Tag Archives: Conservative Party

After one week of the campaign, here is what I think I know.

As I am at most times early in a campaign, I am struggling with who to vote for.  Here are my thoughts so far after watching the Maclean’s Leader’s Debate and the first week of the campaign.

Conservative Party

  • Stephen HarperStephen Harper lies a lot.  An incredible amount.  I actually can’t think of a Prime Minister that lies has much as he does about his record.  My only comparison might be Tony Blair (who lied over crazy things).  Is what they mean by “absolute power corrupts absolutely”?
  • C-51 really bothers me.  I don’t believe it makes Canadians even safer and it takes away important oversight over our CSIS and the RCMP.  It also creates silos which is the kind of organizational mess that allowed the attacks of 9-11 to begin.  What is even worse, is that this isn’t just my thoughts on security but have been written about extensively but top US intelligence leaders.  Harper could have learned from others but chose not to.
  • The shenanigans over the campaign stops.  I need to be invited to a campaign event to attend?  It’s weird.  I like to take the kids out to see leaders as they pass through town but now I have to be a committed Conservative supporter to see the Prime Minister in an election campaign?  And I can’t post photos on social media?  What kind of thinking leads to that.
  • Stephen Harper’s big promise today?  A travel ban on travelling to tourist areas!  So what happens if I want to do humanitarian work there (I had friends working in Afghanistan long before 9/11 and they were doing good work with local farmers).  What happens if I have friends and family there that are not terrorists?  Since when has any Canadian government told it’s citizens where they can travel.  How does that make Canada safer?  Also since when does where I travel decide if I am innocent or guilty.  This is going down a dark path.
  • Whoever gave Harper the advice that he could just not appoint senators is an idiot.  Again, is he being serious or is he going after uneducated voters that this appeals to.  I just don’t know.
  • Okay, I’ll just call this now, Stephen Harper is a deeply paranoid Prime Minister.
  • Of course his promise to never have a Netflix tax.  Also, anyone else find it a little weird that a law and order Prime Minister likes Breaking Bad.  Anyone think that he actually watches or knows what Breaking Bad is?  I thought so. 

New Democratic Party

  • Thomas MulcairThe Sherbrook Declaration which says that the country can be broken up with a vote of 50% plus one goes against my core beliefs and the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • The NDP plan to abolish the senate sounds great (well actually it sounds stupid) when said on a campaign trail but why are we making, “re-opening the constitution” a campaign platform.  Did we have so much fun at Meech Lake, Charlottetown and the subsequent Quebec referendum that we want to do this again?
  • I am not impressed with the $15 an hour national wage.  I think it is poorly thought out policy.  Actually it was the kind of poorly thought out but populist policies that the NDP were known for and I had hoped they had left behind.
  • Tom Mulcair talking about climate change is a little like hearing Stephen Harper talk about the economy.  A lot of bravado but not much of a plan.
  • I have always been disgusted that the NDP opened those satellite offices across the country in clear violation of the rules and won’t pay back the money.  Apparently the Liberal Party and the Conservatives aren’t the only one that feel entitled to imaginary entitlements.
  • Linda McQuaig’s comments on the oilsands.  Really the NDP are going to shut down the oilsands and plunge Alberta and probably Saskatchewan into a depression for years?  This is why it is hard to take the NDP seriously most elections.  I don’t trust them to manage the economy.  Of course it’s hard to beat Harper’s economic record but the NDP seem to be trying.
  • I hate the NDP stance of deferring to the United Nations on military actions.  In theory that sounds great but in practice it gives Russia a veto on whether or not you act.  In case the NDP haven’t noticed, there is a madman in charge of Russia and that seat on the UN Security Council.

