By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
After Question Period today, Conservative MPs Michael Chong and Pierre Lemieux stood in the House and expressed their support for Mark Warawa’s question of privilege. Their statements are below.
This makes eight Conservative backbenchers who have spoke up in this regard: Warawa, Chong, Lemieux, Leon Benoit, Brent Rathgeber, Kyle Seeback, Stephen Woodworth and John Williamson. Rod Bruinooge, as well, seemed at least open to the idea of change.
The involvement of Mr. Chong, who has pushed for QP reform, would seem to undermine the idea that this is merely a pro-life cause masquerading as a push for parliamentary reform—he voted for Motion 312, but said at the time that he was not in favour of banning abortion and Campaign Life Coalition considers him “not supportable.”
Mr. Lemieux extended his concerns to include the fact that Mark Warawa’s Motion 408 had been ruled out of order by the Procedure and House Affairs committee. Mr. Warawa has not yet announced whether he will appeal that ruling to the House. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 3:23 PM - 0 Comments
This week’s piece on the backbench revolt.
It might feel, in many ways, that this was a long time coming. The power and purpose of the backbencher seem to have been subject to question and mockery for nearly as long as there have been backbenchers—and, in the current era of the talking point, partisan scripting and message control have made it even easier to mock those MPs who seem to be reduced to messengers for their party leaders. Three years ago, Conservative MP Michael Chong proposed changes to question period that would have, in part, made it easier for backbenchers to ask questions of their own volition. Last month, Conservative MP Brad Trost tabled a motion that would give the House the power to elect committee chairs—another small move that would empower the legislature. According to two Conservative sources, a nebulous group of 20 or so Conservative backbenchers—no cabinet ministers or parliamentary secretaries included—have been gathering periodically over the past year to discuss the power dynamic between backbenchers and party leaders and possible parliamentary reforms (Rathgeber says he has participated in some of those meetings).
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 3:21 PM - 0 Comments
In this week’s print edition, I have 1,200 words on the case of Mark Warawa and the issues his situation has raised. For that piece, I spoke to a few MPs, including Conservative MP James Rajotte, chair of the finance committee. Here is an edited and abridged transcript of our conversation.
Q: What’s your general feeling about the situation?
A: Clearly, I believe members do have the right to speak. The challenge is that, I think from the prime minister’s point of view, he wants to have a caucus and a party that’s not perceived as were during my first term, where the messaging was very sort of all over the place. He wants a very disciplined, consistent message. And that’s, frankly, in the 2000 to 2002, 2003 period, that’s what members of the media were telling us, is you’ve got to start having a consistent message and you can’t have members who are sort of having different views on all the different topics. So I think it’s a challenge because you don’t want to be perceived in that vein, but you obviously want to allow freedom of speech for members. It’s a fundamental right for citizens, you want to allow that for members.
So I think we all have to look and have, within a broad tent political party, which any party to form government needs to be a broad tent political party, you have to allow for different views on some different topics. Obviously on things like a budget, you would expect all members of the caucus to either support the budget or, if they can’t support it, they’d have a tougher decision to make. But on other issues we are going to have to allow for debates within caucuses, within parties. And, frankly, I think we’ve had that over the last number of years. But every time that happens it can’t be seen as somehow being disloyal. Mark [Warawa] would say to you, very strongly, that he’s the most loyal person to the prime minister. He just has a different view on this one issue that’s very important to him.
I think that’s one issue. The other big issue for me is, I think we have to look at, frankly, questions, statements, speeches, all of it, and say, ‘Is this the best that Parliament can do, that we all can do?’ That’s a huge, fundamental issue. And that’s not a Conservative debate, it’s frankly a debate for all parliamentarians and all parties.
Q: Do you generally think there are some issues that need to be dealt with in terms of the party whip and statements and all that kind of stuff?
A: I may phrase it a little differently. I would say that, I think there are issues, I mean if you look at how we’re handled in terms of, say, voting. I actually think the one, two, three-line system is pretty good for me. As a committee chair, I have a fair amount of freedom there. And even on three-line whips, it’s ultimately up to the member themselves whether they stand or sit at a certain point in the vote. But on the three-line system, I think the voting is fairly good. And I think as the Globe and Mail found out, we actually have, even though it’s a very high percentage in terms of the caucus voting together, we actually have more freedom than the other parties. Which I think is contrary to what most people think.
