The Warawa Affair -

The Warawa Affair

What’s going on here? And where do we go from here?


Bruce Anderson considers the concerns raised by the case of Mark Warawa.

Mr. Harper’s party wants him to grow a bigger, more durable long-term coalition, one that attracts more women, more urban, and more centrist voters. His assurances that the question of abortion will not be re-opened are not incidental; they a foundation stone of this effort. In that sense, paradoxically, last week’s muzzle debate was probably not harmful to his interests.

Still, the cumulative effect of too much message management is a weaker, less vibrant political system, and change would be welcome. Whether or not you share Mark Warawa’s views on abortion, who wants a Parliament where he has no ability to state them?

Chris Selley considers the way forward.

How did we get here? In a column in the Ottawa Citizen this week, William Watson proposed that it’s simply our own fault: Modern Canadian journalism goes haywire at any deviation from the “Toronto media mainstream” — even when a party leader makes it clear that the deviation represents only the opinion of one backbencher. Alberta’s Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith tried the big-tent approach when a pastor candidate expressed Biblically inspired negative views on homosexuality; it didn’t go so well; now she demands obedience just like everyone else. Leaders must be “dictatorial,” said Mr. Watson, or perish.

I don’t buy it. What Canada needs, first of all, are leaders who are willing to respect their legislatures and to articulate a defence of their most basic procedures. And second of all, they need leaders with enough charisma and perspicacity simply to dismiss shrieky news reports and opposition hysterics. The ability to scoff or laugh off silly controversies is a huge political asset, and in this hyperbolic age a rare one. Mr. Harper certainly doesn’t have it.

Here is what I wrote in response to William Watson’s column.

Meanwhile, the riding associations of some of the Conservative backbenchers involved seem supportive.

New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson, who on March 28 backed Warawa’s right to speak, also seems to have support from his local riding group. “I think he’s doing a wonderful job,” said Lynn Thornton, president of the New Brunswick Southwest electoral district association. “There are certain rights that everyone has and he’s speaking up for that right.”

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Doug Williams, vice-president of the New Brunswick Southwest EDA.

As a general principle, I imagine voters would generally prefer MPs who possessed an ability for independent thought. Whether voters would necessarily support those expressions of independent thought would obviously depend on the thought expressed and there remains the support a political party could withhold from a candidate and the difficulty an independent candidate has in getting elected. (How many of even the most admirable members of Parliament would have struggled to get elected without a party affiliation?) But the hope here is that more expressions of independent thought—and more space for independent thought—might make the individual candidate and MP a more relevant factor, not simply in Parliament, but also, ultimately, to voters.


The Warawa Affair

  1. ‘Mr. Harper’s party wants him to grow a bigger, more durable long-term coalition, one that attracts more women, more urban, and more centrist voters. His assurances that the question of abortion will not be re-opened are not incidental; they a foundation stone of this effort.’

    That in mind, social conservatives should no longer be under any illusion that their issues will be advanced by a CPC government.

    • I don’t think any social conservatives are under the impression that the CPC is a hardcore social conservative party. But I do think they have confidence that the CPC won’t attack social conservative issues the way the NDP and Liberals would.

      Sometimes it’s not about voting for the party that will advance your interests the most, but voting for the one that would do the least amount of damage. The same reasoning applies to fiscal conservative’s. They’re likely not very excited with the CPC’s tenure in that regard, but they’re also not going to go out and vote for the NDP’s higher taxes, more government spending, or the Liberals expensive social experiments.

      • I think you’re right in that so cons don’t see the CPC as a hardcore so-con party — at this point, that’s obvious — but the fact that you’ve got some so-con MPs getting restless shows there’s a constituency that isn’t exactly satsified, either. Is an indefinite holding pattern good enough for them? Maybe it is, I don’t know.

        ‘Sometimes it’s not about voting for the party that will advance your interests the most, but voting for the one that would do the least amount of damage.’

        Those so-con voters, however, might just stay home and not vote at all… or not donate to the party… or pound signs in their front lawns. Same goes for the fiscal conservatives, particularly if the Tories fail to balance the budget by ’15.

        • For sure it’s a possibility that they just stay home. But they’re also bright enough to understand that not voting for the CPC is essentially a vote for the Libs/Dips, and they know that the Libs/Dips would aggressively attack their beliefs. But I guess we’ll have to wait till 2015 to find out.

          • How the bleep would they attack their beliefs? Same-sex marriage is law, and so is abortion. How does it get worse? You DO know this is scaremongering akin to a Lib or Dipper screaming ‘hidden agenda! hidden agenda!’ right?

