Speech – Reform Act, 2014 – Third Reading

February 18, 2015

Debate took place on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015:

 

“Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-586, a bill that my good friend and colleague, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, has brought forward.

I would like to thank him for his fortitude in putting together the bill. If we are honest with each other, no one likes change, and change in this place is always hard to attain. So I thank him for staying with it. Our hon. colleague across the way, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, mentioned this as well. I think a lot of people in this place, knowing how the process works and how time-consuming it can be, find it discouraging at times. Therefore, I thank the member for staying with it.

I would also like to thank the Minister for Democratic Reform, the member for Nepean—Carleton. He was instrumental in working with the member for Wellington—Halton Hills in making changes to or tweaking the bill in a way that made it acceptable to the House. From the comments I have heard here, I think it is a very strong bill and that it will get very strong support. That is a good thing.

I will speak to some of the amendments to the bill, because I think they are key. However, before I do that we should go back in history and get to why we are where we are today and why we need some changes.

We cannot all be ministers. We cannot all be leaders of parties, but we are all members of Parliament. Whether I am a backbencher MP, the prime minister, or the leader of the opposition, my vote is the same. It is the same as yours, Mr. Speaker, when you are in your chair. We all have that vote. Our people send us here for that. Therefore, we have to protect it.

In about 1969 or 1970, former Prime Minister Trudeau made a statement that, if I had been a member that day, I am sure I would have been offended by. He basically said that backbenchers were nobodies. I think that was wrong then and is still wrong today. Anything we can do to empower all of us in this place is very important. That is what taxpayers around the country want.

Quite often in the House, because most people only see what happens at question period, they believe that we are always at odds with each other. In this debate and on some other bills we have had, of course there are differences of opinions and philosophies and that type of thing. We need to thank the member for being flexible enough to work with other parties to get something that was acceptable to everyone in Bill C-586. To hear that around this place is very nice and good to see.

The amendments I will speak to were adopted by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I want to explain how these modify the bill.

The member removed the requirement from the bill and Canada Elections Act that party leaders sign a candidate’s nomination papers. That has never been an issue in the party that I belong to. Someone has to make sure that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed. I cannot say that about all parties. Sometimes there is interference in nominations. At the end of the day, what will be improved by this bill is grassroots democracy, as people from the ridings will have more of a say in this. The changes under the bill would confer that power to nomination officers. Those changes would give that authority to a person or persons authorized by the party. Again, that change was made at the procedure and House affairs committee.

This amendment would remove overly prescriptive and outdated provisions and would provide political parties with greater flexibility. Parties, for the first time, would be able to determine their own processes for candidate sign-off, and that is a good thing. They can choose who to vest this power in rather than having it prescribed by law. That is a very key and positive change.

In addition, the committee adopted an amendment that would require the chief agent of each political party to submit a written report to the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada containing the names of the persons designated by the party to endorse prospective candidates. The report would be submitted no later than 25 days before the polling date. This would ensure that Elections Canada and returning officers would be informed of who was authorized by the party to endorse prospective candidates, et cetera.

A consequential amendment was also adopted that would require a party to submit, within 10 days of the writ being issued for a general election, a statement with the names of the persons authorized to endorse prospective candidates in the election to the CEO of Elections Canada. These amendments to the Canada Elections Act are in keeping with the spirit of the reform proposed by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills.

There are a couple of amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act. I want to talk about those provisions and how they would change. The original proposals in the reform act sparked quite a lot of interest and debate in the House. One of the concerns raised was whether it was appropriate to legislatively regulate the governance of party caucuses, and it was a good discussion to have. In September of last year, the sponsor of the bill announced an amendment that would have each caucus decide whether it would be subject to the caucus rules outlined in the bill instead of the rules being imposed on it.

These amendments were made by the procedure and House affairs committee at the committee stage of the bill. They require that at the first meeting after a general election that each party caucus hold a separate vote to determine whether it wants to adopt the rules outlined in the bill regarding four things: the expulsion and readmission of a member; the election of a caucus chair; leadership reviews; and the election of an interim leader, should that be necessary. This would mean that four separate votes, one for each of these processes, would take place. One caucus may decide to adopt all of these processes while another may decide to adopt none of them or only the rules relating to leadership. What is important is that it is the decision of the caucus, and that is very valuable.

There are some other minor amendments and changes, but to wrap up, I want to pass on my support. The day that the member for Wellington—Halton Hills announced he would table this bill, I was at the press conference, and I have supported him from day one. I am very proud of that, and I will continue to support him. I urge all members in the House to stand in the House next Wednesday and support this.”