An Open Letter to Jay Hill

Dear Mr. Hill,

I have always been encouraged by your efforts to communicate effectively with your constituents and your attempts to explain the policies and practices of the Conservative Party. I write to you today, however, because I have become increasingly discouraged by your active role in the Conservative Party?s strict enforcement of party discipline and the hampering of MP?s ability to faithfully represent their constituents. In particular, I am worried by the recent reports of your hand in the manipulation of Parliamentary committees and your attempts to silence those who might disagree with the positions of the Conservative Party.

I understand that as Chief Government Whip you spend a great deal of your time and energy ensuring that Conservative MPs are present and voting in line with the wishes of the Prime Minister. Your position in Ottawa makes you responsible for pressuring MPs into towing the Conservative Party line and threatens them with diminished status within the party if they step out of line.

However, recent reports show that you presented Conservative chairs of Commons committees with top-down direction on how to make certain that your party?s agenda was tightly followed. These Conservative chairs were encouraged to interrupt or walk out of meetings and systematically block the work of MPs from other parties. It appears, therefore, that the Conservative Party is not only enforcing strong party discipline, but also seeking to tightly control the Commons committees–one of the very few places in Ottawa where there has traditionally been less concern for partisan bickering and more weight placed upon the truly important issues. Now, it appears that your excessive partisanship is fueling more division between MPs and more distraction from the important issues.

This top-down control within the Conservative Party is very troubling. It is troubling because it does not allow MPs to faithfully and accurately represent their constituents when in Ottawa. Instead, MPs must be very careful to walk in step with the Conservative Party leadership and vote precisely how the Conservative Party leadership tells them to vote. Further, it is even more troubling that you represented us as a member of the Reform Party for a number of years–a party that strongly criticized the Liberals for not allowing MPs to truly represent their constituents in the House of Commons. Indeed, when it was the official opposition, the Reform Party wrote a draft bill that reflected this principled opposition to excessive party discipline. It stated, ?In order to better represent the interests of their constituents, the Members of the House of Commons shall be entitled to vote for or against all Bills and motions and all amendments to Bills and motions free of party discipline?.? As a former Reformer turned Green, I am concerned that you have abandoned this important and principled policy in favour of political power and prestige.

During his years in the Reform Party, Preston Manning was very upset by the excessive partisanship of party whips. He spoke of the control a whip such as yourself has over MPs and how corrosive this can be within our democracy. For example, he said, ?The occupants of these seats are not speaking on behalf of constituents, but are representing the view held by their party. These MPs are bound by the discipline of their party to present the party?s point of view. That is how things like the GST get shoved through in spite of massive popular opposition.? It seems Mr. Manning?s warning hold true today more than ever.

I fear you have abandoned this vital Reform policy that was essential for the representation of westerners in Ottawa and the health of Canada?s democracy. Therefore, I ask that you please describe your duties as the enforcer of strong party discipline, clarify your part in the top-down control of Parliamentary committees, and explain how this role within the Harper government could be understood to be in keeping with the Reform tradition.

Sincerely,

Jared Giesbrecht,

Green Party Candidate Elect

Prince George ? Peace River