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Group calls for changes to free and empower MPs in key ways

Surveys show voters want changes, Justin Trudeau has committed to some changes, the Conservatives promised some changes in 2006, and MPs could work together to make the changes at any time

Send a letter calling for the end of muzzling MPs here

Thursday, March 28, 2013

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called for changes to free and empower MPs in key, reasonable ways that recognize there are times when party discipline is appropriate.  Surveys over the past 15 years have shown clearly that voters want changes to empower MPs, Justin Trudeau has committed to some changes in his campaign for leadership of the federal Liberal Party, and MPs could work together to make the changes at any time by simply proposing and agreeing to change the House of Commons rules, the Parliament of Canada Act, and the Canada Elections Act (no party leader could stop them if they would simply all work together to throw off their chains).

“Some federal Conservatives have complained about being muzzled by Prime Minister Harper, but all party leaders have too much power over MPs, including in the provinces,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch. “Reasonable changes can be made to restrict the powers of party leaders over politicians in their party, while recognizing that party discipline is appropriate in some situations.  What is strange is that politicians across the country could easily change the rules to restrict their party leaders, and no leader could stop them if they would just all come together and throw off their chains and free themselves.”

To ensure politicians across Canada are free to say what they want about any issue, and have some freedom to represent the will of voters who elected them and/or uphold the public interest, without their party leader being able to punish them, the following changes must be made:

  • political party leaders must be prohibited from appointing election candidates unless there is no party association in the riding or candidate elected by the riding association;
  • political parties must be prohibited from refusing the nomination of a candidate as long as the candidate meets minimal “character” qualifications and is selected by the riding association;
  • the elections watchdog agencies (Elections Canada etc.) must be given the mandate and power to oversee nomination races for election candidates to ensure they are run fairly;
  • the caucus of each party, not the leader, must be given the power to decide who sits in caucus;
  • if a party does not have a clear position on an issue, clearly stated in the previous election and communicated to all candidates in that election before they became a candidate, then the party should be prohibited from disciplining any politician who takes a different position on the issue in any statement they make, or in any vote (even in votes on matters of confidence);
  • the caucus of each party, not the party leader, must select the party’s members for each legislative committee;
  • the speaker of the legislature should choose who asks questions in each daily question period randomly, ensuring only that the number of questions per party matches the percentage of seats each party has in the legislature over each weekly period;
  • every member of the legislature must have the clear right to say whatever they want during their time for a member statement, and;
  • the caucus of each party, by two-thirds vote, should be empowered to initiate a review of the party leader’s leadership of the party.

Democracy Watch will soon launch a national letter-writing campaign to push for these changes.

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Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch

Tel: 613-241-5179

Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting Systems Campaign