Control-freak Harper’s efforts compromise all MPs

Elizabeth May —

While the front pages of this week’s papers contain further allegations in the Senate scandal—a scanElizabet-Maydal that is deeply rooted in the PMO’s obsession with controlling all aspects of government—I am writing to update you on another example of Stephen Harper’s efforts at total control; one that affects my ability to do my job as MP.

I have previously written to you about a procedure that enabled an MP—such as myself—who is not allowed to sit on committees to put forward substantive amendments at the Report Stage of bills. I was the first MP to notice this rule and have made good use of it. Since being elected as an MP in 2011, my amendments have been a constant thorn in the side of the Harper administration.

This spring, the Harper administration found a way to block my use of this provision by “inviting” me to submit my amendments in committee. If I didn’t accept the invitation, any amendments presented to the House would be ruled out of order because I had been offered an earlier “opportunity”. I was not allowed to participate in the committee meetings, beyond having 60 seconds to introduce an amendment.

As a result, I was forced to race from committee to committee for the ritual rejection of all my amendments, which in turn took me away from my desk in the House. Other members were more than willing to take advantage of these rare absences.

Now the Conservatives have taken it even further by introducing a motion to require that members, who are either independent or are members of recognized parties with fewer than 12 MPs, submit amendments to committee 48 hours prior to the start of clause by clause consideration of any bill. The clear purpose of this motion is to reduce rights of Members of Parliament.

Yesterday this motion passed in four committees simultaneously and identical motions have already been tabled in multiple other committees with votes still to come.

I need you to stand with me and tell Stephen Harper’s Conservatives that this motion is in flagrant violation of one of the most important traditions of Canadian democracy: that all Members, regardless of their affiliation, should have an equal voice in Parliament.

The Conservative approach, of rejecting any and all amendments while simultaneously abbreviating debate opportunities, is a perversion of the parliamentary process. It is a new and hyper-partisan approach to the legislative process.