OTTAWA - A Conservative backbench MP's bill designed to restore a measure of power to MPs in Parliament has passed another critical hurdle.
A Commons committee has finished its study of Michael Chong's Reform Act 2014, meaning it will now go back to the House for two more hours of debate and a third-reading vote in the new year.
Conservatives on the committee passed a series of amendments to the private member's bill on Thursday. The changes were consistent with those Chong himself had proposed in September, as a way of achieving support from members of all parties.
A set of amendments put forward by the NDP were voted down.
If passed, the bill would explicitly give MPs the power over such decisions such as suspending and reinstating colleagues, electing a caucus chair, initiating a leadership review and even ousting the leader.
Each party's group of MPs would have to vote either to adopt such new rules after a general election, vote to create their own version of the rules, or else elect to stick with the status quo. The most senior MP in the caucus would lead the discussions and report back to the Speaker of the House on the results.
The bill would also remove the Canada Elections Act requirement that party leaders sign the nomination papers of electoral candidates. The Reform Act doesn't specify who would take on that role — that would be up to each party to determine, and they could still name the leader.
Taking away the leader's veto power over candidates would theoretically eliminate a lever of control exerted over Members of Parliament.
Chong has been a proponent of strengthening the role of parliamentarians, in the face of increasingly powerful and controlling leader's offices.
The MP said he is happy to see the bill enter its final phase in the Commons, but noted it must still get through the Senate before Parliament adjourns in June in advance of the fall election.
Chong speculated that the earliest the bill could pass the Commons is late February.
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