In the words of the Green Party of Canada’s newest Member of Parliament Bruce Hyer: “Parliament is a mess… and is steadily getting worse.” You only have to catch a brief video clip from the House of Commons to realize our country’s political centre is a national embarrassment, showcasing our federal politicians at their worst. Amid raucous shouting, booing and jeers, our country’s laws and legislation are “debated” (for lack of a better word) while pragmatic thinking and decorum are swept under the carpet.
But the reasons behind a recent decision by Mr. Hyer, a former NDP Ontario MP who turned Independent almost two years ago, to join the Green Party offers a glimmer of hope to those of us sick and tired of the hooliganism that’s become the House status quo.
Currently, Canada’s democracy is anything but democratic with the three main political parties requiring their MPs to vote as directed by their party leader (known as “whipping” votes) and not according to how to best serve their constituents. Readers may recall how local Conservative MP David Wilks was forced to do a very publicized 180 after speaking out against last year’s budget on behalf of his Kootenay-Columbia River constituents. But this control extends beyond the Conservative domain. Hyer’s decision to quit the NDP came last spring after he was disciplined for voting with the Conservatives to scrap the long-run registry, which he agreed was wasteful and unnecessary.
“Bruce simply feels that he’s allowed to come up with his own decisions,” Mulcair told reporters at the time when asked his thoughts on Hyer’s departure (The National Post, April 24th, 2012)
A few months later, Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber left the Conservative caucus after his colleagues tossed his private member’s bill forcing highly paid public servants to disclose their salaries. Most recently, Maria Mourani was kicked out of the Bloc Quebecois caucus for speaking out against the provincial Parti Quebecois’ controversial Quebec values charter. So, before crossing the floor to join Green Party leader Elizabeth May and growing the Green caucus from one seat to two, Hyer was one of several defiant Independants in the Canadian House of Commons’ 308 seats, and May is convinced this number will grow.
There are “so many unhappy MPs in all the other caucuses who are tired of party discipline” that there’s “every possibility” others may join, May told Postmedia News after Hyer’s announcement.
In his official statement to the House, Hyer announced that, unlike most MPs, he is now able to work for all his constituents instead of one controlling party, and called the Green Party under May’s direction “the only truly democratic party ” that commits to whipping few if any votes, as long as their 6 basic principles are followed. I believe in those 6 basic principles, and I am not concerned that Elizabeth and I will disagree on some votes. We already have!”
Though it remains to be seen if Hyer’s constituents in his Thunder Bay-Superior North riding agree enough with his decision to re-elect him in the next federal election, it seems that May, in the meantime, is succeeding at drawing attention to a new standard of Canadian democracy that everyone, whether you’re a die-hard Conservative, a dyed-in-the wool Liberal or a full-fledged NDP supporter, should find refreshingly optimistic.
Nicole Trigg is the associate editor of The Valley Echo and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .