Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is Canada ready for a dump the incumbent movement?

Have we reached the point in Canada that many in the United States believe they have where the obvious benefits of voting for experienced political candidates is outweighed by the dangers? When members of parliament in Ottawa avoid scrutiny and seek to dodge transparency simply because they believe they can, I begin to wonder if we do not need a new more representative group of lawmakers.

I am concerned that many MPs, who are career politicians, have simply lost touch with the real world. For, in the real world, those who depend on others for their pay cheques understand they must be open and transparent to their bosses. This includes inconveniences such as periodic audits and other checks on their spending.

James Moore, the Canadian Heritage minister who represents the Vancouver-area Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam riding says, “I represent about 120,000 people in the House of Commons. I haven’t had one constituent contact me on it [the Auditor General’s request to audit MPs’ expenses].”

Polls on this issue show overwhelming support for Sheila Fraser to be allowed to review MPs’ expenses, but, I guess, Mr. Moore’s constituents are the rare exception who don’t care. Or, at least, don’t care enough to contact him about it.

But I thought Cabinet Ministers were there to represent all Canadians, not just their constituents. It doesn’t seem that way. So when, for example, a poll for QMI Agency found 88 per cent of people surveyed want more openness on MP expenses, Mr. Moore can safely ignore it. (QMI Agency handles this sort of stuff for the Toronto Sun Newspaper.)

So too, apparently, can Prime Minister Harper, who has famously said that it is not up to the government to interfere. The fact that his four MPs—who sit on the nine-member Board of Internal Economy that denied Ms. Fraser’s request—could have overturned the decision with the support of the Bloc’s member seems of no account to PM Harper. I can’t help contrast this hands-off attitude by the PM with the voting discipline exerted on Conservative MPs on other matters.

As to opposition leader Michael Ignatieff: he wants to have a meeting with Sheila Fraser. … to negotiate with her? What’s there to negotiate? The whole purpose of an Auditor General is to be independent and not to be told what she can and cannot do in an audit, and she certainly should not have to explain, as Mr. Ignatieff suggests, “what she wants to do” to him.

Mr. Ignatieff also famously said “… but I don’t think they [voters] want us to be going through our receipts for this meal and that meal.”

Yes, Mr. Ignatieff, they do.

Mr. Ignatieff then added:

“We Canadians probably don’t really want full accountability from MPs because it would cost too much. There is accountability that is in itself a waste of public money. Do you understand what I am saying?”

Would, in Mr. Ignatieff’s estimation, the Liberal Party sponsorship scandal have qualified as one of those audits that wasted money, I wonder?

And, of course, we have career politician MP Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ont.) who said last week that he didn’t believe the board should overturn its decision:

“We’re MPs, we’re elected, and what she [AG Sheila Fraser] wanted to do was a performance audit. She was very clear in that. That performance audit is not her responsibility. It’s not within her mandate for the MPs. That performance audit is done every time we have an election, it’s the electorate that makes that decision, not her.”

Hard for the electorate to make such decisions when we cannot get at the details and have them audited for voracity, isn’t it?

The current batch of career politicians in Ottawa are pretty smug: who will the electorate punish if all parties stand together? Well, of course, there is the nomination process in the individual riding associations—it is there that the dump the incumbents campaigns will begin.

I have never seen such all-party (except the Bloc) unity before and, sadly, the MPs chose the voters/taxpayers to unify against. The rascals haven’t been able to agree on the time of day for years, not even when it may have been in the country’s best interests, but on this file they are agreed.

Shame on them all!


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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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  1. Our national media is licking it's collective chops, perched like vultures, thinking they will get to scandalize more MPs.
    It would be a carpet bombing.

    The Federal Accountability Act put into place very strong internal audits.

    Harper can cut travel for family members and hospitality events,
    and taxpayers subsidizing parties,
    that would be good enough for me.
    I'm sick of scandals.

  2. If we had more independent incumbents then you moght see voting motiivated to defeat overly comfortable incumbents. But in a party system that will never happen. In Alberta, for example, there are a large number of serving MPs that were elected in 1993. I'd say that 17 years is long enough, particularly for a backbencher that has no hope of progression, like Leon Benoit, for example. But let's face it, no one is going to vote Liberal to move Beniot into retirement and reinvigorate the representation of that riding.

    What we need is a vigourous primary system so that voters can get rid of weak individulas in the partuy of their choice. If you don't like the conservative in your riding you can replace him with a primary and still vote conservative in the general election.

    The problem is that the leader and party go to great lengths in this country to protect incumbents. Look at all the party machinations that went on to save Rob anders.

    I like your ideqlism but the reality is that incumbents are here to stay.

  3. All this over MP expenses?

    You are assuming they're doing this to hide something egregious when in reality I bet only a small handful on the government side would be guilty of anything, if at all.

    Why don't I care? Because whatever money was spent or wasted on expenses would be so trivial in the grand scheme of things that it really wouldn't make any sense to vote against the government only to bring in folks that are even worse.

    Sure they may claim not to be big spenders when it comes to MP expenses.

    (Think of Germany and Merkel losing seats to socialists and greens who would of done the same things only 20 times worse)

    You'd prefer minority forever?

