My 30 Hours with HostPapa

When I began to actually have my first website hosted, I was using Aletia, which was bought out by JaguarPC. Then I switched to Drak.net which was bought out by A Small Orange. But unlike with JaguarPC, A Small Orange did not degrade my service until it was almost unusable. But it was more of a premium web hosting provider. You didn’t get all the bells and whistles. But you got affordable, reliable website hosting.

But I was ready for a change. I was slowly gathering web clients after trying to get rid of them for years. I wanted a reseller account so I could sell full service accounts to people, not just multi-hosted domains I managed. I wanted renewable energy. I wanted Canadian data servers. I wanted some bells, damnit. And the whistles.

I don’t feel like that anymore. Because the only way to get that is to fall for the nonsense of unlimited this, and extremely high that for such an unreasonably low price. I narrowed it down to two Canadian companies: HostPapa and GreenGeeks. GreenGeeks I already use with another organization I work with. It was fine, if a little slow. I thought I could do the most with HostPapa and it came highly recommend by friends, and I was using their servers at a previous job.

I did some research online. The some reviews of HostPapa were poor. Or rather, were extremely bad. So bad, from websites I honestly think look like fly-by-night operations, I took them with a extra large purchase of salt. What if this company just extorts protection money to get good reviews. I also didn’t believe the many glowingly positive reviews I saw. Can I trust either of these reviews? They never truly sat right with me.

With a small amount of trepidation, armed with some reassurance from friends, I made the plunge this month.

Monday morning, around 6:40 I purchased my account. Almost immediately I was given a username and password and access to my reseller account. At 7:02 AM opened a ticket asking for a private name server, as the knowledgebase told me to do. I knew from my last transfer to a new service that I needed to make a backup of my cPanel account and upload that. But which would be the best way to send the file? I opened a ticket around 8:02 AM asking what their preferred method was after searching the help section.

A friend asked why I didn’t use live chat. It was early: I figured either they might not have tech support on live chat, I was too tired to deal too much with it and wanted to do something else for the moment, and wanted to wait a few more hours before I began the transition because of some final changes I was making to one of my sites. I also wanted to make sure none of my clients were going to be making changes during the transition.

So, for my private name server, I asked them what I need to do at 7:02 AM. At 4:02 AM the next day, I got a response.

Ticket Detail

Ticket No: 1411486
Subject: Create Custom Reseller Nameservers (snowbank.ca)
From: “Shawn P. Conroy”
To: HP – Support (Support English)
Date: 2014-02-03 07:02:11

Date: From: Message
2014-02-03 07:02:11 “Shawn P. Conroy” Good day,

I would like to use private nameservers for my reseller account. I just bought the domain semanticcomputing.ca and would like to use that domain for my name servers. The support section told me to open a ticket from the dashboard.

Can you help with this?

2014-02-04 04:02:59 Tim R <> Hello,

In order for custom nameserver entries to be created for your reseller account, you must first contact your registrar and request the creation of two “glue records” with the following information:

ns1.snowbank.ca (IP: 65.39.199.18)

ns2.snowbank.ca (IP: 65.39.128.55)

When these glue records have been created, please reply and let us know so we can start the next step of the process.


Regards,

Tim R.
Technical Support Representative
HostPapa Inc.

2014-02-04 10:02:49 shawn@snowbank.ca Thank you Tim.

1. The private name server will be for the domain SemanticComputing.ca not my ‘primary’ domain.

2. I have set the A-Records for ns1 and ns2 as recommended. Ready for the next step.

If you look at the time stamps you will see it took them 23 hours to respond to my simple request. 23 hours. For a ticket to be responded to AT ALL.

My second ticket was at 8:02 AM on the Monday. (I am beginning to wonder of there is something wrong with the ticket system that makes every entry be listed as two minutes past the hour, or if it’s just a lot of coincidences.) This second ticket was about the transfer.

Ticket Detail

Ticket No: 1412714
Subject: Transfer Reseller Accounts
From: “Shawn P. Conroy”
To: HP – Support (Support English)
Date: 2014-02-04 04:02:23

Date: From: Message
2014-02-03 08:02:10 “Shawn P. Conroy” Good day,

I just got this reseller account and wish to transfer over my personal cPanel account. When the backup is generated should I tell it to send it via passive FTP from my old server directly to my new server?

