Tag Archives: Greg Rickford

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.