NDP turned Indpedendent MP Bruce Hyer is out to destroy the stranglehold that Canada’s political party leaders have on their MPs.
Speaking to The Huffington Post Canada, Hyer said he plans to introduce a motion that would ensure national party leaders no longer sign nomination papers.
Currently, party leaders such as the NDP's Thomas Mulcair and Prime Minister Stephen Harper can prevent a candidate from running in a general election by refusing to sign his or her nomination papers. That keeps any MP who wants to be re-elected in line, argues Hyer.
“Since 1970, many of the leaders — I think most of them — use the threat, the real or implied threat of not signing your nomination papers as a sword of Damocles to hang over your neck,” Hyer said. “If you’re not good, if you don’t do as we say, we won’t sign your nomination papers. Since then, MPs have been more and more whipped all the time, and now it’s pathetic what I see in the House, it really is.”
MPs are afraid of jeopardizing their “alleged powers,” along with perks, access to international travel, wine and cheese and a gold-plated pension, Hyer said.
“Quite often when I speak to MPs individually, they say, 'Well I disagree with that piece of legislation and I would amend it in this way.' But they don’t do it,” the MP from Thunder Bay — Superior North said. He thinks the party leader's control over nominations is one reason why no Conservative MP stood up to support opposition amendments to the budget bill.
“It’s tribalism,” Hyer said of the peer pressure MPs live under.
The MP who left the New Democratic caucus in April after being passed over for a critic portfolio and voting against party policy on the long gun registry says he’s been approached by MPs from the NDP, Liberal and Conservative sides expressing interest in his new-found freedom.
“(They say) I see you are getting even more questions, and you are getting even more statements in the House and you are really being very effective, quite contrary to what people assumed would happen and I can see that some of them are fascinated by the possibility,” he said.
Hyer says he’s not demonstrating sour grapes after leaving his party’s caucus. It’s hard to see which came first, he says, the chicken or the egg. He left because he didn’t want to work for a party apparatchik or national leader, he says.
“I want the party leader to work for me,” he said. “There are many times when the whip or the party leader or the party apparatchik tried to control my public messaging,” Hyer said.
To those who suggest Hyer was elected on an NDP platform and should abide by it, he says his job isn’t to do so “mindlessly.”
“When people say that to me in my riding, I say if that’s what you wanted then you elected the wrong man.”
Hyer has introduced three other motions in the House to reform the current system. He wants the Chief Electoral Officer to hold hearings on creating a more proportional system so that if a party obtains 20 per cent of the vote, they receive 20 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. “Canadians are not getting what they voted for,” Hyer said, describing what he calls Prime Minister Harper’s false majority. Proportional representation would allow for a fairer system, he argues.
Hyer has also introduced a motion to allow for cross-party support on private members’ bills.
“Just imagine how powerful it would be … if when you are introducing a private member’s bill, if it was co-sponsored by two or three parties, or even four parties, rather than one now,” he explained Monday in a phone interview from Thunder Bay. “Private members' bills are just that and they shouldn’t be voted against mindlessly because they are from the other side.”
Last week, Hyer also suggested MPs should be assigned seats in the Commons randomly so that cabinet ministers and backbenchers would be interspursed in the chamber.
“When you vote your consituents wishes or your conscience, it will be less obvious that you have voted differently than the other members of your party,” he told HuffPost. “Right now, we are all lined up like a hockey team, if one of us stands up contrary to the wishes of the leader or the party, everybody notices instantly.”
If MPs are spread out, there will be less pressure to toe the party line, he says.
Hyer insn’t sure he’ll be around past 2015, but if he is he'll run independently or for a party that allows him to vote his conscience or his constituents' wishes.
“I’m open to logic and persuasion, but I am not whipable,” he said.