Politics

Want to e-petition Ottawa for a Death Star? Now you'll need 500 names

A digital petition that once famously forced the White House to issue official comment on the idea of building an intergalactic Death Star as an economic stimulus program, but Canadians hoping to make the same pitch to their federal government via official online petitions may have a slightly tougher time.

NDP MP Kennedy Stewart proposed study on petitions and also wants mechanism to trigger debates

A House committee is recommending changes that could open the door to digital petitions like the one that famously forced the White House to respond to a request that it consider building a Death Star like that constructed by Star Wars villain Darth Vader, pictured here, to stimulate the economy.

A digital petition once famously forced the White House to issue official comment on the idea of building an intergalactic Death Star as an economic stimulus program.

But Canadians hoping to make the same pitch to their federal government via official online petitions may have a slightly tougher time.

Proposed rule changes before the House of Commons on accepting electronic petitions would require an MP to support the request before a petition can be submitted.

Any online petition would also have to have 500 signatures before it could be tabled in the House; the threshold for paper petitions is only 25.

But if a petition is accepted, the government would have 45 days to respond and that response would have to be posted online.

Petition-driven debates nixed

The proposed changes are in a House of Commons committee report tabled last week and seek to have the new system in place after the next federal election.

The catalyst for the study into modernizing the rules on petitions was a private members motion put forward by New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart, which was passed by the House last January thanks to the support of eight backbench Conservative MPs.

In his motion, Stewart also asked the committee to consider establishing a new process whereby petitions that reach a certain threshold of support could automatically trigger a House debate, should a sufficient number of MPs sign on as co-sponsors.

But according to the report, a majority of committee members rejected that idea in favour of sticking with the current practice of holding take-note debates on issues of broad public interest or concern.

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With files from Kady O'Malley

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