OTTAWA - His zigzag journey has lasted more than a year, but Michael Chong has crossed one critical finish line in his bid to rebalance power between MPs and party leaders.
The Conservative MP's bill, known as Reform Act 2014, passed 260 to 17 in a third-reading vote Wednesday. The legislation received support from the Conservative cabinet, opposition party leaders Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, and from MPs on both sides of the aisle.
Green party Leader Elizabeth May and fellow MP Bruce Hyer voted against it, arguing the bill didn't go far enough.
The bill has been through hours of debate, amendments, and plenty of negotiations behind the scenes — mostly to help secure the support of Chong's own caucus and government. Now it heads to the Senate for further debate and review.
If it ultimately gains royal assent, it would give MPs the power to trigger leadership reviews, suspend and reinstate caucus colleagues, and to select their own caucus chairs.
Chong credits average Canadians with helping to give the bill the traction it needed — something he says the public has the power to do with any piece of legislation.
The bill would also remove the power of a party leader within the Canada Elections Act to approve election candidates. Individual parties would determine how candidates would be approved, with the option of leaving that power with the leader.
"Change is never easy, and there is and was great institutional resistance to any change, especially changes of this sort which really strike at the heart of the balance of power in Ottawa," he said in an interview.
"I don't think this bill would have gotten this far without the support of thousands of Canadians who emailed, who wrote, who called their MPs and encouraged them to support this bill."
While the legislation lays out models for how the new powers would be implemented, Chong has agreed to amendments that would leave each caucus to choose the system they wanted after each election. A particular caucus could even vote to leave such powers with the leader.
"I don't expect that all the rules will be adopted all at once, but in the long run, party caucuses will democratize themselves and empower themselves," Chong said.
Ever cautious when he talks about his legislative baby, Chong notes that the bill will still need Senate approval before the House rises in June. Chong says he has just started to meet with senators to talk over his legislation.
"This bill is a democratic reform bill, it concerns the House of Commons, and its caucuses, and how those caucuses will govern themselves and how the House of Commons will elect its members," said Chong.
"While the Senate needs to review the bill, I also hope they respect the wishes of the House in governing itself and electing its members."