A Conservative MP lets his guard down (then puts it back up)

My colleague Aaron Wherry has posted here that illuminating, unfiltered video of B.C. Conservative MP David Wilks discussing with unusual candour the government’s omnibus budget bill with a group of his constituents.

Some of these concerned voters, quite rightly, voice concern about far too much being packed into that single unwieldy piece of legislation, making it impossible for all the elements—changes to environmental laws, pensions and Employment Insurance, to name three—to be properly reviewed by House committees.

It gets interesting pretty fast. Out of the video shot, a woman asks Wilks if it’s right to try to pass it all “in one fell swoop.” And Wilks answers, if I’m getting him right (and please correct me if I’ve misheard the rather odd word “barrage” at around the 1:36 mark): “I think you’ll find a barrage of Conservatives that do hold your concerns, and I am one of them.”

He goes on to explain, in a quite dejected manner, how party discipline works, how Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet tell backbench MPs how to vote, how there’s no argument,  and how little time is offered for discussion even inside the Tory caucus.

Another of the concerned citizens sitting around the table asks: “At what point do you say, ‘I will not vote along party lines and I will represent my constituents?’”

And Wilks replies, startlingly: “If you want me as an independent member, I’ll do that.” It seems he didn’t mean it, though: here’s his statement reaffirming, despite everything he said, his support for the budget.

 




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A Conservative MP lets his guard down (then puts it back up)

  1. Frankly I think he was just brushing off his constituents with false commisseration rather than having any real problem with how his party is running things.

    You’ve been had, CPC voters.

    • A agree; dude’s a weasel. Not a smart cabine-deserving weasel, but a backbench weasel, and likely forever now.

      • I agree he’ll never make cabinet, but after this, I don’t think he’ll be in the backbenches forever.

      • I’ve edited this comment four times and saved each time and it will not correct the A to I. Disqus you continue to disappoint.

        • Completely agree. This new version makes me pine for the old version (which I disliked). In IE8 I can only reply to existing comments; can’t enter my own top-level comment. In IE9, the comments won’t load at all. I’ve only had any real success with Chrome (haven’t tried Firefox or Safari as I don’t have them installed on my work or new home PC).
          Clearly not Microsoft-friendly.

          • I could not access comments, either to read or make, for weeks, and we figured out it was not working for MS Explorer. Now I can access them through Firefox. I fear Macleans is going to lose the readership (commentership?) that I like here.

          • I agree with all of you. I’ve barely commented here at all since this new system was put in place. At first it was because I couldn’t even log on, then I could only reply and now I just can’t be bothered for the most part because it’s glitchy as hell.
            I’ve almost stopped reading anything on this site at all as a result, because frankly, in this day and age there are dozens of websites one can go to and I, like many others, looking for the full experience.
            Articles don’t exist in a vacumn anymore, the dialogue is two way and builds a nice contrast between the article and the various other perspectives to be had on a topic.
            Facilitate or languish Macleans!

          • I could not access comments, either to read or make, for weeks, and we figured out it was not working for MS Explorer. Now I can access them through Firefox. I fear Macleans is going to lose the readership (commentership?) that I like here.

          • Agreed. More than once I’ve just moved on; I would not be surprised if some have done so permanently. It seems to have gotten rid of the CPC drones though; they probably have only IE9 on their government-issue PCs and don’t know the comments exist anymore. Subject: [macleansca] Re: A Conservative MP lets his guard down (then puts it back up)

          • Agree. The older version was far from perfect, but it was better than this one.

  2. Don’t worry David.
    Just avoid mirrors and microphones, and in a few months the remnants of your self respect will merge with your acquiescence, allowing you to stand tall in the Conservative caucus, if not in the eyes of your constituents.

    Be proud

    You are just one man.

  3. Although it’s unlikely, I do hope these sorts of things happen more often – that backbenchers with no real hope of getting that much-desired cabinet or committee post begin to speak out a little more and attempt to make a bit of a name for themselves. The power of the PM (broadly, not just this one) does need some softening and some backbenchers with a little more courage. Although Wilks has not demonstrated the necessary mettle to stick with what his belief really is, I hope that others will similarly follow suit.

    Of course, we of the electorate need to do our part in this as well.

    • I’ve been in a lot of meetings where somebody claims to see your view and agree with it, even to his own department’s detriment, but has no intent of acting on any promise that goes against the wishes of his direct superiors. More and more I’m of the opinion he DIDN’T really mean what he said. Give him the names of 12 other backbenchers ready to take on the bill, he’d have brought it straight to Harper in hopes of avoiding punishment and maybe a sliver of advancement.

      This isn’t a guy with the right idea who’s too scared to be a hero, he’s a guy who will say anything to get out of a room where people have cornered him on stuff he doesn’t want to talk about.

      • In corporate parlance, that’s called a grinf*ck.

  4. in my opinion:

    welcome to political parties: Where cabals of lawyers and bagmen looking for a stream of government cheques tells the seals what to do.

    But, asks the Canadian: what about policy?

