The Revolution Will Not be Amended

It’s hard to know what to make of Government House Leader Peter van Loan’s call to disenfranchise MPs for the sake of “efficiency” this week.

His “test vote” idea seems like a bizarrely anti-democratic thing for a House leader to propose, but I saw part of the speech and I swear, van Loan didn’t seem to be joking, making it up as he went along, or drunk.

BACKGROUND: Parties that have a seat at Parliament’s Finance committee can’t introduce amendments to the budget bill that were already defeated at committee. Elizabeth May is under no such restrictions. She theoretically could have re-introduced, say, all of Scott Brison’s 3,000+ amendments. May told me she was willing to consider working with the other opposition parties on a massive filibuster, but the NDP wasn’t interested and she ended up sticking with her original plan of about 80 substantial amendments.

So Peter van Loan asked Speaker of the House Scheer to allow a test vote wherein the Conservatives vote down all of May’s amendments in one go. Think about this for a second. van Loan’s logic implies,

1) The government is blindly, dogmatically opposed to any change being proposed by an independent MP.

2) A government shouldn’t have to actually demonstrate this knee-jerk opposition through voting down everything May proposes. Instead they should just have to do it once.

3) The substance of the amendments is of zero importance. Even if all 80 amendments span totally different subjects and sections of legislation, they should all be grouped together as one *because of who proposed them.*

4) The age-old principle that members of Parliament have certain basic rights in a Westminster system of government, which includes the right to propose legislation or propose changes to legislation introduced by your colleagues, should be done away with because van Loan doesn’t want to stand up and sit down a bunch of times.

Really what van Loan is arguing is that majority governments have the right to pass what they want, and the archaic procedures of Parliament shouldn’t be used to slow them down. I’m sure a lot of people agree with him, it’s just strange to see it said so bluntly.

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23 thoughts on “The Revolution Will Not be Amended

    • How can you disagree with absolutely every suggestion someone has to offer? Elizabeth May said there were things she supported in this omnibus bill, but there were things she didn’t. I don’t think anyone can be right 100% of the time, and to not even listen? We have lost democracy in this country. People died for it, and we are willing to throw it away.

      • we are not losing democracy, we are simply making it more efficient, so much time would be wasted on the amendments of one independent MP that no work of larger concern is getting dealt with. Why should one MP get as much time as a party with 167? where is the democracy in that? all politics is broken, it will never be correct, this is just an attempt to push big issues in faster.

      • Exactly David, and we have a situation now where the government came to power amidst a scandal of illegal phone calls that impacted the results, and is no longer legitimate.

      • “Why should one MP get as much time as a party with 167?”

        Quite simply, because often she is, single-handedly, doing the work of 167 MPs. If you think the Conservatives are a party of 167 MPs, you are sadly deluded. They are a party of 1 MP who has 166 other votes in his pocket. That’s why, for example, most of the other 166 MPs didn’t get to see the last omnibus Bill 38 until it was tabled in the house, and didn’t get any meaningful input into it afterward, in debate or in committee.

        The key voting difference between May and Harper right now is that the latter has more trained seals to bark and clap for him.

      • Again this is just absurd,

        In Harpers party he has his representatives, who give him advise on what to do with bills, so yes of course a lot of his MP’s would not be shown such a bill, it has nothing to do with them and they are only suppose to vote for their party, as it is who they represent. If they did not like that they would run as an independent.

        And the difference between Harper and May is more than just who has more people to talk, May has herself, no one else in her party has a say in Canada what so ever and so she should not be allowed to single handed change things in Canada. If there is anything more like a (your term) “dictatorship” it would be allowing a party with one member, and no representatives, to try and swing a vote on things.

  1. This is the arrogance and dictatorship of our country’s “democracy”. I really don’t know why any MP not flying blue shows up, or why those flying blue to Harper’s tune show up either. Differing opinions are not allowed in opposition or in the rank and file of the official party running the house. Let’s just save the money, and skip all the show. Fire them all, and let Harper show up each day for work and do it all himself. It is only his Kingly opinion that matters in our system. Let’s just show it for what it really is. A dictatorship.

    • Aside from the fact that would be giving Herr Harper exactly what he wants, I agree with you. If Opposition MP’s Abstained, or walked out. Canadians might notice.

