FILE -- MP Bruce Hyer (Ind., Thunder Bay - Superior North).
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Being independent in Canada’s House of Commons can be a lonely endeavor.
But for the few MPs who choose independence, they say it is a small price to pay for the complete freedom they are awarded from being unrepresented by an official political party.
There are only two independent members currently sitting in the House. Those partyless MPs include Peter Goldring (Ind., Edmonton East) and Bruce Hyer (Ind., Thunder Bay – Superior North).
Hyer left the NDP after he and fellow Thunder Bay MP John Rafferty (NDP, Thunder Bay – Rainy River) were punished for voting against the party line regarding the gun registry. While he didn’t immediately make his exit from the NDP after \that incident, the MP says it was around that point he realized he had enough with party politics.
“I’m free to think, free to speak, free to vote and I feel like I can 100 per cent work for my constituents,” Hyer says. “My MP budget is exactly the same. It’s inadequate, but many rural MPs have inadequate budgets because they don’t give us very much money for having huge ridings.
“If I run as an independent in the next election, I’m told I can’t fundraise ahead of time. I have to wait until I am officially a candidate and then I can. Of course the riding associations for the other parties can fundraise all the time.”
Being independent means there are more challenges. That’s the result of a system that caters to political parties, he says.
There’s no help when it comes to researching a topic so it’s all on Hyer and his staff to get the job done.
Instead, the House of Commons is set up to meet the needs and wants of the political parties, he says.
Another problem Hyer has with the system is that national leaders can sign candidates nomination papers instead of the riding association. He says this causes a lot of tribalism within the party and makes it difficult for MPs to speak out against their leaders over fears they may not be allowed to run in the next election.
“It’s really sad,” Hyer says. “I didn’t realize when I went in how tribal the three main parties really were. I guess I was a little naïve to think my primary function would be to work for my constituents and keep my promises.”
On the plus side, Hyer can be a critic of whatever he wants and speak to the media without having to wait for permission.
“A number of people have asked me when am I going to start the Independent party and get 11 more MPs elected for changed,” he says. “Then we would have official party status.”
Goldring, who is listed as an independent conservative, says he left his party following a dispute with an officer over a refusal to take a breathalyzer test. While that situation is before the courts, he says he didn’t want there to be an implication to his caucus.
He says he would be welcomed back into the caucus if the situation ends positively, which he believes it will.
But during his time away from the party, he says he’s not finding it difficult to stand on his own.
“There’s some disappointments like we can’t sit on committees and get involved in that aspect, but because I am outside the caucus I can talk a lot more openly about specific issues,” Goldring says.
“You have more freedom. You have severe restrictions when you’re in government. Particularly the Conservative government, they really control the media. They don’t like it when you going to the media when there’s various ministers involved. It’s self-preservation I guess you could say. They really don’t want someone making a mistake to the media.”
Goldring says there’s so few independents because it’s difficult to be elected when most voters go with name recognition and party familiarity.
When the next election comes around, Goldring says he won’t be running again because he will be 70-years-old and the riding he has been in will be changing.
He says it’s someone else’s turn to be the areas MP.
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