Bill Casey & the Newfoundland Four


His is a cautionary tale.

Two years ago, Bill Casey objected to his government’s budget—something to do with an obscure agreement with some obscure East Coast province or another. He voted against that budget in the House of Commons and was subsequently told to go sit on the other side of the House where his poor example would be less likely to influence the sorts of impressionable government backbenchers who might be tempted by the notion of free will.

Stubborn to the end, Casey ran for reelection this past fall. So shamed by their duly elected representative’s refusal to put Parliamentary tradition and partisan allegiance ahead of personal conviction, the people of Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley publicly admonished the partyless Casey with 5,000 more votes than he’d received as a Conservative in 2006. And so scolded, Casey quickly announced he would soon retire from federal politics, resigned to returning to his obscure East Coast province to live out his life as a mere folk hero. Or possibly run for premier.

For sure, the Newfoundland Four—Siobhan Coady, Scott Andrews, Judy Foote and Scott Simms; three of them rookies, the other just very short—may be full of righteous indignation now. They may think they are doing what they should.

But, rest assured, the good people of this country take their three-line whip votes and caucus loyalty very seriously. And no attempt to undermine the historical foundations of our democracy goes unnoticed.


Bill Casey & the Newfoundland Four

  1. For me, this discussion about the Newf4 ties in Democrats vs Parliamentarians that we were having a couple of months ago. It shows why people think they are voting for PM or Party when they vote on election day. MPs aren’t allowed to think for themselves or do what they think is best for their area. They have to toe the party line no matter what or they are punished.

    Can’t Iggy cook up some deal where the Newf4 are expelled from caucus but they continue to vote with Libs? And come next election, they can be returned to caucus after they are done wiping the floor with Cons.

    • You actually have to worry more about what your Premier thinks. Because he’s the real boss.

    • I get that party discipline and toeing the line are supposed to be a big deal, but I really think entirely too much ink has been spilled over all this. Even the Casey analogy seems over-the-top to me (and as is pointed out, voting his conscience never hurt Casey!). In Casey’s case at least he was voting against his own party’s budget, I’d say there’s a much higher “duty” (though that’s the wrong word) to follow the dictates of your party when a) your party forms the government, and b) you’re voting on your own party’s proposals.

      In this case, the Liberals aren’t being asked to support a Liberal budget, they’re being asked to support a Conservative budget. That a few of them might balk is hardly surprising, and frankly I just don’t see it as being that big of a deal.

      To me, Ignatieff’s responsibility (having determined that the budget is “good enough” to be allowed to pass) is simply to ensure that the budget passes. I don’t see why he should be in any big hurry to ensure that the Liberals UNANIMOUSLY support somebody else’s budget. And to me, it’s hardly a failure of Ignatieff’s leadership if he can’t get every single Liberals to vote in favour of a Stephen Harper budget.

      Am I being too easy on Iggy, or am I right that others are over-emphasizing the importance of total party solidarity to a party in opposition voting on a government bill (even the budget)?

      • Of course you are right. This whole business is absurd and inconsequential but the press need their cheap content.

      • “Am I being too easy on Iggy, or am I right that others are over-emphasizing the importance of total party solidarity to a party in opposition voting on a government bill (even the budget)?”


        I think it’s an interesting question. I am sure our party leaders love how we have drifted to total party solidarity, it makes them even more powerful than they already were. Also, Iggy might be concerned that if these 4 vote go against his wishes, others will start not listening to him either. Backbench MPs voting their areas interest might start to snow ball and then where would he be?

        On the other hand, I follow UK politics, and back bench MPs vote against their leaders all the time. There was a study recently that showed at least one Labour back bench MP voted against their party 100 times during the ’07-’08 session of Parliament without consequence. There have been many examples of backbenchers threatening to vote against their leaders en-masse and were able to change legislation.

        So our leaders like to demand total obedience but it is not necessary to the functioning of Parliament, as UK example illustrates.

        • I should say that perhaps I’d be more concerned if these four votes were going to make the vote remotely close. Certainly if there was some danger of the budget not passing, or even of the budget appearing to have very narrow support (given the economic times) there’d be more reason for concern. However, even if these four (heck, even if all 6) vote against the budget, the budget’s still gonna sail through.

          As for some sort of “precedent” and other MPs failing to toe the line in the future, I see no reason why Ignatieff couldn’t (should he choose) stand up in caucus and say “listen, we’re gonna let these four guys vote no, ’cause it’s inconsequential and we’ve got plenty of votes, but if the vote were X we’d all need to toe the line, and I’ve made that clear to them and I want to make it clear to all of you” (total hypothetical of course).

          As you say, there are times when total solidarity matters, and there are times when a bunch of backbenchers can balk and it’s essentially meaningless (well, meaningless outside of their electoral district anyway). In most cases, I think people care about which way the vote went (yeah or nay) not what the “score” was.

  2. Danny Williams realizes who the real problem and it lives at the PMO’s office.

    The coward who was afraid to face a parliamentary vote 2 months ago has crafted a budget landmine especially for Newfoundland. He’s guaranteed Conservatives will have no chance of getting elected in that province for a very long time. This is a winning strategy?

    • More significantly, Danny hates the CONSERVATIVE budget, so he launches his, what, 294th War of National Salvation against…. the LIBERALS?

      The man needs a sanity check.

