Monday, October 23, 2006

Going public

I'm not sure if the Cons thought that Garth Turner would be cowed enough by his expulsion from caucus to avoid discussing anything more about the party's "confidental" information. But rather than going quiet, Turner has been letting out some rather interesting (if less than surprising) tidbits about the Cons' current operations.

First, Turner notes that the Cons have been systematically trying to convert parliamentary committees from sites where issues are actually discussed, to yet another purely partisan arena where MPs repeat talking points from the top:
House of Commons committees are intended to be all-party affairs, and one of the only places where MPs from all political backgrounds get together to try and do constructive things. The fact I have been removed (from the Finance Committee) – the only MP on one side of the table with a financial and economic background, government experience and cabinet experience (facing two hugely experienced former Liberal cabmins and a very able colleague, plus a Bloc economist and an impressive NDP expert) – hints at the Harper Administration agenda.

This government has actually had a PMO senior staffer in national caucus recently instructing MPs on how to politicize the committees and turn them into instruments of government policy. Tory MPs are instructed to meet before committee meetings to plan strategy to help ministers, and to be assigned questions to ask witnesses.
Turner also notes that even private members' bills, which by their nature should reflect on individual MPs more than the the party generally absent some direct party endorsement, are being vetted and approved by Steve and Sandra:
I have lots of initiatives on the go, and much work to do - in fact, a lot more now that I am an indie, and can actually table private member’s bills (as a member of the Tory caucus, all initiatives like that have to be approved and vetted by ministers and the PMO - so they hardly exist).
I'll follow up later with a review of some of the bills which, by this logic, PMS can be taken to have personally approved. (As a preview, I'll note that any ministerial vetting of the private members' bill to demolish the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly might well violate the Canadian Wheat Board Act even if regulatory changes - or an independent private members' bill - wouldn't.)

Whatever private members' bills and loaded committee questions can now be tagged on PMS personally, it's glaringly clear that the Cons' rhetoric about open and accountable government died the moment they took office. And now that Turner has absolutely no incentive or need to appease anybody within the Con caucus, the Canadian voters actually will be able to hold PMS accountable for that turnaround.

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