Whip-fullparsons-headBy Jenny Parsons

What do whipped votes and dead money have in common? No, they are not ska-punk bands names. These are the concepts that are still forefront in mind after hours of guest speaker-talks and intense conversations had at the Green Party Convention held in New Brunswick this month.

Whipped votes

In the spring of 2012, guest speaker NDP Bruce Hyer was disciplined for voting against the NDP's position on the long-gun registry. He apologized but also asked that the party allow more free votes for its members. The party whip actually threatened him with the loss of his job and dismissed his concerns by saying: "You won't quit!" But Bruce Hyer did quit and became an independent. Inspired by Elizabeth May's work on climate change, he later joined the Green Party, becoming the second Green MP on December 13, 2013.

Whipped votes occur when members of parliament are required to vote in accordance with the party's wishes, regardless of their own views. In 1970, Pierre Trudeau changed the Election Act to require that candidates' nomination papers be signed by the party leader. Very quickly the signature required could also be the signature denied. This became and still is a weapon used to "whip" MPs back into the herd.

This is a non-partisan issue. It is a problem in every party. Another convention guest speaker, Michael MacMillan, is co-author of Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak out about Canada's Failing Democracy (Random House, April 2014). He collected eighty exit interviews from MPs in 2006, 2008 and 2011. What he found surprised him.

Asked what frustrated them most while on the Hill, their answers were almost always the same; a frustration with their own political party. MacMillan says that MPs do have a sense of individual "agency" but their success was based on whether they could negotiate their own party: "The underlying truth is that there is an uneasy alliance between an MP and their own party. This was surprising but consistently true."

The potential hero who will save the day is a Conservative MP named Michael Chong, MP for Wellington-Halton Hills. He has put forward a private member's bill to amend the Canadian Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act, to remove the need for a party leader's signature on nomination papers, for starters. MPs will vote in September on whether it moves forward. We should be proud that here in West Grey, Larry Miller is one of the bill's supporters.

Dead money

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's corporate tax rate is half that of the United States. It is now the lowest in the world. Elizabeth May, Green Party leader, says the resulting money "is not going to job creators." She says instead it is "sloshing around in bank accounts." She estimates that the number may be as high as $600-billion. Her proposal is that if we reset the corporate tax rate back to a median range, in global terms, we invest that dead money.

In particular, this money could be used to implement a "rebuilding agenda," May says. That would include reviving Canada's Environment Assessment Act. Right now, Canada is a country without a national environment policy. Nor does it have a credible climate change policy. She offered an example of the kinds of amendments that have been implemented instead, as just one example, to the Canadian Energy Act: "Bill C38 says wherever a pipeline runs, the Protection of Species Act does not apply."

You'll forgive Elizabeth May's bias when she says the solution is to "make sure Canadians' best bet is Green." She said she likes and respects most MPs no matter to which party they belong. But the next time someone suggests that voting for Green is a wasted vote, remind people that most other party members "must tow the party line." Her parting thought shared with the crowd on the closing night of the convention was that "there's something worse than a wasted vote. So don't elect any wasted members of parliament."

Jenny Parsons is a freelance writer, teacher and performer with Green leanings. She ran as the Green Party's candidate in Bruce-Grey Owen Sound, in the 2014 Ontario election.


CopyRight ©2015, ©2016, ©2017 of Hub Content
is held by content creators