          • Same sex marriage is law, thanks to the Liberals. There is no abortion law at all, which is why the debate comes up on annual basis.

            The only policy Junior’s been able to commit to thus far is legalizing marijuana. He’s also said Albertans aren’t fit to run the country, presumably because they’re too socially conservative. So no, it’s not anything like the “hidden agenda” BS, because these are statements he’s put on the record.

            Junior’s agenda is clear as day, and it will go against many things social conservatives believe in.

          • Allowing those who want to to consume marijuana is the “attack” on conservative beliefs you’re talking about? That’s it?

          • “Vote Conservative: It isn’t going to get any better than this, but at least it won’t get any worse.” Inspirational. Where do I send my donation? Can I get a lawn sign?

          • You can pay $150 to go to the Liberals “mini-convention” in Toronto tomorrow afternoon where Junior will be delivering that exact message!

          • How about “Vote Conservative — at least we don’t hate Albertans?”

          • Absolutely. While the CPC may do nothing to restrict abortion or same-sex marriage, under the Libs/Dips it’ll be forced same-sex marriage and abortions for everyone.

          • When we have an NDP MP standing up in parliament and accusing another MP of being a sexist pig for telling a young woman she’d be “a good wife”, then I don’t think such fears are completely unfounded. Junior’s already made it clear that the only policy he really believes firmly enough in to talk about at this point in time is legalizing marijuana.

          • Not unfounded at all. But how do you think it’ll go down, NotRick? A registry of the unmarried who are then forced to marry others of the same gender at a certain age? A ban on opposite-sex marriage?

  2. There are two issues here and of all the media I would hope Aaron would keep them separate.

    There is the issue of the MP’s rights & responsibilities. To me, this seems crystal clear. The Liberals, NDP & Conservatives on the committee that ruled Warawa’s private member’s bill inadmissible were wrong (and stupid in the case of the Libs&NDP in not reversing their decision upon appeal). The rules associated with an MP’s right to speak must take precedence over the convention of a Party whip organizing the order of MP’s.

    Nothing above prevents SH from telling Warawa not to raise the abortion issue, nor does it prevent him from tossing him from caucus if he does speak on it. Warawa has a right to address Parliament but that does not mean it will be consequence free.

    The second issue is whether the tight control is politically wise. If Warwa did use his right to speak out or submit a bill should Harper toss him out. That is an interesting discussion, because tossing Warawa would cost the Conservatives a lot of revenue. Nevertheless, it is the first issue that is really important.

    • I wholeheartedly agree.

    • I would ask you a question StewartSmith. I don’t think the Liberals and NDP are stupid….Stephane Dion was sittling on that committee…so why do you think they blocked the Warawa’s private member’s bill? Why would they not want the bill introduced into parliament? They claimed that Warawa’s issue of sex-selection abortion had already been dealt with in the previous motion that was brought forth and defeated so this motion which dealt with only sex-selection abortion was a replication.

      I believe that SH has told Warawa and the others that he doesn’t want them to address the abortion issue. After all, he told the whole country he wasn’t going to change the laws. Will he suffer for the tight control or will the women who voted CPC based on his promise not to change abortion laws or gay marriage laws be glad that he stepped in and put an end to this farce? Further will Warawa leave the party not knowing if he truly has the support of enough constituents to be re-elected as an independent? Surely he won’t be a fit with any other party so crossing the floor is not really an option.

  3. I’m all for MP’s being able to raise concerns in parliament whether they are personal concerns or those of their constituents.

    However given the dismal track record on pre-election transparency held by many parties and especially notably Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, should MPs have carte blanche to spout off on any cause they care to?

    In British Columbia “hide the candidate” is a regular tactic used by the Conservative Party during elections, particularly in urban ridings in and around Vancouver where one can’t often get a Conservative candidate to spout off on the record in any public discussion forum.

    If as candidates would be Conservative MPs aren’t allowed to speak freely in public before the election, do they really have a legitimate mandate to spout off on whatever they care to after the election?

    Stephen Harper isn’t worried about democratic legitimacy of course, but the rest of us should be.

  4. Do Canadian journos ever think what role they play in democracy and debate? Msm is not at all diverse, it has to be one of the least diverse professions in Canada. Why is there an msm and an ethnic media? We don’t have ‘mainstream’ accountants/doctors and ‘ethnic’ accountants/doctors – so I don’t understand why our journos think it is acceptable to be an entirely white profession.