    • Speaking of cowards afraid to face votes, what legislature sits the least of any in Canada, and how many times has Williams even bothered to attend his own question period in the past five years?

      Harper is no pillar of democracy, but compared to Williams he just might be.

  3. Just like Danny Williams doesn’t care what Labrador has to say with only 5% of the population but most of the province’s natural resources. What a phoney sham of a province. The MLAs for Labrador should vote with their people, not with the St. John’s Avalon base provincial parties.

  4. I think the expat misunderstands the term “tyranny of the majority”. It’s not synonymous with “majority rule”. The fact that the government (in theory, though rarely in practice) has to receive the backing of the majority of the population does not a tyranny make. That’s called DEMOCRACY. Now, if the majority were consistently enacting policies that unduly harmed the minority in favour of the majority, then one has to worry about the “tyranny of the majority” in which the majority pays no heed to the needs of the minority.

    Frankly, for most of my life the majority has been shoveling money into Nfl/Lab hand over fist. It’s gonna take me a bit longer to conclude that they’re now suffering under some sort of tyrannical oppression.

    Man, Danny’s really got the people convinced they’re hard done by though, doesn’t he!?!

  5. Harper you just kissed off 6 NF and Labrador seats. Brilliant tactician and strategist that you aren’t.

  6. NL – if your theory were correct, there wouldn’t have been an equalization in the first place, because until recently, year after year after year Ontario sent more money to Ottawa than it got back.

    Guess who got it? You (of course you are not the only one).

    You argument is emotional and not based in fact. If your argument were valid, why would the ‘have’ provinces ever elect a federal party who was going to give our money away to another province?

    Maybe we just thought it was the right thing to do.

    • Just for the record, even once the government of Ontario started receiving equalization payments, the people of Ontario STILL send more money to Ottawa than we get back in services.

      Until you read that the government of Ontario is getting around $8-9 billion a year in equalization back from Ottawa, you can safely assume that the people of my province are still sending more money to the feds than we get back. The equalization money is it’s own separate pile. Ontario’s now taking from that (relatively) small discrete pile more than we’re giving to it (barely), but if you look beyond the narrow equalization monies to the entirety of the federal government’s funds, we in Ontario still send way more to Ottawa in federal taxes than we get back in services.

      • Actually – that’s not true. Ontario receives overwhelmingly disproportionate amounts from Ottawa via numerous programs and departments – Industry, Immigration, Justice, all of the services related to the border, Via Rail, etc. Not to mention the preopnderence of federal public sevrnat jobs in the province, and all of the federal infrastruture in the National Capital Region. But in Ontario’s calculation of what it receives, it only counts transfers – afterall, these other programs are “national”. So, as an example, when one single Ontario University receives nearly 50% of the entire amount of research allocated to universities, that’s a “national” program and gets excluded, but if per capita EI is higher in NL, well then all of a sudden Ontario is hard done by. I don’t buy into Williams’ nonsense for a minute, but it is no less credible than the ridiculous “23 billion gap” that McGuinty et al. have been spewing.

        The best way to end this bickering and bean counting – let one single level of government collect taxes and administer services in this country. It’s a far more transparent method than shuffling money around in the name of unenforceable and incalculable “equality”.

        • It’s not “disproportionate” if it serves more people.

          As for one Ontario University receiving a disproportionate level of research dollars, what can I say?

          Learn to write better grant proposals.

          How that equates to per capita spending on EI being higher in NL I’ll never know! I think I can make an argument that U of T presents more deserving research proposals to the various funding agencies than most other universities, and I’m certainly willing to try, if you can explain to me why an unemployed person in St. John’s needs more money to live on than an unemployed person in Toronto; or how helping an immigrant family settle in Quebec costs twice as much as helping an immigrant family settle in Ontario.

  7. Then why do you need the $1.5B? You should be letting it go!

    • Gd politics! As long as iggy actually believes what he’s saying. Otherwise its more cynical wedge politics sigh!!

  8. If we’re talking about per capita GDP Newfoundland may lead the provinces, but I’m pretty sure that all three territories are higher than Newfoundland.

  9. Bill Casey voted against his own party’s budget – quite different. The Libs are voting against another party’s budget and if they have enough votes to do so, let them make a statement.

    Too much about nothing.

    Now, if they were to vote against their own party’s (Liberals) budget – that would be a whole different game.

    • Well put .! When ” looks like a strong leader ” tops ‘ Constituent’s wishes ” as a reason to place an otherwise meaningless vote the Party Leader must wear wigs , make up and carry a pocket compact ?

  10. Peter MacKay is from “Nova Scotia”…..

    • He’s the “political ” minister for Atlantic Canada.

      • More significantly, he is political minister for NL.

  11. Good shout out to the weasel premier of Nova Scotia – Wobbly Roddie.

  12. But the clock is ticking.

  13. This cuts absolutely no ice with me. You can remove the (sarcasm) tags as far as I’m concerned.

    NL strikes it big with oil. Well, congratulations. But why on earth should all that oil money now pouring into provincial coffers not count as government revenue vis-à-vis equalisation payments? Is it fake money? Can’t use it to pay down debt?

    Oh no, you see, the ROC owes NL a living! Because NL is such a special place! Because Newfoundlanders are always such hardcore Canadian patriots, constantly beaming with love of their fellow countrymen! (sarcasm)

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