Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/5/2011 (3067 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Both the Conservatives and the NDP are holding party conventions in June.
The Conservatives get to go first, with a convention in Ottawa. The NDP follow the next weekend with their convention in Vancouver.
Considering they both have reason to celebrate, they will be pretty big parties.
But aside from the inside baseball and general glad handing that goes on, party conventions are one of the best opportunities Canadians have to get a sense of what the party’s supporters believe in and what direction they want the government to take. These generally are the thoughts and ideas from Canadians who are the most politically engaged. Party members and those who donate money to their causes. They almost certainly vote.
The Conservatives posted the resolutions which will be debated at their convention on their website. http://www.conservative.ca/media/PolicyResolutions05-25-2011.pdf
These are resolutions submitted by individual riding associations, vetted by the party’s national council and either tossed aside or included in the package for debate at the convention, often with amendments from their original form.
There are several resolutions implying or directly saying to reduce the influence of party leaders, including not endorsing any electoral reform options that would "strengthen the control of the party machinery over individual members of Parliament" and one calling for all votes of the House of Commons to be "free" votes except for the budget, main estimates. Interesting because the Conservative success is in large part based on the unity of the caucus, the willingness of individual MPs to be entirely controlled by the party machinery and voting along party lines on almost all bills.
A "free" vote is one in which an MP is free to vote how they wish, without being constrained by the party whip. Currently the only typically free votes are private members’ bills. Any bills from cabinet usually mean parties vote in blocks.
It seems the resolution (from the Regina-Qu’Appelle riding association) is based on a desire to let MPs vote freely on matters of morality, such as abortion and same-sex marriage (the part of the resolution specifically mentioning that has been struck from the version going for final debate).
But free votes would make for far more independent MPs, far more interesting votes and could even mean having a majority government isn’t enough to win over certain issues. The power balance would shift from its current position sitting smack dab in the middle of the PMO, back to individual MPs. Sure there are carrots the PMO could wave to secure votes but it wouldn’t be as simple as saying "this vote is whipped.
There are also at least two resolutions calling for simplifying the tax code and introducing a flat tax. Alberta did it years ago. It would be a major overhaul for this government (or all federal governments) which woos voters with tax credit candies for everything from bus passes to kids’ art classes.
Both free votes and a flat tax would be things that arise deep from within Conservative principals.
But don’t think either resolution will have any impact on the government’s actions. Resolutions are not binding and implementing free votes or a flat tax aren’t likely to end up high on this government’s agenda.
While there is a certain appeal to eliminating the system of tax credits, that favours certain taxpayers over others, and moving to a simple, flat tax, the enormity of such a change would almost certainly prevent it.
And while free votes, and giving the power back to the people, sounds like a good thing to the people, after finally winning a majority government, I highly doubt Stephen Harper is going to say ok, let’s make it harder on myself to keep winning votes in the House of Commons.