Saturday, May 22, 2010


Following up on this afternoon's post, let's note that while it's laughable for Stephen Harper to suggest that he doesn't have any say over his party's representatives on the Board of Internal Economy, it may be plausible that the broader issue of expenses is one where he actually does perceive some danger related to MPs thinking for themselves.

After all, Harper has exerted constant control over his MPs' actions in areas where they could possibly become a matter of public issue. But it wouldn't seem all that unlikely that MP expenses might have been classified as immune from public scrutiny precisely because of the lack of auditing in the past. And that might have led Harper to ease off on his usual strategy of micromanagement - leading to what he'd perceive as unacceptable risk of PR damage if those expenses become public.

But the question of whether Harper perceives the problem as being one of too much top-down control or not enough may be answered by his willingness to join in the tentative steps taken by the other party leaders toward increased disclosure.

Presumably the risks involved in what Harper doesn't know now could be reduced by actually requiring his MPs to turn over their books to the party before MPs agree on any audit. And I'd expect the Cons would be in the midst of assembling that information for themselves and preparing defences if they didn't already have full central control over MP expenses - which would presumably be followed by Harper changing his tune once a damage control plan is in place.

Conversely, if Harper's intransigence is the result of his party having top-down schemes in place to funnel MP funding to party supporters, then there isn't much Harper could possibly do other than stonewall as long as possible in hopes that the opposition will change the subject. And that possibility can only provide every incentive for the opposition parties to work together toward as much transparency as they can achieve.


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