Liberal Park

  • Justin TrudeauHate that Trudeau voted for C-51.  Just hate it.  Either Liberal Party advisors are playing politics with an important issue or are idiots.  Or both.
  • I know I am the outlier on this but I thought Trudeau was poor in the debates.  I thought it was weird he didn’t tell me what he believed, only what the Liberal Party believed.  It’s not a big thing but I thought it was strange.  According to the polls, I was wrong about this anyways, most thought he won.
  • Trudeau’s faith in the ability of the senate to be restored is noble.  For all of the NDP and the Conservatives rhetoric that it can not, in truth, no one has ever tried.   At least Trudeau is going to try.
  • Trudeau’s foreign policy isn’t so much a thought out foreign policy but just plain naïve.  While Harper’s doesn’t make sense, doing the opposite of craziness doesn’t make it sane.  It is just stupid in another direction.  His views on Syria and ISIS are naïve and goes against any form of common sense.  Of course the US and Harper’s plan aren’t that effective right now either. 

This is separate from all three parties but in the U.S. in both the GOP and the Democratic party, they have adults who spend their lives on making careful and well thought out policy decisions.  In Canada, we seem to leave those decisions to political hacks which is why we get these half baked policy ideas that make no sense to anyone other than pollsters.  When talking about foreign policy, defense, or the economy, those wise voices creating policy, tend to be important and we really lack that here.

I don’t know how  I am going to vote but none of the three campaigns get me that excited and to be honest, seem to be doing what Allan Gregg said after the 1988 campaign.  The Tories went after the really stupid voters.  Sadly that worked and it seems like all three parties are targeting that demographic right now.

Election 2015: Saskatoon

Hey, I am pretty much sitting out this campaign.  I’ll wait to see how the campaign platforms come together to decide if I will write a local endorsement but until then, it won’t be that political around here.  I have friends who are candidates for different parties and I respect them for making the effort of going to Ottawa to do what the PMO tells them what to do and when to do it.

I did great a quick election guide for all candidates in Saskatoon.  You can find it here.  It lists all of the campaign contact information for all of the campaigns, except for Kevin Waugh (and I can’t find his yet).  So if you want to check out a campaign in Saskatoon, it’s all there for you.

Are Canadians Growing Tired of Stephen Harper?

Stephen Maher thinks so

His former chief of staff, Tom Flanagan, writes in his new book: “There’s a dark, almost Nixonian, side to the man. He can be suspicious, secretive and vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia.”

The list of officials who have felt the sting of Harper’s white-hot rage is long: Remy Beauregard, Marty Cheliak, Richard Colvin, Sheila Fraser, Linda Keen, Paul Kennedy, Marc Mayrand, Adrian Measner, Kevin Page, Munir Sheikh and Nigel Wright.

Then there are the political opponents. Harper has systematically bombarded Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff and Justin Trudeau with simple-minded attack ads.

Politics is a nasty business, since a key part of convincing people to vote for you is convincing them that your opponents are bad news. But Harper has brought it to a new level, bringing to Canada a style that appears to have been inspired by Lee Atwater’s brutal dismantling of Michael Dukakis for George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election.
Conservatives can take pride in many things Harper has done — steering the country through the recession, cutting taxes, cutting spending with less suffering than the Liberals did in the 1990s — but it was all accompanied by Machiavellian machinations and ugly denunciations of perceived foes.

The prime minister has built a fearsome team, promoting remorseless MPs like Dean Del Mastro, Pierre Poilievre and Paul Calandra, and overlooking gentler characters like Ted Menzies and James Rajotte.

Harper gains advantage from his authoritarian attacks, because everyone in Ottawa is afraid of crossing him, but it has all made our national discourse unnecessarily unpleasant.

You ought to be able to say that you don’t agree with Sheila Fraser’s criticism of the elections act without implying that she is making her comments for money, as Poilievre did.
It feels like all of this nastiness has started to catch up to the prime minister, and he is in trouble in Ontario, the key to the next election. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is attacking him daily on the campaign trail, which can only be because he is less popular than Tim Hudak. Eve Adams didn’t move from Mississauga to Oakville for the scenery.

Canadian rhetoric makes no difference

The tough talk that has been coming out of Ottawa towards Moscow; it makes no difference at all.

