In one way, Andrew Coyne is right. If what we understand (since specifics have not yet been released) is the purpose of Conservative MP Michael Chong’s Private Member’s Bill on parliamentary reform, is ever passed, Parliament would never be the same because internal caucus coups would become possible.
In fact, while legislating the right for MPs to express their confidence in their leader might give the appearance of improving the perceived democratic deficit for Cabinet members and regular backbenchers, in reality it would reduce the democratic right for political party rank and file members to choose their leaders. (H/T Eric at BLY and JNW)
And, worse, it would allow for a type of political coup that I would think most Canadians would not want. Which brings to mind the old saying — “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Think about it. In the case of a Canadian majority governing party, given what Coyne and others have written on the topic, a simple 15% of 154+ MPs would be able to depose a Prime Minister (as recently happened to Julia Gillard in Australia) without regard for the very people who elected that leader in the first place.
And, speaking of the corrupting influence of power, for those of us over 30 or 35, who among us can forget what the Conservative Party in the U.K. did to Margaret Thatcher in 1990? Robin Harris recently wrote on this topic referring to her detractors as weak bitter men.
I think the key phrase in one of Harris’s final paragraphs says it all — a coup “without reference to the electorate.” I would also add, without reference to the Conservative party members who chose her as leader in a well fought leadership campaign in 1975.
However, I don’t disagree with everything that the media says will be in Chong’s PMB. I agree, for example, that allowing a caucus vote to remove or readmit a member from caucus (as opposed to it being solely a PM or opposition leader decision) would give the MPs some limited power.
Plus, I also agree that it should not be necessary for a party leader to sign a candidates papers. Rather, who represents a riding in a federal election should be a nomination decision of a riding association’s members. Or, at the very least, signatures of both the party leader “and” the riding president.
The crux of the matter is that “an allowable coup by only 15% of a caucus” is hardly democratic given it would give absolute power to an elected few who have so much to gain personally and politically.