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Independent MP introduces bill to curb prime minister's powers

LOCAL2 Staff for local2 sault ste. marie
May 28th, 2013 at 12:26pm



Bruce HyerThe Prime Minister’s prerogative to declare any vote a matter of confidence is an excessive power open to abuse and must be reformed, contends Bruce Hyer, Independent MP for Thunder Bay - Superior North. Unwritten conventions have effectively granted the Prime Minister the power to dissolve Parliament and call elections at any time, rendering fixed election dates impotent.

“Stephen Harper’s fixed election date law is not worth the paper it is printed on,” said Hyer. “Even with the supposed fixed election of October 19, 2009, Harper still triggered and election in 2008, as it suited him. He can trigger a defeat on a matter of confidence at any time. My bill will remove much of the government’s prerogative to engineer its own defeat just because they are high in the polls. It will also ensure that budgets and other legislation passed by the House of Commons have the support of a majority of MPs. They can vote on the merits of the bill, without the threat of an election. I hope this leads to a more consensus style of government, at least in minority situations.”

Surprisingly, there are currently no written rules regarding what constitutes a matter of confidence, and as a result any arbitrary issue can be declared a matter of confidence to force legislation through the House of Commons, or used to trigger an election.

“My proposed legislation will ensure that only a special type of motion passed by the House will trigger a government to fall,” said Hyer. “Not even defeat on a money matter or budget vote would be considered a vote of non-confidence. If the government fell, it would then have a 14 day period to restore confidence, by passing a second motion.”

In 2011, MP David Wilkes told his constituents that he and other backbench Conservatives could not vote against the omnibus budget bill lest they trigger an election. Hyer’s reform would remove that worry, as only a motion passed that specifically contained the words “That this House no longer has confidence in the government” would cause the government to fall.

“This bill curbs the excessive power of the Prime Minister, without touching the Governor General’s prerogative to dissolve Parliament,” added Hyer. “It will lead to greater government accountability, empowered MPs, and a shift toward more cooperative government”.

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