The Conservative government’s tough rhetoric over Russia’s actions in Ukraine may play well to some voters domestically, but analysts doubt it will have any impact on curtailing Moscow’s policies in the region.

“I think the only people Putin’s going to pay any attention to, if he pays any attention at all, are going to be the United States and the European Union, above all Germany,” said Randall Hansen, director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies.

“The United States, because it’s the global super power, and Germany because it’s a major importer of Russian gas, which on the one hand gives Putin leverage, and on the other hand, he’s also dependent on Germany.

“Canada doesn’t matter in this in the slightest. We can rant and yell and threaten. It will make no difference.”

He’s not alone

Piotr Dutkiewicz, a political science professor at Carleton and the former director of the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, said it’s relatively easy for the government to criticize because Canada doesn’t have extensive economic relations with Russia and there are no large Russian investments in Canada.

However, he notes that Canadian companies do have $3-billion worth of investment in Russia and the government should take that into consideration when speaking out.

“I think we should take a more balanced, I’m not saying uncritical, I’m saying more balanced position, taking into the equation Canadian interests in Russia,” Dutkiewicz said.

“If the Canadian government decides to be critical it should be critical, but at the same time we should watch what others are doing and how, by our criticisms, we’re really helping Ukraine.”

Dutkiewicz said that Canada is losing its reputation as a negotiator and instead is engaging in rhetoric stronger than that of the U.S., Germany or France.

“With their very heated rhetoric and no action we’re becoming a paper tiger in this process,” he said. “I really don’t like Canada to be seen as a paper tiger who is roaring without having any tools to implement its outrage.”

But the experts agreed that the government’s words have little to do with foreign policy.

“Harper and Baird, I think, are both principled democrats and have a principled commitment to liberal democracies such as Israel and a principled opposition to autocratic governments,” Hansen said. “But this is really about domestic politics. So they’re making a play to the Ukrainian community in Canada.

Our Soiled, Sorry Public Life

Excellent op-ed by Andrew Cohen

As part of their severance, those who serve 20 years or more are offered a last move, at government expense, after they retire. Soldiers are asked to live in many places; the policy recognizes that the house you occupy at the end of your career may not be where you want to remain.

Leslie served 35 years at home and abroad and moved 18 times. When he left the military in 2011, he wanted to simplify things. He moved from a bigger house to a small one, in the same neighbourhood. The move cost some $72,000, of which the real estate fees could have come to perhaps $60,000. The rest went to packing and moving.

All expenses were covered by government.

So, what’s wrong here? What’s the offence? A distinguished soldier does his duty, retires honourably and sells his house. The bills are settled by the government, because that’s the arrangement.

But that’s not really the story, is it? The story here has less to do with General Leslie than Citizen Leslie, or perhaps, in the future, Minister Leslie. It’s about politics.

While Rob Nicholson asks his officials to explain this long-standing government policy — one he could have changed but hasn’t — here are a few questions for him.

Why is Andrew Leslie the first veteran to come under this kind of public scrutiny? Is $72,000 egregious? If so, what is the average figure for moves involving such neighbourhoods?

And how is it that Leslie’s expenses found their way to CTV News, which first reported this on the weekend? Is there a breach of privacy in your department, Minister? Your office suggested the document was acquired under the Access to Information Act, but CTV did not.

We know what is going on here. Andy Leslie is a Liberal. His father was a Liberal. His service notwithstanding, that displeases the government. Tell us, Minister Nicholson, would you have ordered an inquiry if Leslie had been running as a Conservative? Would your question have been as sharp, your anger as hot?

Could it be that Leslie’s expenses would never have found their way into the media at all? And could it be that the Conservatives wanted Leslie to join them, when they learned that he was going to the Liberals? Let us see this for what it is: a drive-by smear.

Argue, if you want, that after years of dislocation and adjustment, that Leslie and his wife had no right to move to a smaller house. Make it another great moral failing of another public servant, as we like to do these days in a country filled with accountants of envy.

If you do, though, remember that soldiers spend their lives disrupting their families, often with little notice and at great cost. Ask yourself why soldiers are committing suicide. Ask yourself about divorce, domestic violence, addiction and other consequences of military life.