Now when you get to statements, speeches and questions, it’s an issue of reforming Parliament … in the sense of, when you watch our Parliament, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this a substantive exchange of views? Is this showing Parliament at its best? Is this really putting pressure on the government to answer serious questions?’ Statements by members, in my particular case, I’ve never had a statement rejected, so I can’t speak to Mark’s personal experience and I’ve always been able to speak on local issues. But I do support him in the abstract in terms of members right to speak.
On Question Period, I think that’s an even bigger problem than statements, because I just think it’s become so over the top and I just don’t see much substantive dialogue occurring at all there. So that’s where I supported Michael [Chong]‘s motion very strongly and I think the British question period is, frankly, much better than ours and we should try to move towards that system. And then on speeches even more … most of the debates in the House, candidly, are not good debates. There are some good debates, but they’re very limited. And, again, if you go to the British House of Commons, you watch a debate, it’s not Churchill every day in the British House, but there is an exchange of views and you get a sense of the different view points and it is more of a debate. I would actually, for my own personal perspective, I’d like to see more changes in that area. Where the minister and the spokespeople of the various parties lead off the debate, but if you want to participate in a debate, you should have to be in the chamber for that entire debate. They should be time limited, as they are in Britain, say, okay, there’s three hours for this bill and if you want to participate, you apply to the Speaker, you go on a list and they want to be sure everybody gets a chance, so you may get three minutes, you get may get six minutes, you may not get your full 15 minutes, but you can’t leave the chamber for half an hour. If you leave the chamber for half an hour, you have no interest in the debate and your name’s crossed off the list. I explained our system [to the British Speaker], where you come and read a speech and you answer two questions, you leave, obviously some members try to do more than that, but that’s an awful lot of what happens and he just said, ‘That’s not a debate, why do you do that?’
And that’s where Mark has raised some fundamental issues. But it’s more about how Parliament operates and can we improve it so that the activities in the chamber actually very much influence policy and decisions.
Q: I always come back to the question of, can you possibly make the debate more substantive if people already know how the votes are going to go? If the vote isn’t really in question, can the debate matter?
A: It’s a fundamental question. So the government introduces a piece of legislation, obviously at second reading, it’s on the principle of the bill, but to me, if you had a more substantive debate, you could actually highlight, say, five, seven, eight, ten issues that need to be addressed at committee … there you’d obviously have to ensure that at committee that you’d have to a full hearing and that members can bring forward amendments to legislation to address certain concerns. That has to go hand in hand at that point, but less so at second reading stage than at committee and report stage and then obviously final reading. Members have to feel that their concerns are being addressed.
Q: Yeah, because that’s the other thing. I can remember talking to an opposition MP recently whose major complaint was the fact that the government side never accepts amendments. Now, I don’t know, you guys could maybe counter that the amendments weren’t very good … it does seem like a complicated problem to unravel.
A: It is complicated and it is certainly linked to how much they can influence a bill. But to me, if the debates and the speeches were more substantive and meaningful… say there was a three-hour debate on a certain bill, say the budget bill, and there were 27 suggestions put forward in the second reading debate and then put forward as amendments at committee, then obviously if the government rejected all of them, then they’d actually have a stronger point in saying, look, we actually made a real issue here to put them forward. Right now, again, my own personal perspective, you’re not hearing a lot of substantive input at second reading. We were debating a technical tax debate, I was asking basic questions of the members opposite and I just had a sense that they didn’t even know what I was talking about. Whereas, if you had a more focused debate, say you had it on a finance issue, you’d have probably the finance committee there for the entire three hours and then those who spoke, you’d know—if you were speaking to a budget bill, the finance committee’s there, minister’s there, all the key spokespeople are there, you’re not going to stand up unless you really know your subject area.
But it is fair to point out, it does have to go in then with, if members raise something substantively, will there be at least a willingness to discuss, debate and review those amendments seriously.
But I would say during Question Period, my advice to opposition members is stand up and ask a very calm, sincere, short, simple question. Because if the minister doesn’t answer that it’s more obvious to you, whereas if they stand up and bluster away, then the minister can stand up and do whatever they want, essentially.
Q: Do you think there’s any chance of MPs working across the aisle on this, to change things?