    • This is what democracy is! Canada voted in one guy, with over 50% of the seats (which I will call votes) that he holds. When he wants something done he gets to vote his over 50% and when he doesn’t want something he gets to vote his 50%. Democracy is the fact that we get to vote in who gets to make all the decisions, Dictatorship is us not being allowed to vote him in, and not having a chance every 4 or 5 years to vote a new person in. Throwing around words like dictator only shows that you have no real idea of what the word is filled with, real dictators are cruel, who hunt down and kill opposition. Stop having a pity party because you do not like the guy in power and wait til you can vote in out in the next election… that’s how democracy works

      • This is exactly what Canada is… never said that it is how it should be, but it is what it is and we are the ones who complain yet do nothing to change it because it is the best way we have found so far

      • No, Dean, this isn’t democracy. It isn’t even proper representative democracy, because in a real representative democracy, each representative has equal rights to be heard and considered in the House on behalf of their constituents. The number of other MPs in the same party has no bearing on the rights of each individual MP. If you feel that what should matter is number of seats per party rather than the rights of each MP to represent their constituents, then you must be in support of ending our current single-member plurality system and replacing it with a proportional one. If we did that, then your point would be valid.

        Democracy is supposed to be a system where many different views are heard and, as much as possible, synthesized. It’s not supposed to be a system where “one guy” makes all the decisions on behalf of 308 representatives or 34 million citizens. Dictatorship is a style of one-man top-down decision-making, regardless of whether the dictator seized, inherited, or was elected to his position.

        Our current system is not how democracy “works”, it’s how democracy dies.

      • Erich, no offence but that is utter BS.

        The way that politics have worked for as long as I have lived (granted that is only since Jean Chrétien) it has always been the leader makes the decision and those voted in for them vote with their leader. I am not here to argue about a perfect society or perfect democracy because that is not what we have. We have our system and we are stuck with it and that is too bad we have to live with it.

        but on to a reply for your comment,

        Each MP does not have the rights to implement or bring up their own ideals or something that helps out there area, that is something that the Prime Minister or the Party leader decides what happens, they simply have the right to talk to their leader about what they think. They should not waste the time of the House or the Speaker by bringing up topics that do not effect others, the House is meant to be a large place that represents parties issues.

        This being said, May has a party of one MP. She should have the amount of time that 1 MP would get, unless these amendments are for the entire country they have no right to be talked about within the House and is wasting the time of everyone there. Just like it would be wasting time if 1 MP from the Liberals, NDP, or Conservatives brought forward 3000+

        Our system is not a dictatorship, It is how democracy works! the way that you are throwing around that word deteriorates the real value that his word represents.

      • Far from a perfect democracy, what about one that follows its own rules? Dean, if you want to call BS, how about you prove your own statement:

        “Each MP does not have the rights to implement or bring up their own ideals or something that helps out there area, that is something that the Prime Minister or the Party leader decides what happens,”

        Show me where any of this is specified in the Constitution. Or even where it mentions a party or Prime Minister. I’ll save you some time, here’s a link to it: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/index.html

      • Actually, what’s absurd is that people can be so ignorant of the basic principles and rules of our parliamentary system that they can say things like “of course a lot of his MP’s would not be shown such a bill, it has nothing to do with them and they are only suppose to vote for their party, as it is who they represent”

        Do they not teach Canadian civics wherever you went to school? I’d suggest you read a book, but to play it safe, I’ll go with a skill you’ve actually demonstrated: read this website that explains the role of a Member of Parliament. Before you post again, please. http://www.parl.gc.ca/MarleauMontpetit/DocumentViewer.aspx?DocId=1001&Sec=Ch04&Seq=12&Language=E

  2. Pingback: Why bother with a House of Commons? - Beyond The Commons, Capital Read - Macleans.ca

  3. Our system of government was hard won and fought for by many in its inception … some may think our system archaic … think what you want cause our democracy allows it, but for the standing party who is in the majority to even suggest a denial of the rights of the Members to speak to legislation, is not a democracy and should not happen. I do not like the govt we have right now; however, they did win the majority so they are the govt … that’s another one of our democratic rules … let them now abide by our long-standing rules and allow opposition members of opposition parties to speak to the Bills currently on the floor, the budget that has been presented by the Majority, or, introduce new legislation, because that is what Canada’s government rules say they can do. I do not think any Canadians voted for a dictatorship!

  4. It’s worth noting that Van Loan broke the Election Act in 2008, and is lucky he isn’t in jail, much less serve as a disgraceful MP attempting to silence Macleans’ Parliamentarian of the Year.

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