As we disparage a decorated general, seeing scandal that isn’t there, consider the greater affront of a government that tolerates a minister, Julian Fantino, who insults veterans as he cuts their services. Now there’s gratitude.

Then ask yourself why Andrew Leslie and other good people would even contemplate entering our soiled, sorry public life.

Appeasing the base

Excellent column by Jeffrey Simpson on the Conservatives focus from now until 2015

Almost all you need to know about Canadian politics in the next two years can be summarized in one simple number – 10 per cent.

Ten per cent is the share of the electorate that has deserted Stephen Harper’s Conservatives since the last election. In that contest, the Conservatives captured a shade less than 40 per cent of the votes. For months now, polls have given the Conservatives about 30 per cent.

At 40 per cent, the Conservatives would win again, likely with another majority; at 30 per cent, they would lose power. Their aim – and it will drive almost everything they do in the next two years – will be to recapture all or most of the difference.

What about the other 60 per cent of the voting public? The Conservatives could care less about them. The overwhelming majority of those people aren’t going to vote Conservative, period.

Nik Nanos, the pollster, asks this interesting question on an ongoing basis: Could you imagine voting for a given party? He consistently finds that 60 per cent of voters reply that they could not imagine voting Conservative. The party’s ceiling, therefore, is 40 per cent.

No matter what the Conservatives have successfully done in office, no matter how hard they have tried and how much money they have spent, no matter how favourable the economic circumstances, no matter how inept the other parties, the Conservatives have never shattered that 40-per-cent ceiling. But if they don’t crawl back close to it by the time of the next election, they will struggle to be re-elected, let alone to win another majority.

Given this strategic imperative, you might think that midway through a majority government’s term, a party mired at 30 per cent would be rethinking its strategy. That would be to misunderstand the Harper government.

Instead of rethinking, the Prime Minister has doubled down on his long-term strategy, which depends on polarizing the electorate and identifying and mobilizing the Conservative vote. He reshuffled his cabinet to add younger ministers of the same type as the more experienced ones: hard-edged communicators and sharp-elbowed partisans. He regrouped people in his office and at party headquarters who are unreserved loyalists. There are no even mildly discordant voices, let alone fresh faces or new views, in Mr. Harper’s inner political circle.


Concerns over Jim Flaherty’s health

From Stephen Maher

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s appearance at a meeting of Canada’s finance ministers this week has renewed backroom speculation about whether his health will allow him to continue in his job.

As meetings at Meech Lake began on Monday, Flaherty was seen to struggle to get out of his car, and his voice was painfully weak as he addressed reporters later.

In the hours-long meeting with his provincial counterparts, he sat in silence most of the time, sometimes with his eyes closed, allowing minister of state, Kevin Sorenson, to chair the meeting.

“He did not seem like a well man,” said a person who was in the room. “He kind of closed his eyes a number of times, but whether that was just him sitting there listening or not, I don’t know.”

Tuesday on Parliament Hill, Flaherty was seen by a reporter walking with great difficulty.

In January, Flaherty went public with news about his health condition, bullous pemphigoid, a rare skin condition that produces painful blisters. He is taking the steroid prednisone, which can cause weight gain and, in large doses, can spur severe mood swings.

His staff did say that Flaherty was suffering from a cold at Meech Lake which could explain his mood there but he does seem to be suffering.  I can’t imagine the requirements of the job make it any easier to deal with his health condition.

Does it matter who we vote for federally?

Michael Den Tendt doesn’t think so

Which leads us back to this: Be it resolved, there is now a single homogeneous Canadian political culture, expressed via the three main party shadings. How long until platforms themselves become irrelevant? Partisans will argue their own beloved expression of Canadian liberal democracy is not only best, but distinct – as the Tories, Grits and NDP were a generation or two ago, when they disagreed about country-changing issues such as North American free trade, in 1988, or membership in NATO, in 1968.

