Supporters out of candidate nomination contests. Now they're complaining that the Supporters aren't engaged enough and are a waste, which is just hilarious.

Given this hostility to opening up the Party, it does seem to me like taking away the power of the leader to balance out a local EDA's tendency to group around its own is a good idea. I'm not saying this to be hostile to local interests - I am a proud member of my EDA, and like everyone I have my bones to pick with the central party. However, I do realize that we're not all saints here.

EDA's and local communities should have more democratic say in choosing their candidate - that is what open nominations are for. Giving them this kind of total power, however, is just swinging the pendulum too far.


  1. If a leader retains the ability to boot someone from caucus, he needs the ability to do that pre-emptivly in the election. If the leader does not retain the ability to boot someone from caucus, then whomever does have said ability, also needs the ability to pre-empt. If nobody has said ability, then party lines become very very weak, and there is nothing to prevent regional voting (IE Alberta votes X, Quebec votes Y, regardless of party lines) and that can become very very dangerous to our country very very quickly.

    1. I agree, that would be a tremendously bad situation. Instead of party unity or at least general party consensus, we end up with candidates espousing different Liberal platforms in each region.