A: I hope there is. I know some members of the opposition have used this, Mark’s motion and the statements, as it’s internal Conservative politics, but they have to really see it as beyond that. And they have to see it as, it’s all parliamentarians, it’s not just within one party. And if you change SO31s, if the Speaker says, yes, okay, I am going to take over SO31s or if Michael Chong’s motion for Question Period was adopted, and the Speaker took over, say, half of the questions, that affects all of the parties. That’s a fundamental change.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 1:50 PM - 0 Comments
Bill C-279, the transgendered rights bill proposed by NDP MP Randall Garrison, comes to a vote this evening in the House. Here is previous coverage of the bill.
The second reading vote gives a sense of the votes to watch—specifically those Conservatives who voted in favour and what additional votes might be in play because of previous absences. One Conservative vote, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, tells me she will support the proposed amendments and the main bill. I’m also told Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who wasn’t present for the second reading vote, will vote in favour.
Mr. Garrison’s office says they expect a very tight vote, but remain optimistic.
Update 1:53pm. Michael Chong will also support the amendments and, if they succeed, the amended bill.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 11:22 PM - 0 Comments
MPs and Senators celebrated Chinese New Year at the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa….
MPs and Senators celebrated Chinese New Year at the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa. The event was put on by the Chinese New Year Celebration Committee. The Year of the Snake celebration saw Liberal Sen. Mac Harb was dressed as the God of Fortune.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 4:17 PM - 0 Comments
With 90% of Question Period being oppos. questions methinks @cselley & others doth protest a tad too much about the odd +ve shout out
It is indeed nice to say nice things about others. I’m sure Jim Flaherty appreciated it. Mr. O’Toole is obviously very considerate.
But this morning’s point about the purpose of Question Period still stands and so does last week’s question: Shouldn’t Erin O’Toole have something better to do? Shouldn’t his contribution to Question Period be something more than reciting his party’s talking points and saluting the greatness of the cabinet minister he is nominally questioning?
This practice of lobbing friendly queries is by no means new or unique to this government (see here, for example). But it’s ridiculous. And desperate for change. In fact, it was part of Michael Chong’s proposed QP reforms.
The real problem with Question Period is that members of Parliament have been stripped of the right to ask questions of the government, with the result that members are no longer true participants in Question Period, but mere spectators. Rather than being attentive and potential participants posing questions, many behave as any spectator would, cheering or jeering for their side and against the other.
Until the 1980s, members had the right to rise in the House, catch the eye of the Speaker and ask questions of the government, questions that were driven by the concerns they heard from their constituents the previous weekend when they returned home to their ridings.
The changes that stripped members of the right to spontaneously rise, catch the eye of the Speaker to ask a question were introduced by Jeanne Sauvé. Every day, each party submits their list of approved questioners to the Speaker. The Speaker recognizes only those on the list.
Mr. Chong proposed allotting half of the questions asked each day to backbenchers.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 10:15 PM - 0 Comments
MPs helped packed the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier for a reception put…
MPs helped packed the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier for a reception put on by the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 14, 2012 at 10:37 AM - 0 Comments
During his discussion with reporters Wednesday afternoon about decorum, Nathan Cullen was asked which Conservatives he was referring to. And the NDP leader identified two by surname.
Who are they? Well, some of them have been admonished by the Speaker and will continue to be. Some of them get admonished by their whip, twice, three times a week. I think what they get away with is the fact that their constituents don’t know about it, right. So if you look at Mr. Calandra or Mr. Watson, I’m sure they go home on the weekends and talk to their constituents about how hard they’re working, but never mention the fact that mostly what they do is try to disrupt the House and are offensive, basically offensive. I dare them to do that in any of the school visits they do or any of the church stuffs that they do in their regular touring around the riding. They don’t act that way. Why do they act that way here? Well, I guess it’s a certain frustration of their actual limitations of influence on the role of this government. So it’s no excuse, so not at all.
I’m not sure how often I’ve ever heard Paul Calandra shout something. There was some kind of exchange on Tuesday between Mr. Calandra, Mr. Cullen and Thomas Mulcair after Mr. Calandra, I believe, said something during Murray Rankin’s first question. Mr. Watson is, to my ear and recollection, a more frequent heckler. He had his own welcome for Mr. Rankin.
I emailed both Mr. Calandra and Mr. Watson to ask if either wished to respond to Mr. Cullen’s comments.