But tick through the list of assumptions at the heart of the state today – from socialized health care to capital punishment, abortion or free trade, deficits or tax rates – and you find unanimity. The Conservatives must be for gay rights, or be written off as reactionary by the majority. The New Democrats must be for industry and thrift, or be written off as loopy dreamers by that same majority.

This convergence can create a mash-up, as political parties struggle to create differentiation amid their essential drab sameness. Thus, John Baird’s defence of gay rights in Russia doesn’t go far enough, says the NDP’s Paul Dewar. He must crank it up to 11, like the guitar amplifier in Rob Reiner’s Spinal Tap. The Liberals, meantime, are beginning a two-year effort to implant the idea, by every means other than saying it, that they can be more conservative than the Conservatives when it comes to economics, and more new and democratic than the New Democrats when it comes to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. “Tough on crime” is still exclusive Conservative territory – but only because it’s one of the few old planks they haven’t ditched in the hunt for centrist votes. And, to be frank, it’s not popular enough for the other parties to bother to steal.

Taken together, this still-unfolding spectrum collapse sets up a contest of almost pure personality in 2015. Through the next 24 months, Harper will seek to recast himself as more constructive; Mulcair, happier; and Trudeau, more solid. The ad war will be personal as never before, culminating in televised debates understood by all to be winner-take-all. And the pollsters, perhaps as never before, will be flying blind. Interesting times.

The Conservatives are Paying Two Bureaucrats $500k Each to Run an Office that Doesn’t Exist

Nice gig if you can get it

Even among Ottawa insiders, few would be aware that two officials running a tiny agency Flaherty set up to try to create a national securities regulator beat them all. Douglas Hyndman, chairman and chief executive officer of the Canadian Securities Transition Office (CSTO), makes $534,043, and Lawrence Ritchie, the CSTO’s executive vice-president and senior policy adviser, $537,469. Their salaries are public because Hyndman is on long-term loan to the feds from the British Columbia Securities Commission, while Ritchie is similarly seconded from the Ontario Securities Commission, and both B.C. and Ontario publish “sunshine lists” of salaries over $100,000. They are still technically on the provincial payrolls—even though they’ve been working for Flaherty since 2009—with Ottawa compensating their home provinces. (The Harper government’s refusal to support Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber’s private member’s bill to publicly disclose federal salaries over $188,000 led to Rathgeber quitting the Tory caucus last spring; the government wanted to reveal only a handful of salaries over $444,661.)

At a glance, their pay seems out of whack by federal standards. After all, Hyndman and Ritchie together oversee only about 20 employees. Poloz, by comparison, commands about 1,240 at the central bank. But Flaherty has staked more on his high-priced ringers than the size of their shop might indicate. In an email exchange with Maclean’s, Hyndman said his “relatively small staff” belies the complexity and importance of what the CSTO is trying to accomplish. “We are using the expertise of a core group drawn from provincial securities regulators, plus some additional staff, to develop critical improvements to Canada’s system of capital markets regulation,” he said. “We also need to maintain the flexibility to move forward on either federal legislation or a co-operative scheme with the provinces.”

That last part about being ready to pursue either of two very different policy options is key. Flaherty set up the CSTO back in 2009 to bring about his goal of establishing a common Canadian securities regulator, replacing a hodge-podge of provincial stock market commissions. But some provinces challenged his plan in court. In late 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Ottawa was overstepping its jurisdiction. Despite that severe setback, Flaherty kept trying to coax provinces to come onside voluntarily—that’s the “co-operative scheme” Hyndman mentions. But if those overtures to the provinces fail, the court ruling left the federal government room to regulate in limited areas on its own—that’s Hyndman’s “move forward with federal legislation” option.

In fact, indications from federal officials suggest they are not optimistic that enough provinces will sign on to salvage Flaherty’s original grand plan. For instance, Hyndman said the CSTO’s “primary focus right now is developing proposed legislation and implementation plans that will be needed if no agreement is reached with provinces on a common regulator.” But exactly what parts of the financial marketplace the federal government will set out to regulate on its own has not yet been announced. It’s the subject of considerable speculation among private-sector experts. Flaherty’s office says the aim would be “preventing and responding to systemic risks, such as those posed by over-the-counter derivatives.”

