Friday, November 29, 2013

Backbenchers Unite! Or Not?

There's a smell of backbench revolution in the air in Ottawa today, with confirmed rumours that Conservative MP Michael Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills, ON) will table a private members' bill that will give backbench MPs in party caucuses the power to oust their party leader, and presumably that also means a sitting Prime Minister (among other powers).

What a fun idea! And coming from the Conservative backbench! It really goes to show that the abuse MPs have taken over the last few decades from all parties is starting to become too much. These "nobodies 50 yards from Parliament," as our Pierre Trudeau once quipped, have really started to feel the pinch in recent years, with the control of the Harper PMO becoming overbearing, and thus causing all the other parties to react in kind. Both the Liberals (remember the abortion motion debacle) and the NDP (long-gun registry) have been forced to build similar fake consensuses through the power of the whip. Its a domino effect that stems from a culture of subservience to the Powers That Be and utter disrespect for backbenchers both within the parties and also the very institutions of Parliament. So, you know, way to go on that one guys.

Not many know the details of Chong's motion so we can't really say what kind of support it will get, but the very fact of its existence is a slap in the face of Harper, and a sign of the biggest wedge in the Conservative Party - its not abortion, though that issue cropping up now and again is a symptom of the bigger issue over the tight-fisted control being exercised from the centre. Whether Chong's fellow Conservative backbenchers will put some weight behind that slap, we'll see. Just don't hold your breath.


  1. I can see the conservatives getting behind this more than the NDP. the conservative party culture is individualist and therefore may have more problem with central power, whereas the ndp is very much a party of unity, as for the liberals, I have no idea, Elizabeth May has no worries about a backbench revolt so what does she have to lose in supporting it

    1. Haha, too true about May. I also agree that the general "culture," or at least what we believe what the culture should be, within the Conservatives lends itself more to rebellion. However, I do think there is a strong sense of loyalty among the backbench to Harper that has been instilled through both fear and the fact that its just how things are - sure, an MP here or there might rebel, but party unity in Canada is almost unlike anywhere else in the Western democracies.

      As for the Liberals and NDP, I'm not entirely sure either myself, and I work within one of these parties. Personally, I think with Trudeau as leader, the Liberals are much more likely to support Chong's PMB versus the NDP under Mulcair. But I also believe there is a lot of political calculation that will go into this - for example, do the Opposition parties want to stoke the fires of revolution within the Conservatives and give a voice to the crazies who usually remain silent on the government side? Your first answer might be "of course!," but I'm not so sure.