Rathgeber on the House: 'We must restore the role of its members' - Macleans.ca

Rathgeber on the House: ‘We must restore the role of its members’

A Conservative MP considers his purpose


The Conservative MP considers the meaning of everything that happened last week.

I have been quite vocal for the last year suggesting that a Member of Parliament’s role, in fact Parliament’s role, is to hold the Government to account. Parliament has existed for over 800 years to hold the Crown to account for how it spent the nation’s taxes.

Now within caucus, there are obviously differing understandings of this role both in concept and in application. There are those who believe members, owing their election to the Party and the Party Leader, are essentially an extension of the Prime Minister’s Office’s Communications Branch. Their purpose: to read prepared lines in the House and then return to the ridings on break weeks to continue the selling of the Government’s messaging. Any straying from approved communication lines is viewed as going rogue.

I take a more nuanced view of my role as a backbench caucus member. As a member of the government caucus, I am loyal to the party and to the leader under whose banner I was elected. Accordingly, I feel obliged to support the Government’s legislative agenda and I believe my voting record reflects consistency in that regard. However, supporting the Government is not in my view tantamount to blindly and without thinking supporting every detail the Government says or does.


Rathgeber on the House: ‘We must restore the role of its members’

  1. Wow, somebody read their job description.

  2. ” There are those who believe members are essentially an extension of the Prime Minister’s Office’s Communications Branch …. any straying from approved communication lines is viewed as going rogue.”

    emma goldman – the political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.

  3. I thought Harper smoothed this whole thing over. Rathgeber doesn’t sound too smoothed over, does he?

    • I can’t WAIT for Rathberger to demonstrate his principled independence in the house. I bet he’s gonna roll his eyes, or maybe his heckling of the opposition will be like he totally doesn’t mean it. There might even be a passive-aggressive comment (whispered, of course).

  4. I’m sure that there are many CPC true believers who would love to see this guy fall off a cliff. And many more that would gladly give him a push.

  5. I like how his view is different from backbench monkeys just simply “more nuanced”. Basically Rathgeber still supports everything the Government says and does (even if he doesn’t agree with it) and occasionally will write a blog post in his own words. This really is a sad state of affairs.

    • And HE’S the maverick.

  6. “Now within the caucus, there are obviously differing understandings…..” Listen, certainly in some part “members owe their election to the Party and Party Leader” because we have no idea of whether or not they would have been elected had they not aligned themselves with the party. That being said, if they disagree with the party on issues that to them are defining of who they are…such as separation issues or abortion issues, by all means, leave the party. If you cannot live with what the party is proposing then don’t! Move on…cross the floor or become an independent. No one expects an MP to “blindly and without thinking support every detail the government says or does” but surely disagreements are vetted in caucus meetings rather than in the house.

    • Floor crossers usually lose next election, and indies cannot raise funds like a party candidate, so they also usually lose. So it appears that keeping one’s job as MP depends on also keeping one’s mouth shut and blindly going along with the party line. Garth Turner took his party’s inside fights to his blog. He was kicked out of caucus and sat as indie for awhile, and eventually joined LPC caucus. And then, he lost. Because most of us really despise those who run under one banner, but pop up under another one. Wonder how he’s making out these days; I used to love reading his gossipy blog.

      • “Floor crossers usually lose next election”

        Is that necessarily true? I’d be curious to see a quantified analysis of that…

        Anecdotally, yes, Garth Turner lost, so did Helena Guergis. So did Wajid Khan.

        Scott Brison crossed the floor however and retained his seat. So did Belinda Stronach (she won in 2006 post-crossing, before deciding not to run in 2008). John Nunziata won once as an independent. David Kilgour kept winning after crossing.

        I’m not sure one could definitively say floor crossing leads to losing.

        • Sometimes? Occasionally? Once it happened?

      • Okay so you are saying that a candidate should “use” the party to get elected even if they fundamentally disagree on important issues and then do everything they can to discredit the party while remaining in the party?

        • That’s when we get the other side of the coin : the parties throw members out of their caucus. If I had to agree with 100 % of the platform and positions of a party, I am sure I would never be a member of a party. There are always different views in groups. You see that around a dinner table in a family home, in a board where there’s only a dozen or so directors, so it’s quite normal that there would be dissent in a party with tens of thousands of members over certain positions, and in a caucus of 150 MPs. The best thing is to let these people speak their minds, IMO. In the end they will run into people who will vehemently oppose them.
          There is a difference between government, which must speak with one voice, and parliament where we have made sure that our representatives can speak freely to a much greater extent than you and me, to the point of being protected from prosecution for libel, for example. I say, give them all the rope they need to hang themselves with.

