After weeks of heated debate surrounding proposed changes to how the House of Commons operates, Government House Leader Bardish Chagger says she wants to see the discussion continue — but ultimately she won’t allow the Opposition to derail the government’s plans.
“What would be nice is for all members of Parliament to be able to come together and really be able to provide some constructive feedback,” said Chagger, who took over as House leader just a few months ago.
“Something that is clear is that we will not give a veto to the Conservatives over our campaign commitments.”
While largely procedural, the potential changes to House of Commons rules floated by Chagger in a recent discussion paper have caused an enormous uproar on the Hill.
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The Opposition is accusing the Liberals of trying to ram through new regulations without unanimous consent from all MPs.
Some of the proposed changes, none of which are yet in place or even being put to a vote, include introducing a prime minister’s Question Period (potentially requiring Justin Trudeau to be present in the House only once a week), introducing e-voting for Parliamentarians, and eliminating Friday sittings of the House.
Chagger said a trial-run of the PM’s Question Period last Wednesday demonstrated that Trudeau is willing to answer every question put to him, by any MP.
“We’d love to have input as to what the reactions were, and is it worth codifying it so that it’s not just this prime minister, but future prime ministers, also being able to be held to greater account.”
Requiring his attendance once a week would not automatically mean the prime minister could skip every other day, she added.
“There are no Liberals members suggesting the prime minister only attend once a week,” she told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos.
Chagger pointed to several past moves by the Harper government — including proroguing Parliament “to avoid a confidence vote” and tabling of omnibus legislation in the House — as not being in the interests of Canadians.
She said her discussion paper also proposed closing the door to these and similar moves, by both the current government and future governments. The paper was meant to start moving the House towards a “modernization,” Chagger reiterated, making it more efficient.
“What we are saying is, ‘let’s have a conversation.'”
Without a guarantee that the government will seek unanimous consent from all parties before it changes any of the rules governing the House of Commons, however, it’s unlikely the Conservatives and NDP will play ball.
“Without your clear commitment to respect that tradition, a good-faith study is impossible,” wrote Conservative House leader Candice Bergen and New Democrat House leader Murray Rankin in an open letter to Chagger last week.
“As you know, history has demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of substantial Standing Order (House rules) changes only occurred after receiving consent from all parties.”
The Opposition has already made repeated attempts to slow things down in committee.
Watch the full interview with Government House Leader Bardish Chagger above.