Inside Politics

Private Members' Business: Is Brad Trost the next Mark Warawa?

As Mark Warawa readies himself to reveal whether he intends to keep up his fight for a full House vote on sex-selective abortion,  another Conservative backbencher may be heading for a similar clash with his party's parliamentary power brokers,

Over the last few weeks, Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost  has been quietly collecting cross-party support for his bid to boost the collective power of the Chamber by having MPs elect committee chairs via preferential ballot -- a move that  could dramatically curtail the government's ability to control the hand that wields the gavel -- and, by extension, the committee process itself. 

Earlier today, New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart became the third opposition member to sign on as a co-sponsor of M-431, an ever-growing list that also includes Liberal MP Ted Hsu, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Independent MP Peter Goldring, as well as more than a dozen Conservative MPs. Under the current schedule, it could come up for its first hour of debate as early as next week.

Unlike Warawa's motion, Trost's proposal would be binding: if it passes, the matter will be automatically referred to the procedure and house affairs committee to study how such a system could be implemented within the Canadian parliamentary context.

That is, however, a big 'if'.

Without the support of the government, Trost will have to get the support of not just every single opposition MP -- who, to be fair, likely won't take much convincing to do so -- but at least a dozen or so members of his own caucus -- and even if he does manage to get it to committee, the government could use its majority to kill it off by simply reporting back to the House its recommendation that the House not proceed with such reforms.

Still, given the apparent frustration on the government backbench -- as evidenced by the parade of Conservative MPs rising in the House to side with Warawa on his related point of privilege over his right to give a members' statement without the approval of his party -- Trost's attempt to free up the committee system could trigger a whole new debate over MPs' power.

In any case, stay tuned. In the meantime, here's the text of the motion, as well as the list of seconders: 

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.

Pursuant to Standing Order 86(3), jointly seconded by:

Mr. Hsu (Kingston and the Islands) -- March 20, 2013

Mr. Benoit (Vegreville--Wainwright), Mr. Clarke (Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River), Mr. Goldring (Edmonton East), Mrs. Ambler (Mississauga South), Mr. Chong (Wellington--Halton Hills), Mr. Vellacott (Saskatoon--Wanuskewin), Mr. Bezan (Selkirk--Interlake), Mr. Bruinooge (Winnipeg South), Mr. Hiebert (South Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale), Mr. Breitkreuz (Yorkton--Melville), Mr. Payne (Medicine Hat), Mr. Allen (Tobique--Mactaquac), Mr. Young (Oakville), Mr. Rathgeber (Edmonton--St. Albert), Ms. May (Saanich--Gulf Islands), Mr. Anderson (Cypress Hills--Grasslands) and Mr. Woodworth (Kitchener Centre) -- March 28, 2013

Mr. Stewart (Burnaby--Douglas) -- April 15, 2013

UPDATE: As of this afternoon, a second New Democrat has joined Team Trost:

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