-Shawn

2014-02-04 12:02:54 shawn@snowbank.ca Okay, I have uploaded the cpanel backup from my old host to the home folder on my HostPapa reseller account.

Please replace my account with the contents of the backup (including my personal websites).

Thank you

I just wanted to be sure I would do things right. The last time I did a direct server to server transfer of my cPanel account and nearly overloaded one of the servers. But, I got amazing speeds! I didn’t want to be the start of another professional relationship.

24 hours passed with no response. As 30 hours neared I uploaded the cPanel backup and posted the second submission saying so. By this point I had already noticed that I seemed to be able to do a restore myself, so it might not be required that needed the ticket at all.

I still had not received a second response from my private name server ticket after 30 hours. In 30 hours I had gotten one response.

Imagine if I had used live chat and the problem was fixed. Imagine if (as I imagine some friends saying) I called HostPapa up and got it fixed. I would be under the impression that they have good customer service. But it wouldn’t be true. I don’t always have time to go to live chat. Though I did have the time this week. I just didn’t wish to. I wanted to post a question, and come back and work on it later. Sometimes I have commitments I cannot get around and tickets are useful tools because they allow you to post and run. They keep a record if the issue comes up again. There is great benefit to this type of system.

And I hate using the telephone. Such old technology. Very 20th century.

I started looking at alternatives. I made lunch and decided if I got back to my computer I would close my account if I still did not have a response.

Guess what happened next?

Ticket Detail

Ticket No: 1413456
Subject: Close Account, Full Refund, Please
From: “Shawn P. Conroy”
To: HP – Billing
Date: 2014-02-04 01:02:43

Date: From: Message
2014-02-04 01:02:43 “Shawn P. Conroy” Good day,

I am very dissatisfied with my first 30 or so hours with HostPapa. Support takes about 20 hours to respond to my tickets at all. One ticket, started yesterday in the AM asking a single question, hasn’t been responded to yet.

Website migration has not happened yet. By now I was hoping to have the new DNS updates propagating across the net.

Please close my account and refund my credit card the almost $300 I paid. Reseller account is included on the page that says:

Our Pledge To You: 100% Service Guarantee
30-Day RISK FREE Money Back Guarantee

I thank you for refunding my credit. Have a nice day.

-Shawn

Yeah, I closed my account.

After no response from billing after a couple hours, I called. Someone from billing came on and I said I wanted my account closed. He walked me through the online process. (Not by email, not by phone, not by ticket. Only by clicking a link in the client area. That’s fine.)

I got a preliminary email within an hour or so. And a final email about a day later. The charges were reversed, and I got my money back completely.

HostPapa, like JaguarPC and I assume GreenGeeks and HostGator are all in a race to the bottom of the market. To make the least expensive most feature rich packages to get the most clients with mediocre service. A Small Orange, my previous and now still current provider is not like that. They have high tech facilities which means they have less storage, and less bandwidth. But faster servers and better uptime.

I decided to stay with them, especially as I was hosting other people’s websites: I had looked in to alternatives, but the best options didn’t offer reseller accounts.

Changing my mind

There is no way I could possibly change my mind. I’ve seen first hand how their customer support works for over 30 hours. The fact that some people seem to get around this does not help me. The fact that some modes of support are treated more seriously than others is, if true, upsetting. I should not have to fight for equal treatment. There is nothing I can think of that would grind all their customer support to a halt for over 30 hours. A bad shift? It happens. People calling in sick? Sure! But not this.

But wait, there’s more

In some simple irony and a obvious self-righteousness, I’m going to point out that their ticket system is broken. Every ticket message is posted from two minutes past some hour. However, I just checked the email I got when Tim R. responded at “4:02” and the email is timestamped as “4:50 AM.” So their interface for viewing tickets doesn’t even display them right. A pointless, unfair punch? Maybe. But I don’t feel like holding back today.

What about GreenGeeks

Not only are GreenGeeks the same type of company as HostPapa and JaguarPC, but they also have slow servers as I have been using 200 Please, some of Pingdom’s tools to and UptimeRobot to watch server speeds for the last week or two.

