CARP has supported Michael Chong’s Reform Act since its inception and recently, the Wellington-Halton Hills MP and sponsor of the private member’s bill in question, appealed directly to CARP members by writing them this letter:
“This letter is a call to action.” Said Chong. He told CARP members that his bill was stalled in the Senate and that they needed to write the Senators and their MPs to voice their support for the bill. CARP Action Online first published news of the Reform Act in the February 2014 issues of CARP Action Online, when the bill had first been introduced in the House of Commons. At the time, CARP had polled its members and 75% of them supported the Reform Act. Michael Chong used the results of the CARP Poll on his Reform Bill in parliament before Question Period in early February 2014.
“The members who respond to our political polls are some of the most thoughtful, engaged and well-informed Canadian voters. Turnout of voters over 60 is more than 70%; and 95% of CARP members say they vote all the time. They have the experience and the accumulated knowledge to distinguish between spin and genuine reform, and they see Michael Chong’s bill as a genuine attempt at reform”, said Susan Eng, VP Advocacy for CARP, when asked about the poll results.
On February 25th, 2015, the Reform Act was passed by an overwhelming majority of MPs in the House of Commons, 260-17. It was immediately sent to the Senate where it had stalled until just recently.
CARP members answered Michael Chong’s call in droves and wrote MPs and Senators that they supported a swift passage of the bill. It would seem that CARP members have been heard; on June 22nd, 2015, Michael Chong’s private members bill was finally passed in the upper house late that Monday evening by a vote of 38-14, with four abstentions.
It should be noted that the Act still has to receive Royal Assent before officially passing into law but this constitutes a major milestone and win regardless. It is very rare for Private Member’s Bills to make the journey from docket to assent; every step in between requires tremendous amounts of work and support.
Congratulations to Michael Chong who has achieved the passage of a Private Members Bill that will go a long way towards revitalizing our democracy and reforming our system in several important ways.
The following is an excerpt from the Canadian Press story on the events that took place in the senate on June 22nd 2015, leading up to and including the final passing of the Act:
“Chong sat in the gallery to watch the nerve-wracking finale to his 19-month crusade to empower MPs and dilute the power of party leaders.
“It was surreal, I couldn’t believe that it was actually taking place,” he said in an interview moments after the final vote.
“We weren’t sure when the vote was going to take place . . . or if at all. There was a real risk that the bill was going to be filibustered out and that didn’t happen.”
Chong was “thrilled” with the outcome and predicted it will mean MPs will be able to do a better job representing their constituents.
“It will lead to freer votes in the House of Commons, where members of Parliament can, on occasion, break ranks with their party to represent their constituents’ views and that is a significant change from the status quo.”
Among other things, the act is designed to give MPs in a party caucus the power to trigger a leadership review, and to subsequently vote to oust their leader.
Two Conservative senators, David Wells, backed by Denise Batters, introduced an amendment last week that would have neutered that specific part of the private member’s bill.
Passing the amendment would have effectively killed the bill, since it would have forced it back to the House of Commons, which adjourned last week in advance of an anticipated October election.
Wells’ amendment was rejected Monday by a vote of 46-14.
But about a dozen Conservative senators who strenuously opposed the bill continued to try several more procedural manoeuvres to block it.
Sen. Yonah Martin moved to adjourn final debate on the bill until Tuesday. That motion was defeated by a vote of 47-7.
Then Batters moved another amendment. After brief, acrimonious debate, that amendment was also defeated by a vote of 39-12.
Finally, opponents allowed the bill to be put to a vote.
In addition to giving MPs control over their leader’s fate, Chong’s bill will give them the power to expel and reinstate colleagues from their caucus, currently the preserve of party leaders. It will also give them the power to select their caucus chairperson.
In a bid to win all-party support in the House of Commons, Chong watered down some elements of his original bill.
He agreed, for instance, to drop a proposal to strip leaders of their power to determine who can run as a candidate for their parties. Instead, the bill now requires each party to designate a person or entity to approve nominations, leaving the possibility that the leader will continue to call the shots.
He also agreed to subject all elements of the bill to a vote by each party’s caucus after each election. They could choose to adopt the rules, modify them, or go with the status quo.
Chong said the bill would not have passed either the Commons or the Senate without the changes, some of which he insisted actually strengthened the legislation.
“It demonstrates that multi-party support can be built to reform Parliament,” he said.
Click here to read the full version of the Toronto Star/Canadian Press story on the passing of MP Michael Chong’s Reform Act in the Senate.