Individual MPs need more power and freedom in the House of Commons, says Liberal MP Paul Martin.

In his first major policy speech as a Liberal leadership contender, Martin said Canada's lawmakers are hampered by a system where power is centralized and where MPs must toe the party line.

He said reforming the House of Commons will help to buck this trend towards a "democratic deficit."

"Unfortunately, the authority of individual Members of Parliament has been allowed to erode, while power of the executive...grows," Martin said in a speech Monday at York University's Osgoode Hall law school.

"It's who do you know in the PMO...We must move to address this democratic deficit."

He outlined a series of proposed changes which include:

  • Allowing politicians to vote as they choose not merely vote the party line as long as the vote doesn't bring down the government
  • Introducing an independent ethics commissioner
  • Having more independent parliamentary committees
  • Renewing the system for private members' bills
The former finance minister left cabinet in June after Prime Minister Jean Chrtien banned cabinet members from actively campaigning for the PM post.

Since then, Martin has made numerous public appearances and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.