See for yourself

Here’s some quick links to reviews of HostPapa, so you can see it’s not just me. I probably believe both the good and the bad now. I think their customer service is so uneven and their servers so periodic that without a systematic review we may never know what their actual customer support is like, or their server uptime, or even server speed.

And of course, if you go to HostPapa itself, it says customers rate it 4.7/5. I will try to submit my story and see if they post my ratings.

My experience with Drak / A Small Orange

I have a bewildering number of domains and websites and projects scattered around the web. But they are pretty much all hosted through whoever my current host provider is. My first host was Jaguar PC, but I found my service was becoming unbearable. At first I was pleased with my package getting more features and the limits becoming less limiting. Also, the price was fall. I was getting more, for less. Jaguar PC was in a race to the bottom of the web hosting market to pick up the most clients. Eventually this started causing problems. So I decided to move. It’s tough being me. Because I am a cheapskate. I hate spending more than I feel I have to. Though, whenever I say something like that my father usually points out that I am willing to pay dearly for something thats worth it. Rather than being cheap, I am really concerned about value. My old host didn’t have value. Not only was it inexpensive, it was actually cheap. And that’s not a good thing.

It’s hard to get a firm grip on value with hosting providers. On the surface they all offer the same thing. It’s just the price that’s different. After doing some investigations and talking to friends, I moved to Drak.Net. They were not cheap. But that wasn’t the most important thing for me anymore. It was a webhost owned and ran by Jen Lepp and her small team. Their data centre was well managed by a professional data centre company, and they had 24 hour customer support.

My experience with them was good. Their servers were reliable. Their speeds fast. Though they weren’t the cheapest out there, but their support staff was dedicated and quick to respond. That small community with dedication was part of the appeal. The servers all had fun codenames as Jen would ask her kids to name each server. And on several occasions I was in communications with the actual owner of the company and getting top-notch service. It felt like a good company and was a good experience.

Then she sold out: Drak.Net was purchased by A Small Orange, which is a premium web hosting company. This is supposed to be the part where I rant and rave about how terrible all the changes were. But that wouldn’t be true. A Small Orange is a good web host. Their packages are not cheap. While they are full featured, they nickle and dime you for things like bandwidth and disk space. But in return you get fast, reliable, high tech service and equally fast customer support.

There was an error in my billing and I feel like I am being charged a couple dollars more a months than my plan with Drak.Net because of their error, but I never brought that up. Also, after paying for a year I was charged the following month for a month. The problem was quickly fixed.

After several years that slightly increased cost made me wonder about switching again. Maybe I just should have brought that up. Or maybe I was just remembering wrong. During that time I also thought I would like to start a reseller account and sell web hosting to others. With that in mind I began comparing web hosting reseller accounts. I actually switched to another web host for well over 30 hours. But I cancelled that new account before closing my account with A Small Orange. Having had a very bad experience I instead upgraded to the reseller account with A Small Orange. The difference between a premium web hosting company and cheap web hosting company was more obvious than before.

I certainly do recommend A Small Orange. On the other hand, I will post about my 30 hours on another day. (Edit to add link.)

Further reading:

If you are curious about why this premium web hosting company cannot seem to afford enough cheap hard drives to give unlimited storage and extras like that, I learned it’s because they don’t want to. Here are some great reviews that seemed to get to the bottom of the matter, honestly talk about the positives and negatives, and reflect my experiences over the last decade and more of web host experience.

My experience with Aletia / Jaguar PC

It was the early 21st Century. I was gearing up for my second year at Wilfrid Laurier University. I was not only a member, but a student rep in one of the geekiest clubs on campus: The Physics and Computer Science Club. Despite the name, it was primarily for any student who had an interest in computing and technology, not just students in the Physics and Computer Science department.

The president of the club was Tudor, who I had only seen once before as a fill in teaching assistant (Tudor the tutor). He asked if anyone wanted to have their website hosted for free. His provider — Aletia — allowed him to multihost up to 5 domains for free. I took him up on this offer, and am very grateful to him for the opportunity to have my own hosted website with it’s own domain and server side scripting.

A year later I decided to run a service selling unique email addresses to people, which required me to get my own shared hosting plan. So I moved off of sub-leasing Tudor’s server to my own shared hosting at Aletia. Eventually, Aletia was bought out by Jaguar PC.

