Letter to the editor 2, March 26, 2015

The way it works

Dear Editor,

Four years ago, on the 14th of June 2011, I woke up with one of the most difficult decisions I would have to face in my life as a member of parliament: The decision to take Canada into the war in Libya.

Immediately after parliament opened in the first week of June, our caucus had debated the matter and decided that the UN resolution 1973 coupled with the duty to protect overruled any members’ personal feelings on the matter. It was a difficult debate. In the end, Jack Layton assured us that if the government tried to extend the mission and change the objective to U.S. style regime change in September 2011 that we would vote against it. That June day, I walked into the chamber with my heart heavy. This was the first vote of my political career.

After Conservatives defeated an NDP amendment to clarify the mission, the Liberals, Conservatives, and New Democrats voted together to protect civilians in Libya under the UN mandate and resolution. I voted with my party. It was the first time I saw party discipline in practice. Jack had listened carefully to all of us and made the final decision. I was lucky; I knew that this was the way the system worked - that personal beliefs are sometimes outweighed by the decision of a party caucus. You can choose to go against your party policy, but do this repeatedly and you no longer belong in that caucus.

That is why it is important to choose wisely the party that you vote or run for. I am at home with the New Democrats. Tom Mulcair’s values reflect my values. We make decisions based on principle and not out of political calculation or polling. September 2011 came and the Conservatives proposed to extend the mission in order to remove Gaddafi from power.

This time in the House of Commons, New Democrats stood opposed. I watched as Liberals and Conservatives voted together for American style regime change.

This week, the drums of war are once again beating-this time in Syria and Iraq. A different war to be sure. As your member of parliament, I will be voting against extending the Iraq mission. I will be doing so because I believe Canadian military actions should be under UN or NATO mandates and not at the whim of U.S. command.

I welcome all your thoughts and input on the matter. We don’t have a perfect system. It would be ideal to have true collaboration among leaders and parties instead of partisan chicanery. Until that day arrives, party discipline will be a reality within all political party caucuses. It means that the leader may one day make a decision that is uncomfortable to our personal values.

I am lucky because the New Democratic Party reflects my values about the environment, our social fabric and building the strength of our economy for all Canadians. I went in with my eyes open. This is how our Westminster system functions. It works even better when people participate and vote for the party, leader, and person that best reflect their own values.

Jamie Nicholls

Member of Parliament for Vaudreuil-Soulanges

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