Burnaby-Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart is willing to present a petition in the House of Commons asking Governor General David Johnston to dismiss Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
However, the New Democrat emphasized that he will do so only if the petition initiated by former Vancouver newspaper columnist Greg Felton meets parliamentary requirements.
“I do know that the Governor General can remove the prime minister, and that’s a very well-known fact because it’s there in the Constitution,” Stewart told the Straight in a phone interview. “But that’s about the extent of it at this point.”
The first-term MP has spoke with Felton by phone but has neither read the text of the online petition nor met Felton in person.
“I said that if it meets the formatting requirements, I would present the paper petition,” Stewart said of his phone conversation with Felton.
House procedural guidelines state that before an MP can present a petition, the document mustfirst be certified as correct in form and content by the clerk of petitions.
“A petition submitted for certification which does not meet the requirements as to form and content will be returned to the Member with an explanatory note,” the guidelines further state.
The Straight reported last year that the petition cites the October 1, 1947, letters patent signed by King George VI constituting the office of the governor general.
The letters patent empowers the monarch’s representative “to remove from his office, or to suspend from the exercise of the same, any person exercising any office within Canada”.
In the same piece last year, the Straight reported on the opinion of law professor Lorne Neudorf regarding the petition.
“Yes, the governor general does hold legally the power to dismiss the prime minister and the cabinet, but the question really here is the exercise of power and should that power be exercised,” Neudorf said in a phone interview on October 4. “And in modern Canada, it would be seen to breach long-standing constitutional conventions that we have developed in this country.
“One of those conventions is the idea that we have and this is the convention of responsible government,” the Thompson Rivers University professor also said. “And what this means is that the governor general will act only upon the advice of the prime minister and we have this so long as the prime minister continues to hold confidence in the House [of Commons], then his or her advice will be accepted by the governor general.”
Stewart, who is on leave as an associate professor at the SFU school of public policy, didn’t get into interpretations of the governor general’s power.
But the Burnaby-Douglas MP noted that he has presented many petitions in the House, including some he didn’t agree with, because that’s part of the duties of a member of the House.
As well, House rules do not allow MPs to say whether or not they support a petition they’re presenting, Stewart noted.
According to Stewart, the petition started by Felton is an indication of a “legitimacy crisis”.
“There is a growing dissatisfaction not just with the current government, but how our democracy works in general,” he said.
Stewart noted that this is a concern that is also shared by some Conservative MPs.
“There’s a number of Conservatives who have put bills that I have co-signed because they’re trying to also change our democracy for the better,” the New Democrat said.
Stewart also said that he agrees when “people say the system is broken and they’re trying to find different ways to fix it, and Mr. Felton’s frustration, I mean, I hear it everyday from all kinds of people”.