Monday, February 13, 2006

What's allowed and what's right

Another amusing turn in the Emerson saga, as Emerson himself now says that he's willing to vote to prevent MPs from crossing the floor without a by-election if the issue comes up:
A defiant David Emerson said Monday he would support legislation forcing MPs who switch parties to run in a byelection.

But without a law, the Vancouver MP said he's not willing to face voters in his riding who are upset he defected from the Liberal party to become international trade minister in Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet.

Angry residents of his blue-collar Vancouver-Kingsway riding, where no Conservative has won since 1958, turned up at two weekend protests organized by the NDP and have been signing a petition demanding he step down and run in a byelection.

But Emerson said he sees no reason to resign without a law.

"I'm not opposed to a byelection," he said during an appearance on radio station CKNW's Bill Good open-line show. "All I'm saying is let's have a set of rules that applies to everyone.
Now, it's well and good that Emerson would respect a by-election law if it was passed. But based on today's comment, Emerson isn't even sure that what he did should be legal. And particularly in light of a campaign that was based on largely on questions of ethics in government, voters should be able to expect something more from the new government than the bare minimum of behaviour that isn't yet prohibited by law.

Emerson's complete refusal to hold himself above the letter of the law is in stark contrast to the the NDP's willingness to hold itself to a higher standard of accountability in the political realm than the other federal parties. And if there's going to be any hope of having a cleaner Canadian political system in the future, that's going to have to be based on voters rewarding those who are determined to set a genuinely positive example - not those who believe that when it comes to politics, anything above the letter of the law is good enough.

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