Your political representative is the basis of democracy, and therefore to have democratic change we must change the relationship that we have with our representative. There is no need to wait for a Constitutional change, nor does a bill, like the Reform Act need to be enacted to change our democracy. It is a relationship between yourself and your representative, one that you can begin to nurture. And if a thousand of your fellow constituents would also learn this, you could change the nature of your democracy in your riding; one of being ignored by your representative, to where a thousand votes could mean the difference of getting re-elected.
This is an example of a recent correspondence with my representative (a good representative that still has some improving to do). The issue was that I contacted my representative to influence her to vote in favour of the Reform Act that had a second reading in Parliament. The Reform Act will totally alter the democratic process in our Canadian Parliament.
I wrote to my representative Irene Mathyssen, telling her that I wanted her to vote in favour of the Reform Act, she respond, and then I emailed back to her my response to her statements.
Initial email from me to my representative Irene Mathyssen:
Dear Irene: I see that the Reform Act had second reading in the House. As one of your constituents, I encourage you to vote for the act to continue along the path to 3rd reading and approval. I feel it is a very good step forward to a better Democracy.
Irene’s response to me:
As you may have already heard, Tom Mulcair has already told our NDP team that this legislation will be a free vote for our MPs. In keeping with Jack Layton’s tradition, Tom continues to allow free votes on Private Members Business with the exception of those matters which deal with basic human rights issues and those Bills which are in direct contradiction to the official party policy we agreed to support when accepting the nomination to run for the NDP.
I want to be honest with you, I have not taken a position on Mr. Chong’s bill yet. In principle, I do support the Bill and I certainly support the goal of re-empowering individual MPs! I am looking forward to the debate around this issue because I feel parliament has avoided addressing the need for real democratic reform for far too long. In the NDP, we’re always interested in working on ways to improve democracy including: promoting electoral reform; taking partisanship out of the Senate on the road to abolition; making the Parliamentary budget officer (PBO) an independent officer of Parliament; preventing fraudulent robocalls; enhancing decorum in the House of Commons; limiting the use of in-camera meetings in committees; allowing online petitions; calling for independent oversight of MP expenses and subjecting Parliament to the Access to Information Act.
Amongst other things, Mr. Chong’s bill would add a new mechanism to trigger leadership reviews by giving MPs from party caucuses the ability to start the process when they are dissatisfied with their leader. What this does is codify elements of constitutional conventions based on the traditions of Parliament. The election of a new leader would then be left to the political party and the membership.
As it stands, the NDP is the only party that conducts a leadership review every two years and we are the only party that would subject a sitting Prime Minister to a leadership review. Since the last election, both Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair faced leadership reviews. No other party has had a leadership race and two reviews in the last two and a half years. As for the other elements in the bill, the NDP already elects its caucus chair. We also already have open nomination contests.
Mr. Chong’s bill is consistent with the many NDP efforts to reform our broken parliamentary democracy, and it specifically addresses some of the means the leader of the governing Conservative Party uses to undermine the functioning of the House of Commons.
I remain open to supporting this Bill and will continue to listen to both the “pros and cons” of it during debate as well as the feedback I receive from constituents. I’ve always believed it is not about who you are voting with, or whose legislation it is, it is about what are voting for!
My response to her statement of how she decided on how to vote:
I see that we, as voters have to become more engaged in interacting with our representatives so they do not feel like they are acting without scrutiny or accountability. We must let our representatives know that we are engaged, watching and that we have expectations of them if they wish to every be elected again. Getting elected again is their Achilles heel.