For the longest time I was extremely happy with Jaguar PC. They were in a race to the bottom of the web hosting market. I would pay for a year, and then a year later wonder why I didn’t get an invoice. Turns out, they had lowered their rates and credited my account the difference, so I was getting free months. And whenever I popped on to their site I’d learn that my package was become ever more powerful: multi-host unlimited domains, unlimited databases, unlimited emails addresses and finally unlimited disk space. My yearly price was going down and the features were being added on top of features.

Then everything began to go wrong: Technical support stopped understanding the tickets I was posting, and they were responding in extremely poor English (second language), my server starting running slower, and slower meaning pages were taking longer and longer to load. Finally my server started grinding to a halt and going offline for at least an hour several times a month. I asked why, and they said someone else on the shared server was being bad and causing problems (i.e., was running resources intensive applications) and that person was being moved off my server to a different one. And I waited. And waited. And kept having problems. When it came time to renew my contract, I left Jaguar PC. And haven’t looked back.

Disclaimer: Jaguar PC may have gotten its act together. And the major problem I faced was only faced by people on my shared hosting server. And Jaguar PC has many, many servers. Your experience if you were a customer at the same time may have been different. And things may well have changed.

Next: I switched hosts. See the blog post about my experience with Drak.net / A Small Orange.

Bad Graphs

I found a bad graph. Coca-Cola is doing some good stuff. For example, they are trying to reduce the amount of water they use to create their cola. Back in 2004 they used 2.7 litres of water to make one litre of pop. But they have now gone down to almost 2.1 litres of water to make a single litre of pop. That’s great. And they hope to drop further.

But the graph they used on the press release was specifically designed to leave the impression that the drop in water usage was larger than it was. This is a well known technique where the graph ‘skips’ some values and ‘stretches’ the difference between the top number and the bottom number. Here is the chart that Coca-Cola gave:

This looks like a massive decrease. It goes from the very top of the chart at 2.7 to the very bottom, which is just below 2.1. Notice that anything below 2 litres/litre would fall off the graph all together. While Coca-Cola has done some great work to get their water-use ration down by almost 0.6 litres/litre, this is really only a descrease of 21.4%. 21.4% actually looks like this:

It is far less impressive if you don’t break the axis. Again, Coca-Cola is doing much better at conserving water. And they committed to doing better. They should be applauded, and encouraged. I point this out only for media literacy. When looking at a graph like this you need to really be aware of how someone may be trying to mislead you. There are ways to change how a chart looks to emphasize or deemphasize how different one thing is from another. Here they were trying to stretch out the difference. If you are comparing yourself to competitors you may want to do the opposite.

Here are more examples:

For more examples, this page shows how to do these charts with a broken axis properly, and in a way that is more obvious to the reader. (Except for using a log scale, which many people wouldn’t understand.) And here is a page that shows you things you can do in Excel to clearly use these techniques (but make it clear to the reader what you are doing).

The Reform Act — Party Candidates

In Micheal Chong’s Reform Act, 2013, we have seen how this bill would give power to the elected MPs of a party to remove their leader, and how it takes power away from the leader to both kick MPs out of the party and bring them back in, giving it to the caucus. The final piece of the bill is how the decision to allow a candidate to run under the party name is made.

In the past, this was not an so much of an issue because MPs didn’t list the party on the ballot. But that changed in the 70s, and with it the decision to allow someone to run for a particular party was given to the leader of that party. Is was up to them to sign off on any new candidate. But this directly contradicts all the changes we have established that this bill does. So now we must change how a nominated candidate becomes and official candidate for their party in an election.

Why was it decided that the leader should sign off on who can use the party name? As Dale Smith from Loonie Politics puts it, it was to stop candidates from tricking voters:

While there were concerns about this amounting to “free advertising” for the party, there were more concerns around spoofing party listings — that unless there was a control mechanism that anyone could simply declare on the ballot that they were the Liberal candidate, or that they might instead put down “Progressive Conservative Party for Canada” instead of “of Canada.”  That fail safe mechanism was determined to be the party leader’s signature.  Not once in the debates recorded in Hansard was there the concern that the party leader might use this power to blackmail any rebellious MPs — and yet that is what ended up happening.

