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Conservative MP’s budget concerns, and solutions

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Board Member Duff Conacher which was published in the iPolitics May 24, 2012 and the Toronto Star May 27, 2012


The situation of Conservative MP David Wilks expressing concerns about the federal omnibus budget bill is a perfect example of the dangerously undemocratic problems of excessive party leader control, the lack of a requirement to set out a clear, specific election platform, and the lack of a clear definition of what are votes of confidence in Parliament.

The Conservatives’ 2011 election campaign did not mention, let alone propose, changes to environmental assessment laws (although the Speech from the Throne did).

And while votes to approve or reject spending bills are clearly votes of confidence, shouldn’t it be made clear that votes on whether to split off parts of a budget bill that have nothing to do with spending are not confidence votes.

And, therefore, shouldn’t it also be made clear that Prime Minister Harper has no right to require Conservative MPs to vote for a budget bill that changes non-spending laws? And that the PM has no right to kick an MP out of the Conservative Party if s/he votes against such an omnibus budget bill?

In a democracy, MPs are supposed to hold the executive (Cabinet ministers) accountable and represent voter interests, not be completely controlled by ministers and party leaders.

If MPs from all parties would simply work together, they could throw off their undemocratic chains by passing a bill that clearly restricts their leaders’ powers in many ways, and contains clear rules requiring honest, specific election platforms, and democratic legislative processes and votes.

No party leader would dare speak out against such a bill. So what are you waiting for MPs? The country is 145 years old — get it together already and pass a bill to finally free yourselves, and all of us, from the tyranny of political party leaders and the abuses of our undemocratically vague election and parliamentary processes.



To see a related op-ed, click here (archive website)


For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Voter Rights Campaign