Figuring out ways to regulate trading by sophisticated investors in derivatives, which go by exotic names such as “currency forwards” and “credit default swaps,” is a hot topic in international policy circles, largely because failures on this murky side of the market are blamed for the 2008 global credit meltdown and the recession that followed. Hyndman even suggests that losing the Supreme Court case focused the federal government’s attention “precisely where Canada needs to do a better job to get regulation right.”

Whatever slice of the market Flaherty decides to tackle, settling on that approach shouldn’t take much longer. “Our planning horizon is in months, not years,” Hyndman said. On whether he and Ritchie will go back then to their provincial jobs, or stay on to run an agency set up to bring new regulations into force, he said only, “We have not sought, nor been offered, permanent federal positions.”

Before you get all that upset, that is probably a deal for two guys of that talent who would make much more in the private sector.  That being said, it probably won’t get enough provinces to sign on and in the end, will be a lot of money down the drain.

How the ‘Control Freak’ lost control

How Harper lost control of the government and his party

So how’s the mood in the party? “It’s s–tty,” one long-time Conservative political staffer, now recycled in the private sector, said the other day. “I’m a Conservative, and I don’t know what the government stands for.”

The mood this Conservative described—on condition of anonymity, like other party members who spoke for this story—was a long way from despair. “The grassroots of the party is overwhelmingly behind the PM. I don’t think that will ever wear off.” But the five-alarm gong show around Wright, Duffy, Wallin and the rest has made a lot of Conservatives angry and nervous. “If your whole message is that you’re competent people,” this former staffer said, “it is harmful to seem incompetent.”

For several days after Harper accepted Wright’s resignation on May 19, the government could offer no coherent explanation for what had happened. Right up to the end of May the government seemed unsure how to handle the mess.

The chaos led at least one old PMO hand to offer his assistance. Several Conservative sources say that at the beginning of June, Dimitri Soudas, a former PMO communications director who now works for the Canadian Olympic Committee, telephoned the PMO to offer communications advice. Whatever Soudas told his former colleagues would have been mixed in with all the other signals a government receives from its members and supporters, but by last week the Conservatives were offering a more unapologetic defence of Harper’s behaviour, coupled with sharp digs at the opposition parties. The implied message was: If we’re going to be in trouble, we won’t be the only party in trouble.

The news of the day fades from memory. Between the 2008 and 2011 elections Harper endured a steady stream of allegations and missteps, including the controversy over proroguing Parliament, the allegations about abuse of Afghan prisoners, and former minister Bev Oda’s clumsy doctoring (“NOT”) of a memo from her department. Very little of it mattered on election day in 2011, and the Conservatives won a majority of seats in the Commons for the first time.

But Conservatives know the Harper government isn’t eternal, and they have begun to wonder what it will feel like when Harper loses his grip on power for good. They hope the feeling they’ve had this spring isn’t it. “You’re associated with a certain quality, like good government, for a long time and it holds up under wear and tear,” the former Conservative staffer said. “And then one day it tips over. And once it tips, you’ve just lost it and you can’t get it back. You’ve just lost that characteristic.”

Those earlier uproars from 2008-11 often shared common features: they were of interest mostly only to people who work in Ottawa, and they tended to anger people who had never voted Conservative anyway. Conservatives were pretty sure a sitting prime minister should be allowed to ring up the governor general and shut down Parliament now and then, as indeed Jean Chrétien did on more than one occasion. It was no skin off their nose if Harper exercised the same prerogative.

But this business with Wright, Duffy, and a Prime Minister who seemed oblivious and has since seemed deeply rattled is different, another former Hill staffer said. This one described getting an earful about the Senate and about Harper’s associates during a trip through rural British Columbia. The people complaining “were our demographic, in our geography,” this source said. “More than anything else it’s our people who are upset. It kind of comes across as a feeling of betrayal.”

