Putting out the Fire?

OTTAWA—A day after stunning many Western Conservatives with the appointment of a party organizer to the Senate and then to cabinet, Prime Minister Stephen Harper moved to soothe their feelings, suggesting the Tories may hold Senate elections in conjunction with the next federal vote.(link)

He's forgetting the obvious problem - Emerson. The senate vote is appreciated - however not neccessary as far as I'm concerned. We had forewarnings that Harper may do something like this when he appointed Josee Verner from Quebec to be a member of his shadow cabinet despite not being elected. She was given an MP's salary and all the perks provided by the party. The appointment was to be temporary until she was elected to office. I agreed with her appointment then, and thought it was a brilliant move on Harper's part to expand the profile of the pary in Quebec. She is now an elected MP from Quebec, so I guess the strategy you could say has paid off with 10 new Quebec MPs.

Fortier's situation is markedly different. Harper's using a senate appointment to do the same thing so that Fortier can take a minister's portfolio and awnser questions in the house. I revolt the idea of having taxpayers pay for this - this is something that the party should be paying for itself. Fortier's salary should come straight from our overflowing Conservative treasure chest. It should not come from taxpayers back pockets. Also, the fact that they are using a senate appointment to do this enters into a certain amount of moral fuziness when it comes to Harper's pledge to elect Senators and not appoint them.

And again, this whole issue forgets Emerson. That political opportunist should not be a Conservative without winning a nomination of Conservative members in his riding. Harper should've known well enough, that he could have drastically improved the situation morally, by asking that Emerson sit in Cabinet not as a Conservative, but as a Liberal. Such appointments have been made in the past in so-called "unity-cabinets" during war time in Canada. If Emerson had sat as a Liberal, understanding that he was there for the Olympic games, then Canadians, and Conservatives would be willing to accept this.

But given that Emerson made a complete turn around in parties - this is morally wrong. His constituents hired a Liberal, so they should get one. And Conservatives never hired Emerson to represent their banner in Vancouver, so they shouldn't have to live it.

Harper's got one extra Cabinet minister that is questionably loyal to him. Obviously he never quite learned from his Stronach experience at all.


  1. CuriosityKilledTheCat11:26 AM

    Harper’s One-Man-Band, and Pretzel Tories.

    So, a little time has passed, and Harper’s daring moves to impress the electorate with his political acumen have now sunk in a bit. Reaction across the country to his cabinet appointments – and abandonment of principles espoused during the election – have varied from sheer disbelief, to shock, to amusement. Never has a Canadian politician fallen so far so fast. Usually it takes time for power to corrupt, but Mr. Harper is a man in a hurry.

    Many Tories have had to swallow their tongues and bend themselves into pretzels defending the indefensible. Some MPs have said they fear going back to their ridings because they will have to explain to their supporters how the Harper crew did a sudden U-turn on the accountability issue, which, after all, was the Tory strong point in the election. Harper ran as Mr. Clean, and painted Martin as Mr. Corruption at every opportunity he had.

    Even the rightwing press is stunned and disappointed.

    Examples of press reaction:

    The Vancouver Sun:

    “"I expected some of the superficial criticism I've seen," Mr. Harper told The Vancouver Sun in an interview. "But I think once people sit back and reflect, they'll understand that this is in the best interests of not just British Columbia but frankly of good government." Mr. Harper referred to his statements on Monday, when he said he recruited Mr. Emerson to Cabinet to give Vancouver -- which didn't elect a Tory MP in five city ridings -- a voice in Cabinet. He used the same rationale to explain why he appointed Tory national campaign co-chairman Michael Fortier, a Montreal businessman, to the Senate and as Minister of Public Works. Montreal, like Vancouver, did not elect a government MP. "I think I was clear what I did and why I did it," Mr. Harper said yesterday.

    The Calgary Sun – Roy Clancy:

    “Stephen Harper must be breathing a sigh of relief today. Just minutes after being sworn in as prime minister, he relieved himself of one of the biggest burdens he had carried into the job. No longer must he live up to the impossible standard of political purity and ethical integrity saddled upon him by a naive electorate. ...But as widespread moans of anger illustrate, many Canadians took Harper seriously when he promised Monday to "begin a new chapter for Canada." No wonder they were disappointed when they learned within moments that this new chapter looks a lot like the old one. ...Harper's pragmatic moves may not have violated the letter of his promises to change the way government is run, but they shattered the spirit. .... Monday's manoeuvres quickly lowered the bar when it comes to public expectations of this new regime.“

    The Calgary Sun - Rick Bell:

    “See the Tories wriggle. Wriggle, Tories, wriggle. Ah yes, one party's turncoat is another party's principled politician. No anger now. No demands to step down and face the voters now. No nasty name-calling now. No sympathy for the poor electors of the riding of the quisling now. ... The trouble with talking about the moral high ground is you actually have to walk on it or, like the kid standing by the broken window after throwing the snowball, insist without shame you've done nothing wrong. ... So the rationalizations flow, the lame explanations are exhaled into the hot air and only those who have drunk the Conservative Kool-Aid will follow as good old ideological ants.”

    So, what lessons can be taken from Harper’s first exercise of Prime Ministerial power? Here are a few for you to ponder:

    • Just as it is unfair to accuse every Republican of having the same moral vacuity that President Bush has displayed, so too is it unfair to say that all Conservatives – and all voters who voted for the Tories – lack good moral and political judgment. It is very clear that there are a lot of people who voted Tory because they sincerely believed that it was time for the Liberals to mend their house, and for another party to bring in some anti-corruption measures. These people still have high standards; they are as bewildered by the events of this week as others are.

    • Harper obviously believes he is above trifling things like having to take the feelings of others into consideration. This exercise of Prime Ministerial power shows that he will think things through – apparently mostly on his own – and then decide on the best way forward. If he explains his thought process, it is obvious to him that voters will then understand why he is right, and fall into line. There is a word for this: paternalism. Harper shows clear signs of seeing himself as the Big Wise Daddy of Canadian politics. His use of the word “superficial” to describe the reaction of others to his crass abandonment of some of the major planks of his election platform illustrates this very clearly.

    • Harper is focused on winning a majority in the next election, to happen within 18 months. Everything he will do or say is geared to that. If lesser mortals within his own party do not understand this, that is their problem. They must suck it up and stay in line. Big Daddy knows best.

    • Harper does not believe in a democratic party for the Tory government. It is his way or the highway (witness Stronach). This is perhaps the most worrisome aspect for many Tories: did they realize they were electing a dictator rather than the leader of a parliamentary party fashioned along the lines of a Westminster democracy? How many more decisions will be made by The Leader, and rammed down the throats of the caucus? And how can Canadians expect such decisions to be the best, if they are not tested by vigorous debate within the governing party before being made?

    If Harper continues in the same vein for the next 12 months, expect him to join the ranks of the Clarks, Campbells and Martins as a short-lived blip on the Canadian political firmament.

  2. Harper believes Liberal ways are best

    Mr. Harper had two options this week to ensure that the Conservative party could win a majority in the next election.

    1) Follow in the foot steps of the Liberal party – appoint friends to Senate, bribe other party members with pay raises and power. The brain trust around Harper saw that people in ridings don't vote for your policies but to get local power. Thus appoint someone from Montreal and Vancouver to gain votes in next election.

    2) Harper could have decided that people will be impressed when they see him bring in real policies that help them. Forget the political games – live up to your promises and people will respect that. People will vote because they realize that the new Government is not scary, is accountable and functions differently than the Liberal party.

    The brain trust around Harper, including Harper, decided Liberal political games are the way to win votes – not policies.

    Link to holding Conservatives accountable