Don’t throw democracy out with the bathwater

Every motion deserves its due in the House of Commons

By Eric Onderwater

Many of you are aware of Mark Warawa’s attempt to file a motion on sex-selective abortion in the House of Commons in Ottawa. Warawa filed the motion, a parliamentary sub-committee ruled that the motion would not come to a vote.

Warawa then appealed to the full committee in question, and that committee again explicitly stopped the motion from coming to a vote. When Warawa finally appealed to the speaker, the speaker denied him the ability to speak on the issue to the entire House of Commons.

While this may seem like a minor procedural issue, it is not. To not even allow a vote on the motion, for no reason other than that of politics, is to deny Warawa the ability to conduct democracy.

Warawa was elected by the people of Langley, British Columbia, to represent their interests in the legislature. He campaigned vigorously, knocked on thousands of doors, and shook hands with thousands of trusting constituents.

He no doubt helped thousands more of those same constituents with various different problems and difficulties after his election. He’s attended countless events, spoken at hundreds of dinners, and probably kissed more than one baby.

Why did Mr. Warawa expend all of this energy? Why did he go to such enormous lengths to become a representative of the good people in Langley? In short, why is he what he is?

He is what he is because he believes in something larger than himself. He believes in representative democracy. He believes in the right of the people to choose their local representatives.

And it isn’t only him. His constituents believe this. Some of his constituents have given their entire lives for that ideal, by moving
from various oppressive nations around the globe.

Now they’ve all been played as fools. And not only them, but us. Why is this? Because Stephen Harper’s PMO finally went too far by shutting down the very beating heart of representative democracy in this country: the right of the individual MP to represent the interests of his or her constituents. They, without good cause, stopped Mark Warawa from doing his job.

You may not agree with what Mark Warawa believes. But you better damn well believe in his right to represent his constituents as an MP. Without that, representative democracy dies in this country; democracy becomes something different altogether. Instead, it becomes an elected dictatorship. The prime minister is elected, and he rules by absolute decree.

To be sure, we should have seen this coming. Originally the system was designed to prevent this. The system was designed in such a way that the MPs elected their leader.

But over time, a few shortsighted individuals circumvented that system by suggesting that leaders be elected by party convention, by the members of each political party. In one stroke, the local MPs lost their single biggest source of power.

This, and not Stephen Harper, killed the power of the individual MP. Stephen Harper’s PMO was inevitable after this change, although this hardly absolves them of responsibility.

I used to work for a Conservative MP in the House of Commons. I’ve spent countless hours volunteering for the Conservative Party, fought numerous campaigns, and sacrificed personal financial stability for the sake of the ideals I thought the machine held. But this latest action by the PMO is too much. The institution of Parliament is sacred, and I wonder if the PMO might have forgotten that.

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