          • We aren’t talking about agreeing with 100% of the platform. We are talking about something pretty critical in terms of garnering support by women for the party. Abortion is a big social issue. Gay marriage is another big social issue. That is why Harper assured people he wouldn’t touch the laws. If these MPs cannot in good conscience live with that decision, they should leave the party and join one that wants to change those laws….oops there isn’t such a party. Then start your own.

        • In Alberta, where only one party ever wins (with the exception of Strathcona, of course), yes. Winning the Conservative riding nomination is more important than campaigning in the general election.

    • free speech in a closet, nice

      • No not at all. Rather it is simply asking perspective candidates to do some honest self-reflection prior to signing up and running as the candidate for a particular political party. If you cannot live with what the party stands for on issues that are very important to you, then you should be prepared to walk away from the party. It is not like it comes a shock them that the party was not going to change the abortion laws if it had a majority. They knew that and still chose to become candidates. Would the Liberals or NDP treat them differently?

        • It’s not about the Liberals or the NDP. It’s not even specifically about the CPC. It’s about the principle that an MP for any party does not donate his brain, his tongue, his principles and his entire character to be used by the party as it sees fit.

          In this specific case, Rathgeber has stated plainly that he does and will support the party on actual governance issues but he reserves the right to think and speak for himself. Anyone who objects to that, anyone who asserts that that is simply too low a level of dedication, has been poisoned by partisanship. Hell, even partisanship is too weak a word, what you’re promoting is the party as cult.

          Further to that, you claim that the CPC was clear on their stand about abortion but I’d suggest that they were less than clear because of the signals they sent to social conservatives out of the other side of their mouths. For instance, refusing to fund health services overseas if the services included abortion. This was widely viewed, and was intended IMO, as a subtle bit of sympathy for the anti-abortion sentiment.

          Again I come back to a point I’ve made before, the House of Commons voted to condemn a magazine for being insulting to Quebec but they are so spooked by abortion that they refuse to even consider a motion that would condemn abortion as an expression of misogyny. Not only will they not condemn misogynistic slaughter, they will denounce and ostracize and silence anyone who expresses a wish to denounce it.

          I’m pro-choice but this is some truly backward thinking being displayed by the CPC and by the other parties in parliament. All of the parties participated in this horrible display of moral cowardice around Warawa’s motion. We should not lose sight of that and we should not let any of them off the hook.

          • I find it fascinating that the person who chastised the CPC for not funding overseas abortions was Hilary Clinton. She is a woman who is a member of government that agreed not to fund abortions in its OWN COUNTRY. Pot meet kettle! As for your suggestion that this is moral cowardice, I would again remind you that this is strictly about sex-selection abortion. What Warawa and his friends are doing is trying to get the members of parliament to discuss an issue that most Canadians find appalling with the hope that constituents will pressure their MPs to support laws against sex-selection abortion. Given that there is really no indication sex-selection abortion is occurring in Canada and that this is just a sneaky way of introducing a broader agenda of changing abortion laws that have already been introduced in motions and defeated, why should their agenda be given any further attention in parliament. If their agenda was to outlaw homosexuality or change gay marriage laws, would you be so determined that they should have their freedom to speak and perhaps change laws that affect peoples’ rights?

          • If their agenda was to outlaw homosexuality or change gay marriage laws, would you be so determined that they should have their freedom to speak and perhaps change laws that affect peoples’ rights?

            Yes. Of course. Where better?

  7. Wonder what Justin thinks about the role of the MP’s? Actually, I wonder if anyone here even cares what Justin thinks about it all. Being silent is good enough for Justin.

    Liberal MP’s not caring one way or the other whether a committee votes down a proposal to bring a private member motion to the floor. (Does anyone here know that Liberals were sitting on that committee and they, too, voted to NOT have the motion reach the floor of the House?)

    But it doesn’t matter. As long as Justin is quiet, he will be the real hero. How pathetic this political charade is becoming.

    • Unless one has read J. Trudeau’s platform, which I gather you have not. FYI, it’s on his website.

  8. “I’m okay. It’s all those other guys that are the problem.”