Inside Politics

Elizabeth May leads new fight to protect rights of independent MPs

Undaunted by the seemingly inevitable passage of a motion that they fear will drastically curtail their power to fully represent their constituents, a trio of independent-minded MPs have launched an eleventh-hour letter-writing campaign against the government's latest gambit to streamline the legislative process.

Earlier today, Procedure and House Affairs chair Joe Preston received a letter "respectfully requesting," in the collective name of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Independent MPs Bruce Hyer and Brent Rathgeber, that the committee reject the Conservative-backed proposal to force them to submit any proposed amendments during clause-by-clause review, rather than putting them forward from the floor of the House during report stage debate -- a previously little-known perk accorded to independents, who aren't permitted to sit on committees.

It was also a tactic that May employed to great effect during the first omnibudget bill debate, when she was able to force full House votes on each and every one of her amendments.

Nettled, the government took steps to limit her ability to repeat her actions during the second round of omnibudget debate by passing a stand-alone motion to do pretty much what the current motion would make standard operating procedure in future: namely, requiring Independents to submit their proposed amendments via letter to the chair of the relevant committee, which would accord them brief speaking rights to explain the rationale during clause-by-clause review -- on which. it's worth noting, this government has also made a practice of imposing rigid deadlines, particularly when omnibus bills are involved.

In any case, as reported in today's OotD, the motion in question, which has also been introduced at Finance, is scheduled to go to a vote later this morning -- a vote that, unless there's been a major shift of opinion on the Conservative side of the table, seems fated to go in the government's favour.

May, however, has already made it clear that she hasn't ruled out the possibility of filing a plea with House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer, who has previously ruled that the rights of independent members to exercise the right to put forward amendments must be protected -- although he has also concluded that the process proposed by the government is sufficient to protect that power.

UPDATE: Here's what the office of Government House Leader Peter Van Loan has to say about the controversy:

Our motion ensures all Members of Parliament are treated equally.

Independent Members of Parliament will now be able to propose bill amendments like all other parties at committee.

This ensures that the rights of Independent Members of Parliament are protected as recommended by the Speaker.

So, we are surprised to see Independent Members of Parliament objecting to the motion.

Here's the full text of the letter in question:

According to May, a similar dispatch will also be sent to the Finance committee, at which a similar motion was introduced -- again, by a Conservative member -- last week. May has publicly predicted that such motions may eventually be adopted by all committees, but so far, only two have been added to the to-do list. 

UPDATE: As expected, the motion was passed at Procedure and House Affairs at today's meeting. 

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