Mr. Calandra responds as follows. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
The House of Commons is filling up—the Prime Minister seems to have brought a large stack of paperwork to keep him busy—and voting on C-45 will soon commence. We’ll be here until the end to observer all the sights, sounds, thrills and chills of democracy in motion (specifically the motion of standing and sitting down repeatedly).
3:43pm. The party whips have been duly applauded and the Speaker is now calling the first vote. Thomas Mulcair receives a round of applause as he leads the votes in favour.
3:45pm. If you’d like to follow along with the commentary from the floor, our list of MPs on Twitter is here.
3:47pm. Mr. Harper receives a round of applause as he leads the nays.
3:51pm. The first vote goes to the nays, 156-134.
3:56pm. Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre, Randy Kamp, Mark Adler, Bob Rae, Vic Toews and Ruth Ellen Brosseau are using the time to sign Christmas cards. Greg Rickford is reading Sports Illustrated. Denis Lebel is going through some paperwork. Megan Leslie and Nathan Cullen are fiddling with their iPads.
3:58pm. The second notes goes to the nays, 147-134. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Saskatchewan Tory MP Brad Trost called it “the equivalent of passing it in the middle of the night.” ”It didn’t follow proper democratic due diligence in the House of Commons,” he said. “There seems to have been a deal done.”
Manitoba Conservative MP Lawrence Toet also voiced concerns about the process and said it was known a number of MPs had concerns about C-290.
The New Democrats have written to
Conservative Senator Bob Runciman, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate,all senators to argue that there was nothing wrong with how the bill advanced through the House. Here (pdf) is a copy of that letter.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 1:13 AM - 0 Comments
Michael Chong in conversation with Paul Wells
“Being a good constituency MP involves two things. The first is that you’ve got to help constituents out with access and government services, with listening to their concerns, with being in touch with them and having a sense of what’s going on on the ground … with being local, with understanding local issues — even if they’re not necessarily federal issues. The second thing a good constituency MP does is that in each and every decision they take up here on Parliament Hill, that they’re always thinking about what the voters back home would think and what they would want you to do.”
Our View from the Hill
Video series: Paul Wells in conversation with …
Ralph Goodale on troubles in the House: (Son of omnibus, come on down)
“There is concern about the House’s inability to perform up to the quality standards that Canadians would expect, but it’s still a place that is the central focus — the central crucible — of Canadian democracy and I think that people hope for the best.”
“Flipping burgers, how is that political work? It’s quite amazing. This summer, I fully realized the value of overhearing conversations at home — not in a creepy way. But even just being in a cafe and hearing what people are talking about, or being in the grocery store and hearing a family talk about the next time peanut butter is going to go on sale. That is important political work to understanding what is happening in your riding. And you can’t replicate that unless you’re at home.”
John Baird on playing the bulldog and reaching out
“What gets media attention is the discord and disagreement. Whenever something is hot, it leads on the news, but there’s a good number of folks you can work across the aisle with … you can work collegially with. There are some people though that are a lot tougher to work with, so sometimes personal and political differences get in the way. But that doesn’t happen as often as you might expect.”
Bob Rae on the evolution of QP (more scripted and partisan)
“The House is much more partisan, scripted place and I don’t think it’s an improvement. I think it’s a deterioration in the quality of parliamentary life. I really do. I think things are getting worse.”
Joe Comartin on QP, rules and decorum (or lack thereof)
“There’s ways of making Parliament function for you if you know how the rules function — what the dynamics are in there, including the personalities that you are dealing with. Building that close relationship with other people is important — whether they’re in your party or others.”
By Jen Cutts - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:48 PM - 0 Comments
A principled maveric
Michael Chong’s guiding political rule is: always pay attention to your constituents. “The least we can do for people who have disagreements with the government is to relay those concerns to Ottawa,” he says. “They want to know that, at the very least, they’re being listened to.”
Perhaps best known for resigning from the Harper cabinet after refusing to support a government motion recognizing the Québécois as a nation, the Tory backbencher remains a hometown hero in Wellington-Halton Hills, the riding in which he grew up, and now represents. This past spring, the self-described “Wellington County boy” took nearly 64 per cent of the vote in his fourth straight electoral win; few of his opponents bothered putting up signs, or showing up for all-candidates’ meetings.
