The recent resignation of Edmonton MP Brent Rathgeber from the Conservative caucus highlights once again the opening of small fissures in the once rock-solid public face of the federal Tory party. From this we are reminded that a prime minister who expects intelligent, educated men and women to offer unquestioning adherence to strict party policy year in and year out is probably setting himself up for a major disappointment—and unnecessarily so.
Surely Conservatives deserve a party that is bigger than one man—i.e., Stephen Harper—and one narrow view of the political landscape and, most certainly, one that is much, much bigger than a PMO whose ineptness has become far too obvious in the years since the Tories gained power in 2006.
Senate misconduct, mindless secrecy, un-ending annual budget deficits, shoddy record keeping in government departments leading to billions of dollars being unaccounted for, sophomoric performances in the House of Commons during Question Period and now “a secretive fund operated out of the PMO to pay for political party costs.”
And all this against a backdrop of a group of hyperpartisan “kids in short pants” running the PMO and telling elected MPs twice their age (and considerably wiser) how to do their jobs. And without the commitment to transparency and accountability we’d all been told to expect. After all, wasn’t that one of the big differentiators between us and the Grits?
Makes one wonder if the federal Tories, who practice political expediency at every turn, or so it seems at times, are anything like the party I thought I was voting for—and I’ve been voting for conservative parties since the 1960s.
As to the churlish suggestion by a PMO representative that Mr. Rathgeber should resign and run in a by-election: such petulant responses have become all too typical a reaction on the part of the current Tory government. Of course, no such suggestion seems to have been made to David Emerson, who after quitting the Liberals following the 2006 election, joined the new Conservative government as a cabinet minister.
The manner in which the government neutered Mr. Rathgeber’s Bill C-461 (a.k.a. the CBC and public service disclosure and transparency act) might suggest the caucus left him, and his resignation only formalized the de facto relationship.
In his I Stand Alone blog entry, Mr Rathgeber lamented, in part, “I fear that we have morphed into what we once mocked.” I’m sorry to say his fear seems well grounded.