Conservative caucus unrest mounts

Defeated MPs aren’t invited to the post-election caucus meeting. Trouble brewing.

(Ryan Remiorz/CP)

(Ryan Remiorz/CP)

In a sign of increasingly heavy-handed attempts to quell internal Conservative-party unrest following the defeat of Stephen Harper’s government, the party is planning a post-election caucus meeting to which defeated candidates would not be invited.

This is a highly unusual step for any party to take. As a rule, both newly elected and returning MPs, and incumbent MPs who ran but were defeated, are invited to the first meeting after caucus. Defeated MPs still have flight privileges for a short time after an election, so they can return to Ottawa to clean out their offices. As a result, they are usually able to come back for one final caucus meeting with their former colleagues.

Those meetings can sometimes get hot for a leader, and a party apparatus, who failed to secure re-election. Defeated MPs have just spent months knocking on doors, and become conduits for the anger they heard from voters. It is apparently for that reason that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s allies in the party leadership, including party president John Walsh and Harper’s chief of staff, Ray Novak, are not inviting defeated candidates for the first post-election caucus meeting, apparently in mid-November: They want to contain a rising tide of anger against Harper and his campaign.

A senior member of the Conservative caucus said several MPs are “strongly fighting” the move to bar defeated incumbents. But post-election disarray in the party—symbolized by the election-night defeat of John Duncan, the caucus whip, whose office would normally organize such meetings—has made it difficult to push back against the plan.

“Whoever is making this decision doesn’t understand team,” the senior member of the Conservative caucus said, on condition of anonymity. They may not even understand tactics: Embittered former MPs, deprived of a chance to vent, may take their anger to local newspapers, as some have already done since the election.

Senior Conservative sources said there is already growing concern that either Harper, or people who were close to him while he was Prime Minister, are seeking to organize his succession. Some members of the party’s national council are calling for a leadership election as early as May 2016, which would give an advantage to members who are already well-organized. The member who most closely fits that description is Jason Kenney.

Kenney will have competition. Simcoe–Grey MP Kellie Leitch, not one of the most prominent members of the former government, is said to have an organization already in place, including Andy Pringle, who was chief of staff to former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, and pollsters Nick Kouvalis and Richard Ciano.

The attempt to shield the Conservative party leadership from criticism is consistent with patterns that set in during the campaign itself. Sources said Novak was so defensive of Harper that he angrily rejected reports that the leader had become a personal liability for the Conservatives on the campaign trail. And there is growing concern in the party over Harper’s apparent plan to stay on as an MP.

“We can’t have the frank discussions that are necessary for renewal if Mr. Harper is there in the room, like Diefenbaker after he stopped being Tory leader,” one MP said.

Paul Wells: Inside Trudeau’s epic victory


Conservative caucus unrest mounts

  1. “Whoever is making this decision doesn’t understand team”

    And this surprises who, exactly? Harper has never understood team; there was him, and there were the minions.

    • None of them understand team. Bickering parties of idiocracy and loonacy. All want to pretend to serve us while using the tax an to feed the lobby groups that buy their popularity. When a name like Chretien gets stale with broken promises, we will Get Harper. When Harper failed we get new false hope with Trudeau…and he too will someday be stale and replaced. We get rigged ballots, only Orwellian Statism, tax greed, debt to the unborn and devalued Canada….

      As we are a failing country. Do our GDP in USD, Yuan sable world concurrences and you will see why I say, Canada is a devaluing nation.

    • Mr. Harper does not do “team”. Very smart but, at the same time, very dumb.

  2. Seems like a pretty shabby way to treat people who just went to war for you.
    It will be interesting to hear the stories come out once Harper is completely out of the way

    • “Seems like a pretty shabby way to treat people who just went to war for you.” And that,my friend is the operative phrase. because when soldiers return from war to a nation that is ungrateful, you usually get a “civil war”. By the time this is over, there will be a Conservative and a Progressive Party. They made the Chretien-Martin Liberals look “chummy” by comparison.

  3. History repeats. False promises, false hope, neo-Cons did themselves in. Even small c conservatives like me could not vote neo-Conservatives.

    So false hope Liberals get another crack at disappointing us, then will be back to Con party false hopes. The cycle repeats as none of them really represent us. All they know is tax greed, debt to the unborn and devalued money as a hidden tax. They punish savers, investors, pensions and wonder why economically productive people are not spending with food prices being taxed and rising fast.