But now leaders do use it to blackmail MPs, even though no one saw it come. It was an unintended side effect. How does the Reform Act try to fix this? By empowering local Electoral District Associations (EDAs) to sign off on their own candidates. Most ridings have at least two and sometimes many more EDAs (for example, a Conservative EDA or a Liberal EDA). The EDA take care of the local business of a political party. Between election they trying to prepare for the next election by raising donation, getting volunteers and looking for candidates. They hold nominating contests to vote on which local member of that party will run to represent the citizens of that riding in the next election.

Once a candidate wins the nomination contest in their riding, their name gets sent to the leader of the party. The leader then signs off on that candidate when the next election is called allowing that candidate to run for the party using the party’s name.

This bill would change that. Instead it creates the position of a nomination officer for each EDA:

“nomination officer” means a person who is appointed by the electoral district association of a political party to endorse the prospective candidate for the party in that electoral district in accordance with section 68.

The local nomination contests I’ve attended have all had an appointed returning officer who counts the votes and declares the winner. This bill may require the nomination officer to be elected, which I will speak more on below. In this case, the nomination officer could do that as well as the new duty of signing the nomination papers of the winning candidate:

(2) The definition “nomination contest” in subsection 2(1) of the Act is replaced by the following:

“nomination contest” means a competition for the selection of a person to be proposed to the nomination officer of the electoral district association of a political party for his or her endorsement as the party’s prospective candidate in an electoral district.

3. The Act is amended by adding the following after the heading “Nomination of Candidates” before section 66:

Nomination contests

65.1 Nomination contests shall be held by the registered association for the electoral district to which the nomination relates at a time and date fixed by the association and in accordance with the rules established by the association.

4. Paragraph 67(4)(c) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(c) if applicable, an instrument in writing, signed by the nomination officer of the political party’s electoral district association for the electoral district that states that the prospective candidate is endorsed by the party.

5. The Act is amended by adding the following after section 68:

Endorsement by nominating officer

68.1 (1) A prospective candidate for a political party in an electoral district must be endorsed by the nomination officer of the party’s electoral district association of the party in that electoral district.

Appointment of nominating officer

(2) The nomination officer referred to in subsection (1) shall be appointed by the members of the electoral district association by a majority vote.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the nominated officer must be voted by the members of the EDA by majority vote and not appointed by the executive. In this case, either there must be elected with the executively another officer with this position or they would merely be appointed at the start of a nomination meeting. That seems cumbersome to me. A nomination officer could be elected at an AGM year after year without having a nomination contest.

On the other hand, you could have a special meeting to elect the nominating officer, or elected the nomination officer before elected the nominated candidates. I’m not sure if this is required.

But the ultimate point is that it’s up to the local EDA to approve or reject a candidate. This has benefits and drawbacks. The benefits are above. The drawbacks are that this means the central party cannot do a background check on the candidates and reject them. However, they can still recommend that the members call a new nomination meeting if they find anything incriminating. It would be up to the EDA to decide what to do in that case.

More reading:

The Reform Act — Removing and Remitting A Member of Caucus

House of Commons
Parliament Photo from Robert Linsdell

The Reform Act, 2013 is an act I think has a lot of potential. My last post was about the fact that it allows the caucus to strip the leader of power and make them just another MP. Another thing it does is it limits the ability of the leader of a party to remove elected representatives chosen by the members and elected by voters. This is very important because in modern times being a member of a party is a critical part of the voting equation. The ability of the leader to kick someone out because she or he stands up to the leader is undemocratic. Jean Chrétien was known for throwing people out of the party if they didn’t do things his way. This enforcing of groupthink is detrimental to democracy and the health of our government.

Again, caucus is defined by this bill as everyone elected to parliament and belonging to the same party:

“caucus” means a group composed solely of members of the House of Commons who are members of the same recognized party.

So, how does removing and readmitting a member work?

Removing a member of Caucus

The bill would mandate that there would be only one way to remove an elected member of the party, making that member an independent MP. Only if 15% of the caucus ask the chair to review that member’s membership, and then a majority of the caucus votes to remove that member:

49.2 A member of a caucus may only be expelled from it if

(a) the caucus chair has received a written notice signed by at least 15% of the members of the caucus requesting that the member’s membership be reviewed at a meeting of the caucus; and

(b) the expulsion of the member is approved by a majority vote by secret ballot of the caucus members present at that meeting.

