The meaning of David Wilks

Sonya Bell draws five lessons.

Stephen Harper gives his backbenchers less face time than his soon-to-be-published hockey book — he reportedly worked on it 15 minutes every day. When asked about the opportunity to raise his concerns with his party and the prime minister, Wilks explained: “We can do that at national caucus, which is every Wednesday from 9:30 until noon. We have about a 10 minute period in which we can speak to the prime minister.”

Mr. Wilks’ 12 minutes in front of a video camera are remarkable: a fascinating little moment in our democracy.

As it pertains specifically to C-38, the situation is complicated. On the one hand, the case of Mr. Wilks raises a legitimate conundrum. A budget is so fundamental to a government that a government backbencher would certainly have to divorce himself from his caucus to vote against it. And if, this long after an election, a budget was defeated—if a sufficient number of government backbenchers voted against it or skipped the vote—the government would fall and we would proceed to an election. A vote on a budget bill is unlike a vote on almost any other bill.

But the House is not faced with merely a budget. It is not simply being asked to approve the main financial priorities or spending estimates of the government. It is faced with a bill that contains dozens of initiatives. And so it raises the sorts of questions a Young Stephen Harper once asked. How can an MP offer a simple yes or no when 60 questions are being asked? How is Parliament, as a group of 308 MPs, supposed to properly review such a thing? How can even a member of the government caucus possibly grapple with such a bill? A government backbencher could strongly support the government’s general fiscal policy, but still be a bit uneasy about, say, expanding American police powers in Canadian waters. Perhaps he’d like to see that studied by a committee.

Whatever Mr. Wilks’ official support for C-38, he does seem to think it might be broken up. He should be pressed to explain. And he should be asked about life as a backbench MP.

At the same time, every Conservative backbencher should probably now be asked by their local newspaper to respond to the issues raised by Mr. Wilks. And the New Democrats and Liberals should be asked about how they would manage better. All MPs should be asked about what goes on here and whether it should be better.

The parliamentary system requires a certain loss of power, a certain sacrifice to the greater party. But MPs are only as powerless as they allow themselves to be.




Browse

The meaning of David Wilks

  1. “But MPs are only as powerless as they allow themselves to be.”

    Spot on, Wherry. MPs allow themselves to be treated like eunuchs in exchange for lavish salary and pension, if our MPs were less obsequious they would not feel so useless. I honestly do not understand why MPs don’t use their power – Tories don’t have a large majority, all it would take is 15/20 MPs to take a stand and say enough of this nonsense. Cons can ask Cabinet members more difficult questions during QP, more scrutiny of legislation during committees, form groups of like minded MPs to influence Harper.

    MPs don’t have to behave like potted plants, they choose to do so. It is all about creative destruction – make Harper behave like the right winger he supposedly is or bring down the government. Are there any neo-liberals or libertarians in Con caucus, what do they think about Harper abandoning his principles so he can behave like Libs and run massive deficits and continually enlarging The State? What do so-cons think about Cons lusty embrace of abortion, that is is clever of the Government to murder as many babies as possible?

  2. “We can do that at national caucus, which is every Wednesday from 9:30 until noon. We have about a 10 minute period in which we can speak to the prime minister.”

    Daily Telegraph ~ Attending meetings lowers IQ:

    Meetings make people stupid because they impair their ability to think for themselves, scientists have found. The performance of people in IQ tests after meetings is significantly lower than if they are left on their own, with women more likely to perform worse than men.

    Researchers at the Virginia Tech Crilion Research institute in the US said people’s performance dropped when they were judged against their peers. Read Montague, who led the study, said: “You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain-dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain-dead as well.”

  3. “At the same time, every Conservative backbencher should probably now be
    asked by their local newspaper to respond to the issues raised by Mr.
    Wilks.”

    Absolutely. And hopefully some of those local reporters will push back against the inevitable canned talking points they will get in response to their questions.

    • And because the media has let us down far too many times to count, perhaps we citizens should ask our local MP (of whatever stripe) to respond to the issues raised by Mr. Wilks.
      We can make this guy something of a hero in spite of himself, if we try.

Sign in to comment.