While knocking on doors during the campaign, Chong, the son of a Chinese father and a Dutch mother, says he got an earful about the sorry state of our democratic institutions. That inspired him to renew his crusade for decorum in the House. Last year, Chong tabled a motion seeking improvements to question period-capping answers at 35 seconds, setting schedules that would put the prime minister on the hot seat for 45 minutes every Wednesday, as in the U.K., and allotting days to specific ministries, like Finance Fridays. Chong, who turns 40 this week, is hoping to table the motion, which died on the floor after the election call, as soon as he has the opportunity.
As for his birthday plans, he celebrated early, with his wife Carrie, and three young boys; on the day itself, he’ll be in Ottawa, working for his constituents.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 16, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Among Michael Chong’s objections to C-290, Joe Comartin’s sports betting bill, is the manner in which it passed the House. Via email, I asked him how the bill ended up passing unanimously. Here is his explanation.
I did not know it was going to be passed unanimously.
I made my intention to request a standing vote (and my opposition to the bill) known. Normally, that happens at end of the second hour of debate at third reading when members “stand five” to request a standing vote.
Report stage and first hour of debate at third reading took place on Friday, March 2nd. The second hour of debate was to have taken place several weeks later. That never happened because, that Friday, debate was forced to collapse, the question put and adopted unanimously.
As to why the members lined up to speak were told not to get up and speak thereby collapsing debate, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the House leaders.
Instead of two hours of debate at third reading, C-290 seems to have received 20 minutes of debate.
I asked the NDP if the party’s House leader or whip told any NDP MP not to speak to the bill. The NDP says no.
I asked Peter Van Loan’s office if Conservative members were told not to speak to C-290. The Government House leader’s office responded that “no one who opposed the bill sought an opportunity to speak on the day of debate in the House.”
(I’ve also asked the Liberals if any of their MPs were told to refrain from speaking and will post whatever I receive in response.)
Update 12:36pm. Liberal House leader Marc Garneau responds to my query.
As you know, Kevin Lamoureux did in fact speak from the Liberal side. No one else chose to speak. No MP was instructed not to speak and no direction to that effect came from either the Whip or House Leader.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 5:03 PM - 0 Comments
Finally, single game betting undermines the integrity of professional and amateur sport. There has not been a major betting scandal in North America since Major League Baseball created the Commissioner of Baseball in response to the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. In Europe, where single game betting is legal, sport is rife with game-fixing scandals. Professional leagues, along with the NCAA (of which Simon Fraser University is a member), will take a tough line on Canada if this bill passes. The NCAA bans all championships in jurisdictions where single game betting is legalized.
A very different, and perhaps the most important, reason for the Senate to defeat this bill is process. The Globe and Mail reported that “this bill was passed unanimously by the House.” In fact, a number of MPs, myself included, are opposed to this bill. In a highly unusual occurrence, debate on this bill collapsed and it passed through all stages without a standing vote. To my knowledge, no opposition private members’ bill has ever passed through the House of Commons in this manner. For this reason, a defeat of this bill would not be inconsistent with the wishes of the House, as those wishes were never properly recorded in a vote.
I suppose it depends on your definition of “major,” but the last century of North American pro sports isn’t quite clean: including Pete Rose, Tim Donaghy, Alex Karras and Paul Hornung and various NCAA point-shaving scandals.
Senator David Braley, who owns the B.C. Lions and the Toronto Argonauts, supports the bill.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 4:59 PM - 0 Comments
In celebrating Norman Bethune, Tony Clement at least has company in the likes of Chuck Strahl, Michael Chong, Lawrence Cannon and Gary Goodyear. Last year, the Canadian Mint released a commemorative coin to mark the 75th anniversary of Dr. Bethune’s invention of the blood transfusion vehicle. In 2007, the Harper government created the Norman Bethune Health Research Scholarships Program that allows for Chinese students to pursue PhDs in Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
Welcome to live coverage of tonight’s C-38 votes. It was expected that voting would begin around 5:30pm, but some procedural fussing about by the Liberals seems to have delayed those votes by a few hours. Stay tuned throughout the evening (and morning?) as we follow the parliamentary festivities.
4:43pm. If you’re only now tuning in, you just missed a fascinating series of points of order, during which Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux twice asked the Speaker to clarify the rules of the House (Speaker Devolin invited Mr. Lamoureux to read the standing orders) and Bob Rae objected to the Defence Minister’s earlier use of the word “mendaciousness” (Peter MacKay duly stood and withdrew the remark). The House is now at the time reserved each day for the presenting of petitions and will soon move to the final period of report stage debate on C-38.