This removes power from the leader to expel people that she or he does not like. Historically, I am only aware of the leader decreeing (you know, like a king) that some member of caucus has to go, and they unceremoniously strip that MP of any affiliation with the party. If this bill passes the party still retains the ability to kick someone out if they must. That is a good thing.

Academically, I noticed that this also means that there is no other way the party can remove the member. A party can’t put together other ways to remove a member. For example, now an electoral district association cannot vote to remove their support from that candidate while she or he is sitting. I don’t think that any party allows this to happen. But such a solution cannot be implemented if this bill passes. That would be a method I think would be good. However, since no party has that method in their constitution that I am aware of, it’s a moot point.

But you may ask yourself, ‘what about adding someone back in?’

Remitting a member to caucus

The bill says that there are only two ways a member who has been expelled may return to the caucus. The first is that the member is re-elected in an election (a by-election or general election) as a candidate for that party, or 15% of the caucus asks to have a vote on making that person a member again, and the caucus has a majority vote to let her or him back in the party:

49.3 A member of the House of Commons who has been expelled from the caucus of a party may only be readmitted to the caucus

(a) if the member is re-elected to the House of Commons as a candidate for that party; or

(b) if

(i) the caucus chair has received a written notice signed by at least 15% of the members of the caucus requesting that the member’s readmission to the caucus be considered at a meeting of the caucus, and

(ii) the readmission of the member is approved by a majority vote by secret ballot of the caucus members present at that meeting.

So, the first way a member can rejoin the party happens if the local electoral district association (EDA) has a nomination meeting and that person wins again. It should be noted that the Reform Act does specify how a candidate is selected and how she or he gets approval to use the party’s name. (Hint: it’s not from the leader or the central party, but the EDA itself. The second way listed is obvious.

Note that the caucus here cannot override the wishes of the rank and file from that EDA. The local voters can always send that MP back as a member of the party. In fact, this has been one of the criticism of this bill: that there is no way for the central party to stop certain candidates from running. While I support limiting the leader’s ability to put in whoever they want, or denying whoever they want, it also means they cannot stop politically untenable people from running. And in Canada we have had some scandalous people run.

One drawback I’ve not seen raised is that an MP cannot simply cross the floor and join another party as has happened before.

Another major section of the bill is determining who can run under a party name, which I will discuss next time.

More reading:

Edits:
  • 2013-12-11: Added the second last paragraph, starting ‘One drawback…’

The Reform Act — Reviewing The Leader

I very much support the idea behind Bill C-559 “The Reform Act, 2013.” Ultimately, it’s about continuing Canada’s long standing tradition of devolving power away from the few and toward the many. In the era of Rob Ford, having the ability to distance oneself and one’s party from your leader is probably a good thing. The Reform Act allows this.

Leadership Review

If a leader is being too autocratic, too divisive, coercing the other elected members or has become a political liability (i.e., is wildly unpopular), the caucus can approach their caucus chair with 15% of elected MPs of that party asking for the leadership review. Then, they vote for or against the elader. If they vote to remove that members as leader, the caucus then votes on who will become the interim leader until the party can choose a new leader.

To this end, the bill defines what a leadership review is:

“leadership review” means a process to endorse or replace the leader of a registered party.”

Then, all parties are required to change their constitution to make this one of the ways that their leader can be removed:

(k) the extract of the party by-laws that provides that

(i) a leadership review may be initiated by the submission of a written notice to the caucus chair signed by at least 15% of the members of the party’s caucus,

(ii) a leadership review is to be conducted by secret ballot, with the result to be determined by a majority vote of the caucus members present at a meeting of the caucus, and

(iii) if a majority of caucus members present at the meeting referred to in subparagraph (ii) vote to replace the leader of the party, a second vote of the caucus shall be conducted immediately by secret ballot to appoint a person to serve as the interim leader of the party until a new leader has been duly elected by the party.

Chair of the Caucus

In order to accomplish all of the above, you need a legal definition of caucus and to legally define the caucus chair. We use the standard definition of caucus, which pretty much means the elected MPs of a party:

““caucus” means a group composed solely of members of the House of Commons who are members of the same recognized party.”

