By Margret Kopala

Published in The Conservative, The Newsletter of the Progressive Conservative Association of Ottawa West (Federal), June, 1995.

In an interview with The Conservative, a former Tory MP expressed grave concern about the future of a party that fails to empower its Members of Parliament. Terry Nugent, Member of Parliament for Edmonton Strathcona from 1958 to 1968, and who delivered a protest to the Hull National Meeting, cited three ways to restore power to MPs: "First," he said, "revoke the guillotine clause for at least one budget estimate. It allows the government to close debate after 20 days without the need to provide redress or answers." MPs, he said, are unlike cabinet ministers or senior bureaucrats because they have no turf or jurisdictional fiefdoms to cultivate.

In the past, MPs subjected departmental budget estimates to rigorous scrutiny. But they lost the power to control government spending when the guillotine clause came into effect in 1968. As a result, expenditures and the size of the civil service has expanded to the crisis proportions now evident.

"Secondly, revoke the leaderís candidate selection veto." This, he says, would help remove the MP from under the thumb of the Party Leader and, with an independent power base in the constituency for the MP, would also help provide a check on the leader. More importantly, this would empower the MP in the eyes of the constituents, among whom there is a crisis of confidence in all elected officials. Cow-towing to the leader also means the MP canít deliver on his promises, further damaging his credibility.

And lastly, the Party should have public constituency meetings yearly (twice yearly if there is a sitting MP). Quoting the Rt.Hon.John Diefenbaker, Mr.Nugent stated "Government should be efficient but Parliament should be effective. When MPs are effective, the voice of the people is heard."

Margret Kopala

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