Monday, October 22, 2012

On continued control

I'd certainly be interested to see some evidence that Conservative MPs are doing anything more than dispensing party talking points. But while there may be some better examples available, the contents of Jason Warick's report this morning look to me to fall far short.

Let's go point by point...

- At last notice, Con MPs weren't allowed to present private members' bills which hadn't been vetted by Harper's staffers. And from the fact the Cons are publicly lining up behind Rob Clarke's bill to trash the Indian Act with nothing to replace it (as well as the fact that it fits with the Cons' explicit government legislation), it's a stretch to claim C-428 as a sign of rebellion.

- It's absolutely true that the Cons are trying to distance themselves from Kelly Block since her anti-refugee mailout started giving rise to protests. But if you can find an inch of daylight between the talking points that have been rightly protested by Block's constituents and the ones dispensed by Jason Kenney and others as the Cons' party-approved excuse for slashing refugee health care, you're a more creative thinker than I.

- And Warick's final example - that of Gerry Ritz - looks to me like a signal of business as usual rather than any noteworthy development. The XL Foods beef fiasco is nothing new for a minister who's presided over this type of health and safety disaster before. Yet Ritz continues to be a member of Harper's cabinet charged with overseeing Canada's food production - meaning that his actions and words are plainly those of Harper's government, not an example of an individual MP at odds with his boss.

(Though I'll grant that if Ritz wanted to make the case against his party's belief in industry self-regulation by secretly sabotaging the industry for which he's responsible, he could hardly have done better.)

Which means that Warick's list is quickly pared down to a brief outburst by anti-abortion MPs. But Harper has always allowed socons to have their occasional day in the spotlight as long as they keep up the trained-seal routine on other issues.

So no, we don't have much reason to think the Cons' Saskatchewan MPs are exercising any real independence. And we should be careful not to be too generous with the label - lest Harper manage to claim he isn't being unduly controlling based on an erroneous interpretation of what Con MPs are actually doing.

[Edit: fixed typo, added link.]

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