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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Glen Carritt organized a United We Roll Canada convoy around May 2019 that travelled in 2019. An independent review said he breached council code of conduct rules multiple times. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Former Innisfail town councillor breached code of conduct many times, says review

Consultants say 29 of 36 alleged breaches by Glen Carritt had merit

Members of the Red Deer RCMP downtown patrol monitor for drug activity and property crimes. (Advocate file photo).
Two peace officers are training to join Red Deer’s downtown police patrol unit

This “integrated” unit will be the first in Alberta

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

A homeless shelter was promised Red Deer to help the city deal with downtown issues. The city and province finally released a signed agreement on what the facility will offer, a year after a $7 million commitment was made for the project by the province. (Advocate file photo).
City and province take next step in bringing a 24/7 shelter to Red Deer

It will include a detox and counselling services

Meteor spotted over Edmonton, Alta., on Feb. 22, 2021 by several, who took to social media to share their surveillance camera captures. (@KixxAxe/Twitter)
VIDEO: Fireball meteor streaks across sky, spotted by early-morning risers in Alberta, B.C.

Videos of the quick streak of light flashing across the sky before 6:30 a.m. MST

Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich (33) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Jimmy Vesey (26) as Flames' Christopher Tanev (8) and Joakim Nordstrom (20) defend during first-period NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson yells to her sweepers at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

A crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien looks towards the ice as his team takes on the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadiens have fired head coach Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt (13) attempts a shot on goal during the first half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match against Argentina, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Phelan M. Ebenhack
Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta's COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, government house leader and environment minister, after Nixon is sworn into office in Edmonton on April 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie attends a a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The CFL faces more challenges in its 2021 return than it did last year when it was forced to cancel its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

Most Read