    At any rate, its better that they're skimming a little off the top than taking bribes.

    Mild (yet correctable) corruption is tolerable compared to economic mismanagement.

    (I'm not advocating either, but accepting the lesser evils. Which is also relative to each degree of severity over the other)

    Tackle the bigger stuff that more significantly affects us first, then move on to things like MP expenses.

    By the way, I'm not accusing the federal government of corruption.

    I think everyone's jumping the gun (again) and making it a very black or white issue without fully considering the ramifications this may have on our country's political stability.

    People shouldn't be in such a rush to push for such things at the drop of a hat. Wait for a majority, else we may as well make the law retro active.

    Cooler heads should prevail as their are plenty of bigger fish to fry. It'll be no good to anyone to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Yes, I mean that, "too much rocking and the boat will tip".

    Pragmatism must come first.

    Always leave a little room for grey since we don't live in a clean cut cookie cutter world.

    And after 13~ish years of Liberal government, we can all find plenty more serious things taxpayers should be more furious about than this.

  4. Anon 2:52 AM:


    You said, "You are assuming they're doing this to hide something egregious."

    I make that assumption because of the unprecedented unanimity shown by the major parties. If they have nothing to hide, let ys see the books.

    You said, "… wouldn't make any sense to vote against the government only to bring in folks that are even worse."

    I agree, that's why I suggest we dump the career politicians in all parties through the nomination process.

    You said, "At any rate, its better that they're skimming a little off the top than taking bribes."

    Really? Well history shows clearly that those who cheat on the small things are more likely to "graduate" to bigger evils. That's the point, sweat the small stuff and it's less likely we'll see the big stuff.

    We definitely want a conservative government, but we want one that is transparent and accountable.

  5. Before everyone gets into a tizzy about MPs expenses, how about waste and stupidity in Govt agencies.
    How much has been spent on sending cheques & T4s to past employees due to some union agreement for something, affecting past employees. I have a client who got a cheque, and T4 from Canada Post for .78, then the estate of another former client who got a letter from GST, saying-you do not qualify for March pymt as you must be living.
    And until there is a standardized rule that x expenses must be charged to x category, we will never get a true picture.
    And look how they are trying to cause a scandal re the PMs trips. 50 trips, is that 25 trips going and 25 trips returning, or 50 going and ignore the return.
    I imagine most of their daily expenses are charged to a CC, so go thru those charges to see if anyone is scamming.
    I know of one ex MLA Cabinet minister who used his govt card for over a year after resigning. It took a gas attendant to blow the whistle.
    And to quote my brother/law, keep the incumbant, he knows where to skim and a new guy might use those but find new ones.

  6. "that's why I suggest we dump the career politicians in all parties through the nomination process."

    It's clear I over reacted to what you meant, thinking you were implying voting for other parties, but now I understand and agree with you.

    "I make that assumption because of the unprecedented unanimity shown by the major parties. "

    If the governing party wishes to avoid the issue it doesn't automatically mean they're guilty of something. It's likely more a matter of timing and execution.
    They don't want in to happen right now before the G20 and not in the way it would go if they did since the media would play up any possible negatives against the government.

    And at a time when the
    "international community" will be watching, some of which will be unknowingly turning in to the MSM headlines and bias reporting.

    It will appear obvious to us, but not to visitors and or others who don't pay much attention between elections (even after all thats happened over the years).

    Do we need this to reflect badly on the conservatives who thus far set an example to the world in how to run a government (against all odds) more than any current/recent party around the world?

    "If they have nothing to hide, let us see the books."

    In due course.
    I don't understand the immediate need given there are far more pressing issues especially regarding money management that could be addressed.

    I'm sure once they get themselves in order and carry out some internal investigating they'll be able to address the issues around MP expenses in a meaningful and pragmatic way.

    Hurrying it up for the media and disgruntled voters would make things needlessly messy allowing the media to poach and frenzy.

    "Really? Well history shows clearly that those who cheat on the small things are more likely to "graduate" to bigger evils. That's the point, sweat the small stuff and it's less likely we'll see the big stuff."

    Thats like saying because they puff on cigars they'll smoke cigarettes, or because someone smoked weed they'll start smoking crack.

    One thing doesn't always lead to another. Besides you're forgetting to leave room for grey.

    And in doing so your over-implying that if MP expenses go unchecked that it'll lead to bigger things when it doesn't necessarily have to.

    Again, I'm not against the audits but I am against "purity" tests.

    Especially since our country may well indeed face a left wing populist coalition party most likely under Bob Rae. Trust me, as soon as he leads the liberals you'll see things shift for the worse. (it's not so far fetched)

    Assuming enough of the opposition voter base seems dumb enough to fall for it. (I'm sure it'll be less than 60% by now)

    So that possibility should be weighed in the balance of just how high our standards must be.

    Onces theres a stable conservative majority we can afford to vote out who ever without the worry of minority.

    That isn't to say we shouldn't cast out any incumbents or career politicians prior, but that we shouldn't go overboard or on an
    anti incumbent crusade in the name of an issue as relatively insignificant as this. (;all things considered)