4:51pm. The New Democrats held a photo op this afternoon to demonstrate how they were preparing for tonight’s votes. Mostly this seems to have involved Nathan Cullen removing his jacket and writing “C-38″ on a giant white pad of paper.
5:04pm. The Liberals have chosen now to discuss Mr. Cullen’s point of privilege. And now there is some discussion between the Speaker, Elizabeth May and Denis Coderre about how long one can speak when responding to a question of privilege.
5:15pm. With Mr. Lamoureux still responding to Mr. Cullen’s point of privilege, Conservative MP Bob Zimmer rises on a point of order to question Mr. Lamoureux’s point of privilege. The Speaker stands and reads the rules pertaining to questions of privilege, specifically that such interventions should be “brief and concise” and that the Speaker has the right to “terminate” the discussion. Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti rises on a point of order to object to Mr. Zimmer’s point of order. Mr. Lamoureux attempts a point of order to respond to Mr. Zimmer, but the Speaker suggests he carry on with his point of privilege, but then Mr. Coderre rises on a point of order to complain about the Speaker’s desire to move things along. The Speaker asserts his impartiality and attempts to straighten this all out, but Mr. Coderre rises on another point of order to clarify his respect for the Speaker, but also to express his desire that Mr. Lamoureux be allowed to give a full response to Mr. Cullen’s point of privilege. Mr. Pacetti rises on a point of order to add his concern that Mr. Lamoureux be allowed to speak fully. The Speaker says he was merely reminding everyone of the rules and gives Mr. Lamoureux five minutes to finish and, finally, we’re now back to Mr. Lamoruex’s point of privilege.
5:30pm. The Speaker stands and calls an end to Mr. Lamoureux’s remarks and attempts to move to the last hour of report stage debate on C-38, but now Mauril Belanger is up on a separate point of privilege.
5:32pm. The Speaker cuts off Mr. Belanger to move to deferred votes on two opposition motions and one private member’s bill. MPs have 30 minutes to report to the chamber.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 11:38 AM - 0 Comments
After Michael Chong’s motion to reform QP was passed at second reading during the last Parliament, the Procedure and House Affairs Committee began a study—transcript here—of his proposals. Unfortunately, that study wasn’t completed before the government was defeated and Parliament dissolved.
Mr. Chong is currently 123rd in the order of precedence for private members’ business, so it will be awhile yet before he can put a motion before the House again, but his proposals are apparently still lingering somewhere in the Procedure and House Affairs Committee’s review of the standing orders. Here’s how Joe Preston, the committee chair, explained it to me in an email this week.
During this current session of Parliament, we have had the opportunity to discuss some of Mr. Chong’s proposals further by incorporating his thoughts into our review of the standing orders. This study is still ongoing and the committee as a whole has agreed it will return to this discussion once the items at the forefront of our agenda are completed.
That review has been taking place in camera, so it is difficult to say where things stand, but it is apparently unlikely that the review will be completed before the House rises for the summer.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 5:18 PM - 0 Comments
Bob Rae tweets.
David Wilks reflects a genuine and deep concern among Canadians – his recantation is canned and fake – the real voice should re-emerge.
Dan Arnold considers Mr. Wilks’ options.
If he truly supports the budget - as he now claims to do - he should have thanked his constituents for their feedback, said he’d consider what they said, then explained to them why he supported the budget.
If he truly opposes the budget - as he said he did yesterday - he should vote against it. Wilks is wrong when he says one MP can’t make a difference. John Nunziata and Bill Casey brought more attention to the budgets they opposed than they ever would have by meekly supporting them. Michael Chong’s opposition to the Quebec Nation resolution may have prevented Harper from going further down that road. I also like to think that the more acts of defiance we get, the more likely we are to see an attitudinal change in Ottawa that gives a greater say to individual MPs. Some may disagree with me, but I think that would be a welcome shift.
Bill Casey famously voted against the Conservative budget in 2007. After being ejected from the government caucus, he was reelected in 2008 by a larger margin. Mr. Casey though had a long history in his riding—he’d first been elected in 1988. Mr. Wilks was first elected last May.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 9:10 AM - 0 Comments
Egale, Canada’s national lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) human rights organization, held a…
Egale, Canada’s national lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) human rights organization, held a special all-party reception in the Hill hosted by Tory Senator Nancy Ruth.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, November 25, 2011 at 3:11 PM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s 5th annual Parliamentarians of the Year Awards ceremony at the Fairmont Château Laurier. …
Maclean’s 5th annual Parliamentarians of the Year Awards ceremony at the Fairmont Château Laurier. See winners here.
