Kitchener-Waterloo

Cambridge MPP's private member's bill focuses on internal party elections, doesn't have PC support

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios has introduced her first private member's bill and it's focus is to make internal party elections more transparent. But her own party. the Progressive Conservatives, say they won't support it.

Party says it won't support bill, but Karahalios says she hopes to change their minds

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios says her private member's bill will make internal party elections more transparent. Her own party, though, says it doesn't support the bill. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios has introduced her first private member's bill and its aim is to increase transparency in internal political party elections.

But it is unlikely to be passed into law as her own party does not support it.

The Ensuring Transparency and Integrity in Political Party Elections Act would require parties to submit a report to the chief electoral officer within seven days of an election for party leader or party president.

Karahalios, a Progressive Conservative MPP, says the rules are necessary as there are currently no laws preventing "a bunch of old boys in the back room deciding, 'Hey, we think this candidate can be better' than what party membership would choose.

"They're disrespecting members," Karahalioas says. "You need to put real penalties around this to prevent this from occurring in the future."

Bill about 'moving forward'

Karahalios admits her first private member's bill seems a little "inside baseball" for many people. Statistics Canada reports in 2013, four per cent of Canadians had a membership with a political party.

But Karahalios says the repercussions of internal party elections are felt by the public because it often leads to electing party leadership, either the party leader or the party president. The people in those roles have beliefs that trickle down to candidates who represent voters, she says.

She also knows people will see a connection between her personal life and the bill. Her husband, Jim, has sued the Progressive Conservative party over the way they handled the election for party president at the November 2018 convention. He alleges the party "deliberately breached" the rules.

"This bill is about moving forward," MPP Karahalios said. "It's to prevent that from happening to other people in the future."

Karahalios represents a city that's impacted by the opioid crisis, a lack of affordable housing and people who are homeless. When asked why her first private member's bill didn't focus on those problems, she said she is "consistently advocating" on behalf of her constituents on those issues to her colleagues at Queen's Park.

"This private member's bill is broader because it is affecting democracy as a whole I believe," she said. "It'd be hard to find someone who disagrees that democracy matters very much; that we shouldn't take it for granted."

PCs don't support bill

Ivana Yelich, spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford, said in a statement that "the grassroots of political parties are responsible for determining their respective party leadership. We will continue to support and respect this democratic tradition and therefore the government does not support this private member's legislation."

Karahalios remains hopeful.

"This is very much in line with the PC party," she said of what the bill is trying to do. "I am hopeful."

She says she plans to meet with Ford in the next two weeks and hopes she can change his mind on the issue.

"It's a very good bill. It's a very positive bill. It's pro-democracy. It's something that levels the playing field for all parties. I think it's a good step to get people to regain trust in political institutions and to ensure that more people are getting involved in this level of politics."

The bill is scheduled to go for second reading on Dec. 12.

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