Jody Wilson-Raybould announces that she will run as a independent in the fall election during a news conference in Vancouver, Monday, May 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Jody Wilson-Raybould should use social media to amplify her voice: experts

But being an Independent has never been easy

In the early years of Confederation, there were members of Parliament known as “loose fish,” who floated free from parties but swam back and forth between allegiances.

In 1945, a cohort of Quebec Liberal MPs ran as Independents to protest prime minister Mackenzie King’s unpopular policy of conscription.

But being an Independent has never been easy. At least 93 MPs have sat solo in the House of Commons, but the vast majority were originally party members. Few have won elections as Independent candidates and even fewer wielded any power.

The most successful solitary legislators have been those capable of capturing public attention, since actually establishing policy is near impossible, said John English, founding director of the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History. But this isn’t necessarily bad news for Jody Wilson-Raybould, the latest MP to sit as an Independent in the Commons.

“Now in the age of social media, you have more ways you can amplify your voice. Secondly, if you have an established reputation, as Wilson-Raybould certainly has, she will attract attention,” he said.

Wilson-Raybould, who was ousted from the Liberal caucus amid the SNC-Lavalin scandal, recaptured her riding of Vancouver Granville as an Independent in Monday’s federal election. She has cited electoral reform and Indigenous reconciliation as priorities and promised to “do politics differently.”

However, there’s no doubt she faces hurdles as an Independent MP. They are banished to a back corner of the House of Commons and rarely called upon during question period. They lack the money and infrastructure that parties provide and can’t sit on committees, where the majority of the work gets done.

Wilson-Raybould did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday but in an interview before the election she listed a few ways she believed she could reach her goals in Parliament. She said she would participate in a lottery for private members to introduce bills and work with other MPs on their bills.

She also said she’d support progressive legislation and attempt to improve or oppose bills that aren’t strong enough.

“I believe that it is important that we look at the nature of politics and how decisions are made,” she said. “I think that members of Parliament should not be responsible to the prime minister or their party leader or unelected people in the Prime Minister’s Office.”

READ MORE: Trudeau has won the most seats — but not a majority. What happens next?

English said he’s curious to see whether Wilson-Raybould ultimately ends up rejoining the Liberals, perhaps after Justin Trudeau’s tenure as leader ends, or whether she replaces Elizabeth May as head of the Green party in the future.

It’s not unheard of for Independents to find their way back to parties, he noted, as in the case of former Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey, who was booted from the Conservatives in 2007 then ran successfully as an Independent in 2008. He resigned amid health issues the next year and won as a Liberal in 2015.

At least one Independent has wielded influence in a minority government, pointed out Sanjay Jeram, a senior political science lecturer at Simon Fraser University.

Chuck Cadman, a Canadian Alliance MP from Surrey, B.C., lost a nomination challenge for the merged Conservative party in 2004 but successfully ran as an Independent. He then held significant power in the Liberal minority government and his vote in favour of the 2005 budget saved Paul Martin from defeat.

“The stars had to align for him to matter,” Jeram added. “It’s not as if he initiated legislation or had any role in development but he just ended up playing a crucial role simply by the mathematical numbers.”

The Liberals won 157 seats in Monday’s election. If their legislation is backed by the NDP, with 24 seats, or the Bloc Quebecois, with 34 seats, a minority government will be viable without Wilson-Raybould’s single vote, Jeram said.

At the same time it appears she’s open to working with the government on bills, so it wouldn’t be surprising if fences were slowly mended between the Liberals and their former justice minister, he added.

“I think the Liberals would be wrong to completely put that off the table, especially when it comes to their Indigenous file,” he said.

Wilson-Raybould still has a high profile and it would be wise for her to use it to draw focus to issues she cares about, Jeram added.

“She’s going to get covered in question period. She’s going to get attention,” he said. “But I doubt that there’s going to be any situation where her one vote becomes critical.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tough year ahead for the aluminium industry

U.S. market is still Canada’s most important

Kitselas receive $1.2M boost for apprenticeship development program, open to Tsimshian and Haisla Nations

Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education announces $7.5M for six Indigenous training programs

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into Northern Sentinel office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Prince George meeting completes premier’s tour of Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. James and Quesnel

Indigenous LNG supporters chide human rights advocates over pipeline comments

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre path

VIDEO: Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Victoria-area wolf tranquilized after being seen running around neighbourhood

Officials say wolf unharmed during its ‘arrest’

Ontario confirms second presumptive coronavirus case in wife of first patient

Both arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

Most Read