Dear political party leaders:
According to all experts, the powers of the Canadian Prime Minister and provincial premiers exceed the powers of any other democratically elected leader in the world.
Their powers are clearly excessive and include the power to appoint whomever they want as the heads of hundreds of government institutions without any checks or balances; to declare any matter a vote of confidence; to introduce omnibus bills that force politicians to vote on many unrelated measures at the same time; to control the members of the party caucuses through the power to approve election candidates; to call snap elections and to shut down or open the legislature whenever they want, and; to refuse to initiate a public inquiry even when there is clear evidence of violations of government policies.
Britain, Australia and New Zealand have restricted these powers with clearly written constitutional conventions and laws. Nunavut and the Northwest Territories have restricted these powers by not having political parties, and by making decisions by consensus.
Some other Canadian jurisdictions have restricted some of these powers — for example Ontario has a semi-independent appointments secretariat that conducts searches for Cabinet appointees and provides short lists to Cabinet.
A large majority of Canadians want the powers of the Prime Minister and premiers restricted. A national survey of more than 2,000 Canadians by Harris-Decima in November-December 2012 showed that 84% of adult Canadians want enforceable rules to restrict key powers of the PM and the Premiers. And a national survey of 1,007 Canadians by Environics in May 2013 found that 71% want legal restrictions on party leader powers to ensure politicians in each party have more power and freedom to represent voters.
Therefore, I call on you to follow the lead of most other countries in the world that claim to be democracies by passing laws that make the following 10 key changes to restrict the excessive powers of the Prime Minister and premiers:
Restrict the powers of the PM/premiers to make decisions without public consultation
- Pass a law requiring meaningful public consultation before the government makes any significant decision, with the report on the consultation results required to be released publicly before the decision is made, and pass a law that allows for petitions leading to referendums;
Restrict the powers of the PM/premiers to make appointments
- establish an independent Public Appointments Commission (with the members chosen by a majority of party leaders in the legislature) to conduct public, merit-based searches for a short-list of candidates for Cabinet appointments, and require that a majority of party leaders approve the candidate chosen for every Cabinet appointment (especially the appointments of all democratic good government watchdogs and officers of Parliament, and the Governor General and provincial lieutenant governors);
Restrict the powers of the PM/Premiers to control the legislature
- make it clear in a law that a non-confidence vote is only a specific resolution passed by a majority that states that the legislature does not have confidence in the government;
- prohibit omnibus bills (especially budgets) that amend unrelated laws all at once;
- require the opening of the legislature within 30 days after each election;
- restrict the shutting down of the legislature (prorogation) to times when the legislature is already adjourned, and otherwise for no more than two weeks and only if approved by two-thirds of politicians in the legislature;
- require all government watchdog agencies to release their reports and rulings whenever they are completed, whether or not the legislature is open, and;
- require that, when the legislature opens after a prorogation shutdown, all government and opposition bills under review before the shutdown are continued at the same stage of review.
- change the public inquiries law to allow a majority of party leaders in the legislature to initiate a public inquiry into violations of government policies that are not investigated by any legal authority (and, if there are only two parties represented in the legislature, to allow the opposition party leader and Auditor General to initiate a public inquiry), with all party leaders approving the choice of the inquiry commissioner(s).
- Restrict the power of the PM/premiers to call unfair snap elections
- pass a law fixing election dates for the third week in October every four years unless a resolution declaring the non-confidence of the legislature in the government is passed during the four-year period, and change the election voting system to provide a more accurate representation of the popular vote results in each election in the seats held by each party in the federal House of Commons and in the provincial legislatures (as in many other countries).
Please let me know what you will do to ensure that these changes are made as soon as possible. I will be deciding which political party to vote for in the next election based on the responses I receive from representatives in each party. I look forward to hearing from you.