Today, Frank Baylis, Member of Parliament for Pierrefonds-Dollard, together with MPs from the Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic, and Green parties, announced the details of his Private Member’s Democratic Empowerment M-231 Motion.
Motion 231 strengthens our Canadian democracy by empowering the Speaker, Members of Parliament (MPs), and Canadian citizens. It will result in improved debate in the House of Commons, better scrutiny of legislation, and stronger involvement by citizens. Specifically, the motion seeks to achieve the following:
Power to the Speaker
It is theoretically the Speaker’s responsibility to determine who speaks in the House of Commons. However over time this power has been transferred away from the Speaker to party leadership. By restoring this responsibility to the Speaker, there will be significant improvement in debate and decorum. The Speaker will have the tools to promote good behavior and punish bad behavior.
Committees are tasked with reviewing legislation. As such, they should be answerable to the House of Commons. To strengthen this responsibility, the chair of each committee will be voted on by all MPs. The chair will hold this position for the length of the session. Once an MP has been assigned to a committee, she or he cannot be removed without their consent, for the duration of the session.
Power to Members of Parliament
MPs have the right to present motions or bills. However as there are only 5 hours per week assigned to Private Members Business (PMB), most MPs will not have the opportunity to present business during a four-year term. Presently, who gets to present is determined by a random draw. By increasing the number of hours allocated to PMB from 5 hours to 16 hours, each MP would be able to present a motion or a bill.
To ensure that all Canadian citizens can meet their MP on a regular basis, the times during which votes can be held will be restricted. Voting can take place starting after Question Period on Monday and finishing at 4:00 pm on Thursday. There will be no more overnight voting. The House will suspend between 10:30 pm and 9:00 am the following morning in the event votes are being held. Fridays could therefore be used as constituency days, thus allowing citizens greater access to their MPs.
Power to Citizens
Presently, Canadian citizens are only able to interact with parliament at election time. By giving citizens the ability to request a debate, there will be greater involvement by the citizenry with parliament. If 70,000 Canadians citizens sign a parliamentary petition, it would trigger a debate by MPs, so long as the topic is appropriate.
In order to accommodate the additional PMB hours and the time required for petition-initiated debates, a second chamber will be established. This will be in the same style as Westminster Hall in the UK and the Federation Chamber in Australia. These two second chambers have been in operation for over 20 years.
With the addition of a second chamber, the scheduled sitting times of the House of Commons will have to be updated. The sitting times for Fridays will be extended and converted from House of Commons business to Second Chamber business. The House of Commons sitting times on Tuesday and Thursday will be extended to make up for the loss of the Friday House of Commons sitting time.
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