    Other than The Sun chain and small town papers I never heard of, 94.7% of Canadian journos are white, middle class, atheists, keen supporters of infanticide, went to Western/Queens, Liberal/NDP supporters, and think it is perfectly normal for Montreal to be pedophile capital of North America and for Toronto to have a week dedicated to jew-bashing but it is beyond the pale to suggest homosexuality is a sin in Saskatewan. Our journos like to pretend that they are superior human beings who don’t have opinions/biases, they can rise above it all apparently, but it just aint so.

    What we need in Canada is for three papers, one for progressives, one for liberals/libertarians and one for conservatives and we should have a cacophonous debate to discover ‘truth’ of what Canadians want.

    • “…. 94.7% of Canadian journos are white, middle class, atheists, keen supporters of infanticide, went to Western/Queens, Liberal/NDP supporters”…blah, blah, etc.

      And 95.3% of your rants about msm are unfounded generalizations based on insubstantial stereotypes.

      If you find the existing media too whitebread and conventional, start your own alternative. With your keen critical faculties and the market demand you seem to think is out there for an alternative viewpoint, I’m sure it’ll be profitable and widely acclaimed right from the get-go.

      • I am not actually a billionaire meself, how many media corporations am I expected to pay for while operating my own corp? Why don’t you left wing types buy moronic offerings from our msm and then taxpayers wouldn’t be coerced into subsidizing it. Or better yet, send a few hundred million $$$ my way and I will produce proper news.

        – The Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) provides financial assistance to Canadian print magazines, non-daily newspapers and digital periodicals to enable them to overcome market disadvantages

        – Yahoo Inc. is making its shareholders yell Yahoo! again after its share price broke through its 52-week high a few days ago. One of its competitors, the Huffington Post, which is owned by AOL Inc., says its traffic continues to increase. So you’d think they’d all get together and at least send Canadian taxpayers a thank-you card. That’s because we’re subsidizing each of those firms, through licensing deals struck by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to sell its content to websites that include Yahoo, HuffingtonPost, and MSN.

        – But an examination of the Conservative government’s first five years in office shows it overspent those cabinet-approved ad budgets by $128 million — more than 37 per cent. Conservatives are under fire for their current, gauzy “economic action plan” media blitz, part of a $16-million campaign that is saturating Canadian airwaves this autumn.

        • Oh, I see…you expect other people to lose their money on media that purvey your own particular brand of “moronic offerings”.

          I’m pretty sure that if there was a market for your worldview, our much-revered free enterprise economy would have spawned a medium to cater to it. Funny how that doesn’t seem to have happened yet. Capitalist conspiracy? Publishers who are all just dumber than you?

          Or maybe just a worldview with no audience and no market?

  5. Anderson and Selley are both right on the mark. Anderson pointed out that message control is something every government that’s existed in recent memory has tried to exert. And as Selley pointed out, the MSM only plays “gotcha” journalism with the CPC. A perfect example is Justin Trudeau saying he doesn’t believe that Alberta should have a place in our democracy. That wasn’t reported by the MSM until a year later when Sun News got wind of it, and then they downplay it. Why? Because it isn’t out of the norm for downtown Toronto elites to share that opinion.

    But can you imagine the uproar if SH were to say that Quebecer’s weren’t fit to run the country? There would weeks of headlines, analysis and accusations of bigotry for years to come.

    Every PPG member was furious that Harper didn’t release a platform during the last election until the last minute. But those exact same people are now heaping praise upon Junior for not having a policy platform AT ALL.

    This very article is a fine example of the MSM distorting the issue. While Anderson’s column was about how muzzling MPs is not at all unique the CPC, Wherry obliterates that point from his excerpt, making it appear that Anderson was simply trying to justify the CPC’s “muzzling” of MPs. Wherry can’t even raise an actual important issue without adding his bias and trying to spin it as a problem only within the CPC.

    But there are plenty of examples of MPs from other parties being muzzled, but the MSM completely refuses to even acknowledge that they exist, because in their view, their only job is to promote the downtown Toronto elite’s world-view. With a few exceptions, the MSM in Canada has turned into a homogeneous little clique of like-minded group-thinkers who don’t even have the intellectual heft to defend their views.

    One only need look at Steyn and Levant. Both have views that differ greatly from the left-wing consensus, so when their freedom of speech was taken away from them, most of the Canadian MSM either laughed it off, or actually took pleasure in the whole ugly state of affairs.

    • Why don’t those of you who are bleating about the right-wing point of view being neglected and distorted by the evil MSM launch an alternative outlet. With digital platforms and lots of available bandwidth, it should be easy to attract that massive audience that (you seem to assume) is being deprived of such a viewpoint.