Trudeau to aid muzzled Conservative backbenchers with new motion

Julian Wolfe
April 19th, 2013

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is giving Conservative backbench MPs a chance to defy the Harper government’s whip powers with a bill that would strip the whip of determining who can speak. The motion will be put to a vote next week and the 9 MPs whom are exposing divisions between the Conservative ranks and their henchmen will be put to the test.

“Members of Parliament from all parties should be community leaders, free to share the priorities and express the views of those they represent,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“Canadians must have confidence that the candidates they elect will represent their views in Ottawa, not Ottawa’s views to them.”

This motion represents the first step of Trudeau’s democratic reform platform and will give a hand to muzzled MPs who feel the opposition haven’t been sympathetic to their cause.

The bill would modify the order of speakers and how it is determined. Currently, each party’s whip determines the order of speakers they’ve allowed to make a statement and gives their list to the Speaker. Trudeau’s modification would enforce the speaker to order MPs by alphabetical order per party. MPs would be allowed to trade speaking spots to give them flexibility in case they cannot be present on the day the speaker finds it is their turn to speak. Independent MPs would be considered a group and placed in alphabetical order.

To change rules in the Commons, a simple majority vote is required. If his motion passes, it would nullify Conservative MP Mark Warawa’s plea to the speaker to say his speaking rights have been taken away.

Harper loyalists refuted calls of muzzling stating they are justified due to the promise not to reopen the abortion debate. However, Trudeau promised that in his government, backbench MPs would be allowed to vote however they want unless it was part of the platform and is required to keep the government’s confidence in the Commons.

Conservative Whip Gordon O’Connor says only the whip should be allowed to coordinate speakers, just like a coach would coordinate players in a sports team.

Meanwhile, the NDP say they support Conservative backbenchers and NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen said the NDP doesn’t take away its members’ speakers rights. However, it is worth nothing that two NDP MPs, John Rafferty and Bruce Hyer were stripped of speaking rights earlier this year, along with their rights to making member statements after they voted against the NDP position to support the long gun registry which is now dead in the water. Hyer now sits as an independent MP in the House.

What do you think of Trudeau’s first bill regarding democratic reform? Will it offer the 9 revolting Conservative MPs the freedom they’ve desperately been seeking – if the Conservatives are so restrictive, why not switch party or become independent?

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