It starts ....Even MSM Political Opinion Starting To Turn On Harper's Dictatorial Ways....
The political columnist of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix gives a fairly accurate opinion of what is going down in the ranks of the Federal Conservative Parliamentary Caucus lately:
"This newly found sense of independence among federal Conservative backbench MPs is obviously a good thing.
But is the recent display of independent thought really a case of backbenchers embracing their duty and democratic reform, or is it mostly about backbenchers lashing out against a Prime Minister's Office that often has stifled their hobbyhorse agendas? It's likely the latter, but even that's better than what we've had until now.
The latest example of backbenchers exercising their independence comes via an unlikely pairing of B.C.'s New Democratic Party MP Kennedy Stewart and Saskatoon-Humboldt Conservative MP Brad Trost. They are collaborating on a motion to introduce electronic petitions to the Commons, which would force MPs to debate issues of consequence - a populist idea first contemplated by Reform party founder Preston Manning.
More to the point, it's the latest in a series of moves from government MPs trying to wriggle free from Harper's Darth Vader-like grip. Consider some other examples:
Retiring Conservative Saskatoon-Wanuskewin MP Maurice Vellacott gave notice of a motion Monday to prevent the muffling of backbenchers. Vellacott called the "muzzling ... a blight on democracy" and used words such as "arbitrary" and "capricious" in his written statement.
Melville-born Edmonton MP Brent Rathgeber quit the Conservative caucus over similar issues.
Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro, once Harper's rabidly loyal parliamentary secretary but now a socalled independent conservative after running afoul of Elections Canada, is criticizing Finance Minister Jim Flaherty over the Bank of Canada monetary policy that has devalued the dollar.
Ontario backbencher Michael Chong has introduced a private member's bill that seeks to empower MPs, including giving them power to turf their leaders.
It all sounds good, but it's hardly a democratic revolution. Short of Chong and perhaps Rathgeber (by virtue of the way he handled himself since he's left caucus), few of these backbenchers have much respect, weight or credibility with many Canadians. In fact, quite the opposite.
Trost and Vellacott are social conservatives who are far more interested in representing the ideology of a select few constituents on anti-abortion and antigay-rights issues than their constituency as a whole.
Vellacott remains angry because the PMO blocked B.C. Conservative MP Mark Warawa's motion to condemn sex-selective abortion. Trost's motion seems as interested in having caucus choose committee chairs rather than having them chosen by the prime minister. A committee chair gets an extra $11,300 to go along with his $160,200 annual MP salary.
But if one is inclined to question the motives and ethics of backbench MPs now making noise, one really has to ask if they are any less motivated by democratic duty than those Harper has chosen for cabinet.
Consider Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who might very well go down as the worst ever to hold the job. His tenure truly has been a death by a thousand (cold) cuts, highlighted by the very undemocratic demise of the Canadian Wheat Board as a singledesk seller.
Those who opposed the CWB always had and still have legitimate arguments about whether it was a nimble, effective seller of grain. Less in doubt, however, was the CWB's powerful role as a broker of rail cars and an advocate for farmers when railways decided that moving other more lucrative commodities was their priority.
This was among the many concerns raised by both board proponents and Ritz's constituents. But did he listen and weigh their concerns as any good MP would do? Did Ritz and the Conservatives have a backup plan for the eventuality of the railways abandoning grain movement or not treating it as anything vaguely resembling a priority?
Or did he simply do what he was told to do? Ritz was elevated from the backbenchers not because of any particular talent, but because he has been among the loudest and most loyal trained seals in Harper's circus.
What some backbench MPs are now doing may not be pretty, or even all that noble. But reform has to start somewhere.