    They both pump us full of propaganda, lies, use media to program us… Yet in WORLD terms, Canda is a depreciating and devaluing country or Orwellian Lib/Con/NDP statism. As the low moral voter thinks with fear, greed of other peoples money…union cards, all parasites ont he productive taxpayer slave class.

    Sure glad 93% of my investments/pensions are in USD and foreign, as not to be part of the devaluation tax of statism only ballots.

    • So your answer is to invest in an oligarchy that makes Canadian politics seem like a democratic paradise? One of us is missing the logic… and I don’t think it’s me.

  4. Aside from Robert Fife, Ottawa pundits and columnists have a lot to answer for in allowing this third world wannabe tyrant to roam so unencumbered by facts and checks through the Canada we had built over 50 years.
    From a Stalin like show trial in the House involving some minor Atomic Energy functionary, to a hideous North Korea monument on the main thoroughfare through the capital, to all those big black tinted SUV’s rolling through the capital.
    Those “longer I’m Prime Minister” scenarios Wells admired so much should be wiped off the face of Canada shortly. Census returned, prison farms back, scientists restored, UN respected. On and on.
    Conrad had it right: “sadistic Victorian schoolmaster”.
    Let’s hope the Progressives come back and take back the party of Bill Davis, Stanield, and so many others.

    • Beautiful post, JW….I can’t add a thing.

      I agree totally

    • Hear! Hear! The clueless conbots are always ragging CBC for their biased coverage when, quite frankly, I believe that the CBC grew progressively more frightened of the Conservatives as time went on and their political coverage reflected that. Not so CTV, they have been hunting the head of Harper for the past 3 years and never seemed to be intimidated by the PMO hurt squad. In fact, they seemed to relish getting the PMO worked in a twist. Any good news organization should – and I hope they hold the Liberals that I voted for on Monday to the same standards.

      • CBC had more reason than any media organization to fear the Tories. CBC’s Board & Presidency are comprised entirely of hand picked Harper appointees, most of whom are on record as having dontated money to the Tory Party. CBC’s Board hires the executives who hire the producers, hosts, & reporters under them. This is an inconvenient fact many Tory supporting CBC haters either ignore, or stay wilfully ignorant of. Many cling, instead, to a fantasy that CBC is some kind of completely rogue organization, a law unto itself, with no gov’t influence or oversight. Pure hooey, folks. Hand picked Harperites have been in complete control of CBC’s governing Board for many years bow. If people don’t like how CBC is run, the blame rests with CBC’s Harperite Board & Presidency which must be hiring the wrong people to run the place.
        Yes, CBC has had much good reason to fear Harper’s gang.

    • Great post, thank you.

    • Once again, I am forced to ask why macleans allows this same blog to spam its comments section in order to shamelessly promote itself.

  5. When your “baby” turns “18”, you have to let it go. Don’t be a “hovering” parent.

  6. Typical of the Harper conservatives, circle the wagons and shoot inward.

  7. Soundly beaten by Trudeau-lite, humiliated by Ford Brothers rallies and race baiting hot lines, Harper STILL muzzles, excludes, suffocates with paranoid control. The country may be waking from its ten year stupor of Harper rule, but apparently the Conservative party suffers on.

  8. Ray Novak sounds like a man with a personality disorder – denying the obvious while at the same time trying to prevent the obvious from reaching the ears of his leader. Tell me again how these were the most brilliant strategists in the Canadian political sphere!

    They are still in denial for the most part. Diane Finlay was on the political shows this afternoon talking up Harper, denying problems in the platform and essentially closing ranks. They remain clueless about the reasons they are in opposition. When asked how the party could better appeal to women, she twice stated that it did – with a range of family friendly policies and tax cuts coupled with strong security. She might as well have been in the final days of the campaign – the reality was so lacking in her speech. The Conservative Party essentially reduced women down to their usefulness as incubators, birthers and rearers of babies. Since I have freely chosen to not use my body parts for those functions, I am of little interest to the Conservative Party – they don’t even recognise the existence of me and others in my lifestyle. They will pay for that in the near future.

  9. The guy I think would make a good Conservative leader is Michael Chong.

    Paul Wells, what do you think? Would he be interested? Does he have the royal jelly? Does he speak French?

    • Only if Ray Novak approves it would seem.

  10. They need to warm up the bus one last time and throw Harper under it. He is still trying to bully everyone around him.

