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.