Nenshi on backbench MPs

This is a great response to the election of Joan Crockatt

“I mean, whatever. Not like backbench MPs have any ability to do anything. She’s very nice, she’s shown up at a lot of events [and is] certainly more present after the election than during the election, which is interesting. Most candidates are not like that… Have we seen any real difference in how the federal government treats the city of Calgary now that we’ve returned another Conservative MP? Not yet.

You would be amazed at the amount of non-profits who tell me that their project is making progress because a backbench MP likes what they are doing.  I hate telling that the opinion of a backbench MP has no influence at all on party policy as they are not part of the government.  Cabinet ministers and their staff are the only opinions that matter and that is what Nenshi is getting at.  Today, MPs exist to run to get Diet Coke while the important decisions are made and then sell those decisions to their constituents.

The ‘Trained Seals’ strike back

But only because the PMO told them they could

Government backbenchers attacked MP Brent Rathgeber, who quit the caucus last week after saying the Conservatives have “morphed into what we have once mocked.”

Within 24 hours of Mr. Rathgeber’s (Edmonton-St. Albert, Alta.) exit from the Conservative caucus, members of the government’s backbenches began to take aim at the now Independent MP by disputing his comments and questioning his professionalism.

“He can’t get along with people in the sandbox,” said Tory MP Greg Rickford (Kenora, Ont.), Parliamentary Secretary for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. “Brent spoke for himself. He’s always been that way. As a provincial legislator he couldn’t get along with people.”

Mr. Rickford told The Hill Times that he “didn’t appreciate” statements made by Mr. Rathgeber following the announcement of his resignation late last Wednesday evening.

Mr. Rathgeber announced his resignation from the Conservative caucus on June 5 on Twitter, hours after the Conservative-dominated House Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics Committee amended his private member’s bill, Bill C-461, which would have required the annual salaries of public servants in excess of $188,000 to be made public. Conservative members of the committee raised the disclosure threshold to $444,000.

This amendment, dubbed by Mr. Rathgeber as “the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” led the Alberta MP to announce his resignation from Conservative caucus late Wednesday night.

The morning after announcing his resignation from the Tory caucus, Mr. Rathgeber wrote on his blog that the “Government’s lack of support for my transparency bill is tantamount to a lack of support for transparency and open government generally.”

On his blog, Mr. Rathgeber wrote that the $188,000 salary was a compromise itself, and noted that various provinces have “sunshine laws” that disclose the names and departments of individuals that make upwards of $100,000.

“Even setting the benchmark significantly higher than any of the provinces that maintain ‘Sunshine Lists’ was apparently not supportable by a Cabinet intent on not disclosing how much it pays its senior advisors,” wrote Mr. Rathgeber.

He also identified the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) former chief of staff Nigel Wright, and the $90,000 cheque Mr. Wright gave to Senator Mike Duffy to cover ineligible expense claims as a contributing factor to his decision to leave the Conservative caucus.

“We have morphed into what we have once mocked,” he wrote.

Mr. Rathgeber ended the scathing blog post by writing, “I no longer recognize much of the party that I joined and whose principles (at least on paper), I still believe in. Accordingly, since I can no longer stand with them, I must now stand alone.”

In a press conference following his arrival in Edmonton on June 6, Mr. Rathgeber blasted PMO staffers for controlling MPs as though they were “trained seals,” although he said he supported Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.).

First of all Rathgeber is totally right.  Backbench MPs are trained seals which means that many talented people will not choose to run for office because they don’t want to have every speech vetted by the PMO and have no input in on government decisions ever.  

Then you get a cycle were because talented people aren’t interested in becoming MPs so you are left with many MPs from both parties who are minor league quality which of course requires more PMO oversight which then discourages competent people to run.  Eventually you get to a situation where trained seals could do the job of many MPs as long as they can sign off on the ten percenters.

The reason why people got upset with Rathgeber is because it hit close to home.  That and the PMO told them to be upset.  Then it gave them a fish as a reward.