OTTAWA – As he wrapped up the fall session with a press conference praising his government’s legislative agenda, Government House leader Peter Van Loan noted the “unprecedented success” and strong record of private member’s bills that were passed this year.
But he had absolutely nothing to say about a fellow Conservative’s democratic reform act making waves in Ottawa and his own caucus.
WATCH: Van Loan refuses to answer questions on Reform Act
Asked repeatedly for comment about MP Michael Chong’s bill to rebalance the power of MPs and party leaders, Van Loan walked away from reporters and an assistant closed the door to his office as he stood silently, smiled and said nothing.
The Reform Act would give caucus members the power to call for a leadership review and even remove the leader, as well as give riding associations the final say in who represents political parties in elections.
Chong has said it is not a reflection on Prime Minister Stephen Harper or his office, and would come into effect after the next election. The bill will be voted on in the spring.
In his end of session press conference, however, Van Loan made a point of noting 19 “substantive” private member’s bills that have been passed since 2011, 11 of them this year.
“This year has also been marked by unprecedented success for individual members of Parliament in bringing forward and passing ideas that are important to them and their constituents,” he said.
“This is a strong record of hard work and delivering results in which Members of Parliament can rightly take great pride.”
Of the 11 private members’ bills passed this year, five deal with crime, while some others deal with issues such as a national park, language skills and interprovincial trade barriers.
Chong’s office said he was on his way back to his Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont. riding, and was not available to speak to Van Loan’s comments.
James Rajotte, the Conservative MP for Edmonton-Leduc who seconded Chong’s bill when it was tabled last week, says he knows of 20 or so MPs who support it.
He said as is commonly the case for private member’s bills, it’s essentially a free vote for backbenchers.
“Cabinet, as I understand it, has yet to discuss it, has yet to make a decision. We’ll see what cabinet does in terms of the ministers, whether they want to take a formal position as a government or not,” said Rajotte.
“I’ll be voting in favour of the legislation, so from my perspective it already is a free vote.”
The NDP has said it would like to see the bill go to the committee and Liberals say they support the broad objectives of the bill, and both parties say it will be a free vote.
WATCH: Peter Van Loan addresses the recent announcement that Canada Post will be shutting down door-to-door deliveries