  11. Paul Wells’ The Making of Prime Minister novella is not allowing comments.

    Interesting as it’s a very very long read and must have taken weeks to write.
    He primed us well by writing his “My bias is all in your head” column. Yet, the essay is a glowing, fawning “magical” portrayal of the new leader.

    Still, he must know that Mr. Trudeau can’t take policy advisors everywhere and to every mic. Reporters [if they do their homework] will ask questions where Mr. Trudeau will have to dig deep to show he knows stuff and honestly, from what I saw on the debate stages, I’m not sure he’s prepared.

    • Man, bias *is* in the eye of the beholder. I saw a lot of positive things said about Harper’s tenure.

    • Sigh. You know he just won an election right? An election where he faced reporters every single day, and took questions from them every single day? And he did not have his “policy advisers” standing net to him whispering the answers to him before he answered the questions.

      The only thing that you have proven with your comment is that Trudeau is not the stupid one.

      • Wow Gayle1, can you try for a more civilized tone?
        His win was engineered by some very savvy people in Washington. And you’re right – he did not have his policy advisers with him at all times and that’s precisely why he could not answer many questions that were more in depth. Witness his BC outdoor interview just weeks ago, where the question was too much for him so he kept saying: “next question please” – 5 times! He was blushing the entire time…. That’s a problem Gayle!

        • You just basically called the Prime Minister stupid and you want me to use a more civilized tone? Clearly you did not get the result you wanted last Monday. Your bitterness is showing.

    • And that, Elizabeth15, is exactly what Harper made sure would happen.

      Harper found an Achilles’ heel in the electoral model and Parliamentary system that ultimately doomed his immediate predecessors. He milked them for all they were worth and – design or not – laid the rotting carcasses out for one and all to see in all their regal splendor. And he’s left his successor – the one guy whose exit from Parliamentary life was his ultimate goal – with no room to breathe. Here on out, Trudeau and his successors are going to be watched like hawks on all sides, without a break. And he gets only one shot.

    • He was ready to be elected and he is more then ready for new challenges to lead this great country from 10 years of darkness under Harper’s rule.
      Like former PM Brian Mulroney said two years ago warning Cons not to underestimate Mr. Trudeau. It looks like they were not listening to his advice and the overwhelming number of Canadians decided on October 19, it was time for the change. Sunny days are back, whether you like it or not!!

    • At least Trudeau allows and answers questions. Unlike the last PM.

  12. The former MPs have always been welcome to a general Caucus meeting as long as they preserved Caucus confidentiality. It does not matter how many years they were out of Caucus, they will always have House of Commons access privilege as long as they live. For employees of a Party to try and deny a former MP to be in Caucus, is a deep disrespect for the traditions of the House, and the height of bad form. Former MPs, if they understand the role, should just show up and walk in. Let those who are trying do the wrong thing, face the Caucus as a whole and the general will of the MPs in the room, about excluding honoured guests.

  13. You know who else stuck around after the end of his term and came back…? Vlad (the impaler) Putin. Am I the only one who sees the similarities?

    I think if Harper sticks around, he is going to tear the party apart. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people.

    • I do not understand what your reference to Putin has to do with Harper?
      Recent public opinion shows that Putin’s approval ratings are in high 80% by Russian people.
      Harper approval rating by Canadians is in low 30!! Harper lost election badly by the leader “that was not ready, yet” and Putin never lost an election.
      I do not see any similarities between two of them.
      Do you?

  14. Why would anyone expect Harper to treat his party’s veterans any better than he has treated the armed forces veterans? Nothing nutty this man does should surprise anyone. We have had ten years to learn how he works.

  15. People who donated to the CPC should be outraged after reading this article. Their money was wasted.

  16. It looks as though the legacies of the Harper government control will live on. The question that the conservatives should ask themselves is who is the party. The PMO or the elected representatives?

    The longer Harper hangs around the worse it will get. For the good of the party he should leave quickly and not linger. But he will probably stay on to deal with legacy control as he always was about controlling the message.

  17. Those defeated MP’s finally gets to see how it feels like to not be “in” with the party… They may as well be “child pornagraphers”

  18. Taliban Jack must be enjoying all of this, not the NDP losses of course, but the Conservative turmoil and confusion.

  19. You don’t suppose that Harpo is staying on as an MP so he can claim Parliamentary Privilege so that he can dodge getting called as a witness at the DUFFY trial, if he gets called he either has to admit he’s a LIAR or commit Perjury!!

  20. I knew Harper’s hiding in the closet meant a lot more about the character of the man than the general coverage gave it.