By Jen Cutts - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:24 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Chong’s guiding political rule is: “always pay attention to your constituents—constantly stay in touch with them”
Michael Chong’s guiding political rule is: always pay attention to your constituents. “The least we can do for people who have disagreements with the government is to relay those concerns to Ottawa,” he tells Maclean’s. “They want to know that, at the very least, they’re being listened to.”
Perhaps best known for resigning from the Harper cabinet after refusing to support a government motion recognizing the Québécois as a nation, the Tory backbencher remains a hometown hero in Wellington-Halton Hills, the riding in which he grew up, and now represents. This past spring, the self-described “Wellington County boy” took nearly 64 per cent of the vote in his fourth straight electoral win; few of his opponents bothered putting up signs, or showing up for all-candidates’ meetings. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:45 AM - 11 Comments
David Berlin proposes a new kind of parliamentary government.
Provincial and federal systems are more complex. But consider a no-party system in which the public votes directly for MPs and provincial members, and then the members themselves elect the cabinet ministers, who would then elect the prime minister or premier in the same way. Each would-be minister would specify proposals and what portion of a projected four-year budget (estimated by the national bank) it would take to accomplish them. Each MP’s or provincial member’s ballot would have to name a set of candidates whose estimates added up to no more than 100 per cent of that budget.
Berlin’s primary complaint is the party system itself. But the problem isn’t political parties, so much as its the power those parties have to control individual MPs. And while the proposal here might make things somehow better—though I suspect parties would still take shape—it’s also difficult to imagine how so drastic a change would ever come to pass.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 5:19 PM - 4 Comments
Now, Chong is 123rd on the list of MPs with motions or private member’s bills they would like to table in the House — far enough down that it will likely take at least two years before he gets a chance to re-introduce his motion.
But Chong isn’t giving up. He’s been in discussion with other MPs, who he hopes will use their slot — chosen by lottery — to table his motion from last year. ”I think these changes need to be brought to question period, and I’m encouraging other members and the government to think about bringing them forward. So we’ll see what happens.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 1:07 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after the clock passed midnight, a dozen Conservatives sang happy birthday to their colleague, David Sweet. His birthday had actually just passed—he was born on June 24, 1957—so the gesture was a bit belated. But perhaps owing to the pizza party the Prime Minister had apparently been hosting, the government side seemed a jovial bunch, eager to find fun wherever it could be found.
As luck would have it, they had all been summoned to the House of Commons at this late hour for a vote—specifically on an NDP-authored motion to delay moving forward with Bill C-6 for another six months. The official filibustering of this particular piece of particularly contentious legislation had commenced some 27 hours earlier. What began on Thursday was now moving into Saturday. Except that, so far as the reality within these four walls is measured, with the House having not yet adjourned for the day, this was still Thursday. Indeed, there in the middle of the room sat the four-sided calendar, reminding all who could see it that here they remained trapped in June 23. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 20, 2011 at 1:58 PM - 5 Comments
The NDP’s Denise Savoie has officially entered the race to be the next Speaker of the House. From the news release:
“I’m running for Speaker with a singular focus on raising the tone and quality of debate in Parliament, to restore the trust that Canadians deserve to have in their politicians and democratic institutions,” said Savoie.
As Assistant Deputy Speaker in the last Parliament Savoie launched a number of explicitly non-partisan initiatives aimed at fostering constructive and informed discussion on important topics, including workshops on climate change and the first all-party Parliamentary Arts Caucus. “I’m asking my fellow MPs to imagine a Parliament that functions well – where debate is not focused on scoring points, but rather on creating better, more inclusive public policy,” said Savoie.
As a fluently bilingual Franco-Manitoban who has lived in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and now in British Columbia, Savoie brings a pan-Canadian perspective to the Speaker’s Chair.
Of the seven MPs who are now in the race—Savoie, Andrew Scheer, Lee Richardson, Ed Holder, Barry Devolin, Merv Tweed and Dean Allison—five voted in favour of Michael Chong’s motion on Question Period reform. Mr. Scheer was in the Speaker’s chair at the time of the vote and Mr. Holder’s vote was paired.