A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Backbenchers Grow a Backbone?

Many of us have been sounding the alarm bell for some time about the amount of power and control the Prime Minister and the PMO have over both the daily working of parliament and more particularly the amount of control exercised over MPs and senators elected or appointed under the Conservative banner. Now it would seem a few backbenchers have finally become tired of following orders and want to do what they were elected to do, represent their constituents without having to rigidly follow the scrip provided by the PMO.
Tired of being a $160,200-a-year voting machines, the group of Conservative MPs has been meeting secretly for well over a year, discussing ways to inject more democracy into the Commons.
One of the solutions they have embraced – the cause of their shackles – is the removal of the leader’s power to veto individual candidates. Because it is difficult to win an election as an independent, Harper and the other party leaders have enormous power over their MPs, since no one can run under their party’s banner without their approval.
Chong is expected to table a private members’ bill that would give veto power over a candidate to the riding association executive rather than the party leader or his designate, sources said. “

Whilst hardly a major revolt this initiative would be a small step in the right direction and a least stop the PM (and other party leaders) from overriding the wishes of local District Associations in choosing candidates. A more interesting and perhaps significant development is the recent Op Ed and subsequent interview of David Sachs, a Conservative communications consultant who has worked for cabinet ministers Lawrence Cannon and Peter Kent. He says:-

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long employed the cynical strategy of total denial when faced with controversy, disregarding the public’s right to the truth. He knows the public will never follow the minutiae of events. As long as solidarity is maintained, Harper can ride out any storm by claiming it is just more partisan noise. Only we Conservatives have the power to break that solidarity, and take away Harper’s trump card. It’s time to demonstrate that Conservatives care about ethics and ultimately, checks on that corrupting influence of power.”
This is hardly news to those of us who have been taking notice and cannot be news to all those Conservatives out there but it is refreshing to see such a insider finally recognize that not only such things are taking place but that they are toxic to both Canada and to their own party. He goes on to say:-

The prime minister has, in the kindest interpretation, hidden the full truth. Is that acceptable to you, as a Canadian and a Conservative?
As Conservatives, there is much Harper and his government have done to be proud of. But as more power is seized by the unelected members of Harper’s inner circle; as more of his key, chosen people turn out to be ethically unsound or worse, we must ask: how far will we let our own leader go?
Some Conservatives argue this tempest is all over a small amount of money. But if the prime minister’s key people are willing to go to such lengths over such a small issue, solely to maintain (how ironic) the façade of ethics, how far would they go over big issues? Does anyone trust this government to deal openly when facing major challenges?”

Does anyone trust this government to deal openly when facing major challenges?
Remember this is a long standing Conservative talking and asking the questions that for many of us has long been decided. Do I trust Harper, the PMO, the Cabinet, this Regime to be open, honest and accountable or even do the best for Canada (as opposed to big multinationals and foreign business). NO!

Ask what is democracy if an elected leader abuses all the levers of power? If he, or his people, manipulate independent branches of government (Senate, Parliamentary Budget Officer)? If he, or people acting on his behalf, abuse the electoral process (as in the allegations of electoral fraud), and then abuse the investigative process (the independent Deloitte audit)? If our leaders hide the truth as common practice?”
If we do not act, we embolden Harper. We increase the risk of further ethical scandals. Make no mistake: if Harper continues like this, he will fall, and he will take our party down with it. It will be hard to win an election for a decade. “
Whilst removing Harper as leader of the Cons would be a good thing I cannot believe that it will make much of a difference, the rot goes MUCH deeper than the PM and the PMO, only by his fellow MPs closing their eyes to the escalating control and spin issuing from his office for years has Harper succeeded in arriving at this point. It is getting very late in the day to try and correct things now, we can only hope that Harper does 'continue like this' and does 'fall and take the party with him'!

Mr Sachs specifically mentions both the senate scandal and the election fraud and the abuse of the investigation process and we see that this abuse continues with it being reported that:-

The prime minister’s office has hired three law firms to provide legal advice to current and former employees in relation to the RCMP investigation of former chief of staff Nigel Wright’s $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy.
The PMO didn’t provide an estimate of the cost of the legal fees, but they are likely to be steep. The lead lawyer on the file, Bay Street litigator Robert Staley, a partner at Bennet Jones, is said to bill in the $900-an-hour range.”

As several articles point out there is already legal advice available to the PM from within the government, already paid for by the taxpayer but apparently that is not good enough, the PM intends to spend thousands more of OUR money to continue his coverup. If there is no wrongdoing then why o why does he need no less than three private law firms with lawyers charging in the hundreds of dollars an hour to 'provide advice'?

Sachs told Power Play that “a lot of Conservatives” are uncomfortable with the government and how the PMO has conducted its affairs, although they may not say so publicly.
The people in the PMO have basically been running the country for years telling MPs how to vote, telling campaigns what they’re allowed to say and who they’re allowed to speak to, which is generally nobody and nothing,” he said.
In Sachs’ view, the PMO is “controlling things in such a way that was so clearly wrong.”

Thank you Mr Sachs for confirming what we all know has been the situation from almost the very moment Harper became PM, please tell your fellow conservatives that they can either stand up and be counted as ethical and honest or they can remain part of the Harper Regimes development of a dishonest and controlling dictatorship.
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Owen Gray said...

When Conservatives MPs grow a back bone, they will sink the Harper regime -- and save the country.

Rural said...

They have the power to do so Owen but will they use it and rid us of this troublesome 'priest'?

Kalin said...

Their proposal would only take effect after 2015. So in other words, they want to take credit for proposing something that could remove Stephen Harper, but they want to absolve themselves of any responsibility for using the power they ostensibly want, and in the meantime, they're being careful to say this isn't about Stephen Harper and they hope he wins.

Yeah, what a bunch of heroes on the Conservative backbenches. Way to storm the barricades, guys.

Rural said...

Good point Kalin, I was not aware that the proposal has a built in two year delay....... typical!!