Greens to vote against the watered down Reform Act

OTTAWA – The Green caucus in the House of Commons will vote against the amended version of the Reform Act, 2014, introduced by Conservative MP Michael Chong.

Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich – Gulf Islands, said she will not vote for the hopelessly watered down bill, which lost its original intent of reducing the power of parties.

“It is with deep regret that I must cast my vote against this bill. Tragically, Michael Chong accepted many changes that eliminate the bill’s major goals.

“I hold Michael Chong in the highest regard and know he feels the bill is still a step in the right direction. Even so, I feel voting for it conveys a false impression to Canadians. Our democracy is in crisis and gaining the support from the mainstream parties and their leaders came at the cost of the bill’s principles.”

Bruce Hyer, Deputy Leader and Democratic Reform Critic of the Green Party of Canada, expressed his disappointment over a lost opportunity.

“Chong’s original bill would have restored the power for MPs to vote freely, as they had done from 1867 until 1970. Party names were not even on the ballot, and our original constitution never even mentioned political parties.

“It was clear for over a century that an MPs job was to represent the wishes of their constituents in Parliament. Now most MPs are mainly customer sales reps for their parties in their ridings.

“In 1970, Pierre Trudeau amended the Elections Act to require candidates nomination papers to be signed by national party leaders. In one bold anti-democratic step, MPs were placed under the thumb, and sometimes the heel, of party leaders.

Sadly, I’ve heard Pierre Trudeau was often quoted as referring to his own backbenchers as ‘mere trained seals.’”

Andrew Coyne tweeted, “The Reform Act has effectively been gutted.” In a recent editorial, Coyne did not mince his words: “Party leaders have made Canadian democracy unreformable…Mr. Chong’s modest package of reforms… has been watered down to the point of transparency…at the cost of gutting it of any substantive effect.”

May and Hyer had planned to vote for the original version of Chong’s Reform Act. In 2013, Elizabeth May tabled a private member’s bill, Bill C-503, in the House of Commons. The bill would eliminate the leader’s signature on candidates’ nomination papers, as Michael Chong’s original bill would have done. If passed, the Green Party Bill C-503 would effectively remove the leader’s stranglehold over their party’s MPs and respective candidates.

“The Green Party of Canada is committed to two fundamental changes to restore democracy to Canada. The first is ending the requirement that party leaders sign nomination papers, thus getting MPs working for their regions and constituencies as intended by our founding fathers,” Hyer re-affirmed. “The other is to join the majority of the world’s democracies by implementing some form of proportionality in voting, so that a party receiving 39% of the national vote has 39% of the seats.”