Conservative MP revolts; Elizabeth May supports the idea of parliamentary democracy

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

There is dissension in the Harper Conservative ranks.

Social conservatives, especially those for whom abortion is a key issue, want to speak out, but the Party leadership is trying to silence them.

Mark Warawa, the MP for Langley in British Columbia, tried getting a private member's bill that would have had the House condemn sex selection abortions to the floor, but the Conservative House Leader and Whip ruled it 'non-vote-able.'

Warawa then tried to speak up during the fifteen minutes a day reserved for Members’ statements. Again, the Conservative Whip, Gordon O’Connor blocked him. Shortly before Warawa had been scheduled to make his statement, last Wednesday, the Whip made sure he was dropped from the list.

But Warawa is nothing if not persistent.

On Tuesday of this week he rose in the House on a question of privilege. He argued that the time reserved for members' statements is just that -- reserved for the members, and that the party leadership does not have the right to block anyone.

"I have experienced the removal of my right and my privilege," the British Columbia MP said, "The question for you, Mr. Speaker, is: Should every member have that equal right? Yes, it is clear that every member does. How is it being managed? Is it being managed in a way that members could have that right removed? Yes, I have experienced that and others have too."

O'Connor defended the Party leadership's right to determine who gets to speak. That's how it's worked for many years, the Conservative Whip said, and added that the Speaker has consistently deferred to the Whips on this matter.

"The bottom line is that each party makes these decisions," the government Whip explained, "The member for Langley is essentially calling on you to inquire into the question of how such lists are prepared by the parties in the House, essentially being invited to become involved in adjudicating the internal affairs of party caucuses and their management."

And that, O'Connor made clear, would be well beyond the Speaker's authority.

The NDP reserved the right to take a position on this dispute at a later date.

But to Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party and that party's sole MP, there is a bigger issue at stake.

This fundamental issue, as May sees it, relates to the controversy a number of years back over the legitimacy of a coalition government. Stephen Harper said such a coalition would be a way for the "losers" to snatch "victory" from the winners.

Harper subscribes to what we could call the "electoral college" theory of parliament.

This is how the theory goes:

When Canadians vote in a federal election they may think they are electing Members of Parliament, but they are really choosing Electors – as in the USA Electoral College – whose main job is to anoint a virtually all-powerful and unchecked executive, led by the leader of the “winning” party, who becomes Prime Minister.

There is a winning party and there are losing parties, and the true and essential purpose of an election is to choose the winner, full stop. The idea that the citizens throughout the country are electing their representatives to the Parliament in Ottawa is quaint, sentimental and old-fashioned, according to the Harper view of parliamentary democracy.

May takes a very different view. She put it this way, in relation to Warawa's question of privilege.

"We are not here as teams. The principle of Westminster parliamentary democracy is that we are here are representatives of our constituencies and our constituents," she told the House, "Incidentally, we are merely members of political parties. Political parties do not exist in our Constitution. They are not an essential part of our democracy. They have grown to be seen to be the most interesting thing going on and we have grown to see politics as some sort of sport. However, democracy is not a sport. We are not playing on teams, and each individual member has individual rights..."

Speaker Andrew Scheer reserved judgment on Warawa's question of privilege.

But whatever Scheer finally decides, the larger question of the fate of parliamentary democracy in Canada, which May evokes so eloquently, will still remain.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.