    ….aheheh…

  5. Slagging this particular MP or cynically
    trashing him or his party is a pathetic disservice to democracy.

    All federal parties demand from their
    MPs greater allegiance to party discipline than to their constituents as he
    pointed out.

    Having been fired a couple of times for
    not towing the policy line, I understand Mr. Wilk’s decision to retract.

    It is cruelly unfair, as some have done,
    to trash him because he’s not a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King.

    How brave are these easy critics? Have
    they ever put their jobs on the line for something that they believe in or to
    correct a self-evident flaw in management?

    If we as voters have any interest beyond
    gratuitous carping we could start a “Free David Wilks” movement by
    letting our respective MPs know that these anti-democratic rules are not
    acceptable in either his party or any of the others.

    Mr Wilks’s and every other MP needs to
    be able to talk frankly with his constituents as the videos showed. Otherwise democratic Slagging this particular MP or cynically
    trashing him or his party is a pathetic disservice to democracy.

    All federal parties demand from their
    MPs greater allegiance to party discipline than to their constituents as he
    pointed out.

    Having been fired a couple of times for
    not towing the policy line, I understand Mr. Wilk’s decision to retract.

    It is cruelly unfair, as some have done,
    to trash him because he’s not a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King.

    How brave are these easy critics? Have
    they ever put their jobs on the line for something that they believe in or to
    correct a self-evident flaw in management?

    If we as voters have any interest beyond
    gratuitous carping we could start a “Free David Wilks” movement by
    letting our respective MPs know that these anti-democratic rules are not
    acceptable in either his party or any of the others.

    Mr Wilks’s and every other MP needs to
    be able to talk frankly with his constituents as the videos showed. Otherwise democratic Slagging this particular MP or cynically
    trashing him or his party is a pathetic disservice to democracy.

    All federal parties demand from their
    MPs greater allegiance to party discipline than to their constituents as he
    pointed out.

    Having been fired a couple of times for
    not towing the policy line, I understand Mr. Wilk’s decision to retract.

    It is cruelly unfair, as some have done,
    to trash him because he’s not a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King.

    How brave are these easy critics? Have
    they ever put their jobs on the line for something that they believe in or to
    correct a self-evident flaw in management?

    If we as voters have any interest beyond
    gratuitous carping we could start a “Free David Wilks” movement by
    letting our respective MPs know that these anti-democratic rules are not
    acceptable in either his party or any of the others.

    Mr Wilks’s and every other MP needs to
    be able to talk frankly with his constituents as the videos showed. Otherwise democratic
    government is a sham.

    Trash talk stops the discussion. Anyone who uses it is stiffiling
    democratic debate.

    • I agree to a point, except the crawl-back was particularly poorly done IMO, and he isn’t losing his job at all by standing up for what he says he believes. Because he would still be an MP, just not a Conservative MP.
      And it may only take one to do it before others (from all parties) get the guts to do it, too. But instead of whining about being kicked out, he’d have to make a point to other MPs that HE stood up for what he believed was right.
      But I guess this guy just isn’t that guy. Could have been, may not be too late, but probably not.

    • Dan Arnold wrote an article – it’s linked somewhere on one of these blog posts – explaining how backbenchers *actually standing up to* the system as it stands has led to real, if minor, changes. Working within the flawed system can also lead to some good, in theory. But nobody – not Wilks, not his party, not his constituents – is well-served by him saying, “It’s a bad system with bad rules, and so I’m going to muse about taking a stand, but then not take one.” Either take the stand or don’t. The former makes the kind of small improvement that Michael Chong’s stand made. The latter helps you climb the political ladder and get to a point where you can make big changes. The last MP I can think of who threw such regular and visible tantrums against the leadership of his party was a kid named Harper back in the ’90s. By standing by his opposition to his leadership, he got where he is today. What has Wilks gotten – for anybody?

    • Read Guanilon above

  6. This guy seems to be an ass. Either he should put his money where his mouth is and vote what he thinks, or he should shut up. What he’s managed to do instead is backstab both his party and his constituents.

  7. It,the c-38, is really a sad chapter to everyone of us because It shows us the Canadian politician games so clearly and so brutally. You must have known that but they are unsurprisingly as dirty and thrilling as any TV drama.

    Meanwhile C38 will surely become the most influential law bill ever in Canadian history.Think about it ,70 plus laws are being proposed to be fundamentally changed in one budget bill .If they were sent separately it would probably take several decades to get them passed.

    This is a once- of- a- lifetime show ,please don’t miss it.

  8. Unfortunately you wouldn’t be seeing him give any more interviews as he’s been taken to the back of the woodshed and whipped.
    The Harper government is the most secretive and arrogant bunch. He campaigned on being more “open and transparent” and done exactly the opposite. Such arrogance in thinking that they’re the “smartest guys” in the room. Without healthy debate where critical views are examined a bunch of “yes” persons usually come up with disastrous policies. Look at all the recent examples of groupthink and the mess we’re in…Enron, Sub-prime mortage, BP Oil spill…

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