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.


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!

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