Conservative MP Chong’s Reform Act gets bumpy ride in Senate committee

Prospects are looking grim for Michael Chong’s legislative baby, the Reform Act 2014.

OTTAWA — Prospects are looking grim for Michael Chong’s legislative baby, the Reform Act 2014.

Conservative senators from Chong’s caucus — along with some Liberals — laid out their opposition to parts of the private member’s bill Tuesday at the Senate rules committee.

That’s a strong signal that the proposed legislation, which is designed to give MPs more power in the Commons, will not get through the upper chamber without amendments.

Amendments would be the kiss of death for the bill, which would then go back to the House of Commons for more votes. There’s less than a month before the two houses rise for the summer; an election campaign will dissolve Parliament in the fall.

So is Chong’s bill is essentially being killed by the Prime Minister’s Office through the Senate? If so, it would be an ironic turn of events, given that the bill is supposed to temper the power of party leaders.

Chong said he does not know if his Senate colleagues have been coached to make sure the bill doesn’t see the light of day — but he warned that voters are watching.

“It potentially could become an election issue,” Chong said after the meeting. The seniors lobby group CARP emailed its 300,000 members on the weekend to warn that the bill had become stalled, he added.

“I would like to think that political parties are aware of an impending federal election and that they would take this into account when it comes to whether or not they support this bill.”

The act is billed as a way to rebalance power between members of Parliament and party leaders.

One section would remove the veto power of party leaders over who gets to run in a federal election — a stick that leaders have brandished over MPs to ensure caucus discipline.

The bill would also give MPs the power to suspend and readmit colleagues and to select their caucus chair. More controversially, it would allow MPs to trigger a leadership review vote inside the caucus.

That has proven to be the main point of contention for senators, who argue that it would strip the power from tens of thousands of party members and from Canadian voters who approve of certain leaders.

“In the case of the government, that could potentially remove a duly elected prime minister without consultation of party members or Canadian voters,” said Conservative Sen. Denise Batters.

“How do you square that with grassroots democracy?”

Canadian voters do not elect leaders or governments — they elect MPs and legislatures, Chong told the committee. Allowing parties to decide solely on leaders in the Commons gives semi-private entities power that should rest with elected MPs, he said.

Most of the time, it’s party caucuses that dump leaders anyway, he added — it’s just that the current process has no rules and can get messy, such as in the case of former Alberta premier Alison Redford, or ex-B.C. MP Stockwell Day when he was leader of the now-defunct Canadian Alliance.

Chong is also resolute in his belief that the Senate should quickly pass the bill, given that it technically only affects the House of Commons and was supported by a vast majority of MPs earlier this year.

“I’m really concerned with your starting point of saying that if we amend this bill, we kill this bill. So basically you’re asking us to rubber-stamp this bill?” asked Liberal Sen. Mobina Jaffer.

“That is correct,” said Chong, arguing that certain kinds of bills don’t require sober second thought — including those that deal exclusively with how MPs govern themselves.

Some senators indicated they supported Chong’s bill, including Liberal senators Serge Joyal and David Smith, and Conservative Norm Doyle.

Just Posted

An incredible closing ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (File photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games)
2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society hands out $655,000

35 not-for-profit groups across Alberta to get money

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, says COVID ICU patients have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past month. (Photo by The Government of Alberta)
Record number of people in ICU: says AHS president

The head of Alberta Health Services says hospital staff are treating more… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

Alexander Michael Talbot, 29, was found guilty of operating a vehicle while prohibited, flight from police and vehicle theft in Red Deer provincial court recently. (Advocate file photo)
Man charged following police chases in central Alberta last summer is sentenced

Alexander Michael Talbot sentenced to 22 months in prison

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, exile Tibetans use the Olympic Rings as a prop as they hold a street protest against the holding of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in Dharmsala, India. Groups alleging human-rights abuses in China are calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which is sure to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors, and sports federations. A coalition of activists representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others, issued a statement Monday, May 17, 2021 calling for the “full boycott,” eschewing lesser measures like “diplomatic boycotts" and negotiations with the IOC or China. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia, File)
AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Canada's Eric Lamaze riding Fine Lady 5 during the CP International competition at the Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Canada's most decorated show jumper has withdrawn from consideration for the Tokyo Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse questions a foul call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, April 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Nurse says it was the COVID-19 outbreak in March that spiked his team's chances for a post-season run.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris O'Meara
Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Danielle Goyette speaks to reporters during a press conference in Toronto on Friday, November 10, 2017. Goyette has been named director of player development for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and their American Hockey League affiliate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) falls on Nashville Predators center Yakov Trenin (13) during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) watches the puck get past Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) on a shot by Washington Capitals right wing Garnet Hathaway during the first period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday, May 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Toronto Maple Leafs former players Darryl Sittler, centre, Johnny Bower, centre right, are joined by Ted Kennedy's son Mark for a ceremonial puck drop with Montreal Canadiens' Andrei Markov, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf, right, before NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Most Read