Inside Politics

Conservative MP wants House, not government, to pick committee chairs

Conservative backbencher Brad Trost is preparing to put forward a motion that could strip the governing party -- in this case, his own party -- of the power to control who wields the gavel at committee.

Under Trost's proposal, which will be formally tabled later today, Procedure and House Affairs would consider scrapping the current committee chair selection process -- specifically, pro forma 'elections' in which only one name is put forward for consideration -- in favour of a House-wide preferential ballot system at the start of each session.

It would also look into related practices within other Westminster-style parliaments, and report back to the House on how to implement such changes through the Standing Orders within six months.

The complete text, as it appears on today's Notice Paper:

M-431 -- February 27, 2013 -- Mr. Trost (Saskatoon--Humboldt) -- That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to: (a) consider the election of committee chairs by means of a preferential ballot system by all the Members of the House of Commons, at the beginning of each session and prior to the establishment of the membership of the standing committees; (b) study the practices of other Westminster-style Parliaments in relation to the election of Committee Chairs; (c) propose any necessary modifications to the Standing Orders and practices of the House; and (d) report its findings to the House no later than six months following the adoption of this order.

This isn't the first time Trost has broken through the fog of benign obscurity in which the government backbench is ordinarily shrouded. 

In 2011, he accused the government of being 'apathetic' on abortion, and vowed to continue his campaign to deprive the International Planned Parenthood Federation of further funding. 

Unlike most private members' motions, if passed, M-431 would be binding, as it would constitute an instruction to the House. 

Given his newly acquired spot on the private members' precedence list, Trost will likely get his first chance to make the case for getting the government out of the committee chair-appointing business later this spring. 

Assuming that the opposition will support his motion, all he needs to do to get the issue to committee is persuade a dozen or so of his fellow Conservative backbenchers to vote in favour of the motion. 

Stay tuned! 
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