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 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

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross has been named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy for the BC Liberals. (Black Press file photo)
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Previously, Ross was the critic for LNG, Resource Opportunities, and Responsible Development

Red sky in morning: an early-morning sunrise on May 16, 2020, captured just north of Kitimat. (Eric Roy photo)
Clare’s Corner: Hello, darkness, my old friend

Why does the after-work darkness affect you so much more as an adult than as a child?

(Corrado Colombo photo)
Corrado Colombo, with his wife, Lucy. Colombo is from Italy, but met Kitimat born-and-raised Lucy on one of his annual fishing trips to Kitimat in the early 2000s.
In Our Valley: Corrado Colombo

Corrado Colombo never expected that an annual fishing trip to Kitimat would change his life

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Most Read