 The caucasus is defined to have a caucus chair. The caucus chair must be elected by the caucus. And if events should happen that there suddenly is no caucus chair, the longest serving MP becomes the chair long enough to carry out the vote for a caucus chair.

Election of chair

49.4 (1) After every general election or following the death, incapacity, resignation or removal of the chair of a caucus in accordance with subsection (2), a chair shall be elected by a majority vote by secret ballot of the members of that caucus who are present at a meeting of the caucus.

Removal of caucus chair

(2) The chair of the caucus of a party may only be removed if

(a) the chair has received a written notice signed by at least 15% of the caucus members requesting that the occupancy of the chair be reviewed at a meeting of the caucus; and

(b) the removal of the chair is approved by a majority vote by secret ballot of the caucus members present at that meeting.

Senior caucus member

(3) Any vote that is taken under subsection (1) or (2) shall be presided over by the caucus member with the greatest number of years of service in the House of Commons.

Bar against judicial review

49.5 Any determination of a matter relating to the internal operations of a party by the caucus, a committee of the caucus or the caucus chair is final and not subject to judicial review.

This will give MPs the power the remove a leader and kick the question back to the party membership. With the growing centralization of power in Canadian politics over many decades this check against the party leader is very important. Lately there have been fewer and fewer checks against party leaders — including the prime minister — while at the same time giving her or him more direct power.

I believe that this leadership review process, along with the the removal from and readmission to the caucus of members are the two strongest parts, and most important parts, of this bill. I think it’s very important that the leader of a party not be able to sway MPs away from serving the interest of the voters. But I stand by what I said at the end of my last post: the funniest part of the coming in to force bit.

More reading:

Edits:
  • 2013-12-11: Added the more reading section with a link the next article in this series.

Devolving Power (Chong Edition)

Canada has a rich history of slowly and peacefully devolving power from the few to the many. It is my firmly held belief that the effects of this have been good. Giving the right to vote to blacks and women, for example, expanded democracy, expanded the discussion, included more points of view and are part of the socializing process.

I believe that in Canada too much power is held by party leaders. And more, when that party leader becomes the prime minister they wield far too much power through the Prime Minister’s Office. Without discussion, debate and without even telling anyone the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office staff can issue orders, appoint people and make far reaching decisions running all elements of government. (Actually, over the last 30 years power has slowly been concentrated to the PMO’s office. The wrong direction in my opinion.)

This may have been compatible with democracy when democracy was still a baby. But we have all grown, and democracy needs to follow pace. Allowing the idea of a one-person band to control all of government is a bad idea. Other countries like the UK and the USA do not allow one person this type of control.

I want power moved to our elected representatives. And by effect closer to us, the citizens and away from the rich and powerful. This is a time honored tradition in Canada.

With this in mind I was very excited when I first heard about Michael Chong‘s private member’s bill C-559, ‘The Reform Act, 2013.’ In principle I agree with the aim and in general the effect of the bill:

BILL C-559

An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (reforms)

Whereas Members of Parliament are elected by their constituents to represent them in the Parliament of Canada;

Whereas the leadership of political parties must maintain the confidence of their caucuses;

And whereas, in Canada, the executive branch of government is accountable to the legislative branch in accordance with the concept of responsible government, which is the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy;

Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

It all sounds very lofty to me. And I agree with all of the above. There are some problems with the The Reform Act. Actually, strike that. There are no problems with this bill. The problem is that it removes things previously done to stop people from intentionally confusing and misleading Canadian voters. I hope to get to that in a future post. But these problems can probably be fixed by an amendment to this bill before it becomes law.

Having read the bill, it does 3 things:

In short, it takes away some of the powers of the leader of a political party to force or coerce members of their party to act or vote in a certain way. I hope to get more into both the good and the bad in some future date. However, C-559 might be a very good thing, with some amendments.
But what really amused by this act, was how Chong said ‘hey boss, this totally isn’t against you, look we will say that we can’t do anything to affect your power by making it take years to come in to effect.

COMING INTO FORCE

13. This Act comes into force seven days after the day on which the next general election following the day on which this Act receives royal assent is held.

That made me laugh. And they say there is not fun in Canadian politics!

More reading:

Edits: