What do Conservative backbenchers think they're here to do? - Macleans.ca

What do Conservative backbenchers think they’re here to do?

Conservative MP fight for transparency… from the opposition


Two years ago, the procedure and House affairs committee voted to find the Harper government in contempt for its refusal to provide costing analysis for some of its major initiatives.

Last fall, the Harper government refused to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with information about the government’s spending cuts.

And three weeks ago, Conservative MPs on the public accounts committee decided they didn’t want to see the government’s reports on fiscal sustainability.

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister says he doesn’t know how much his increase in tariffs will end up costing consumers.

But, last week, several Conservative MPs submitted order paper questions asking the government to provide costing analysis for several private members’ bills proposed by NDP MPs.

It is perhaps useful here to recall Brent Rathgeber’s words about the job of a government backbencher.

I understand that Members of Parliament, who are not members of the executive, sometimes think of themselves as part of the government; we are not. Under our system of Responsible Government, the Executive is responsible and accountable to the Legislature. The latter holds the former to account. A disservice is provided to both when Parliament forgets to hold the Cabinet to account.

Perhaps Merv Tweed, Ted Opitz, Randy Hoback, Kelly Block and Wladyslaw Lizon could use their next order paper questions to ask for the government’s fiscal sustainability reports or demand a costing analysis of the tariff increases. (Perhaps they could refuse to vote on the budget until such information is provided.) Perhaps they could submit order paper questions demanding exactly the information that Kevin Page is seeking. Or perhaps they could join together to propose that the Parliamentary Budget Officer be given the resources necessary to analyze all private members’ bills, thus saving the government the time and expense.


What do Conservative backbenchers think they’re here to do?

  1. Except Rathberger is wrong.

    Because under our current system, where an MP serves at the pleasure of the party leader, the MP’s duty is to support their leader. Whining that the MPs are doing exactly what the system is designed to get them to do is futile at best.

    • I have heard that the decision to give prime ministers a veto or approval rights over local party nominations was a critical change in the parliamentary system. I don’t think most of us understand its impact on the whole system. I would like to see more discussion of this. How would you turn back the clock, and return power to the riding level?

      • nit: Party leaders.. not just prime ministers.

        That aside, there’s no system that can’t be gamed by the sufficiently unscrupulous so long as we let parties write their own bylaws.

        I recognize that a party needs some sort of control over who runs under their banner, but direct nomination is simply too strong of a control. I would suggest that the party leader instead sign a list of the executive group of each riding association, which must be provided to Elections Canada before the start of any campaign period. Once provided the riding association may change those executives by providing copies of whatever bylaws they have for such changes and statements/evidence that these bylaws were followed.

        When a campaign starts, the signatures of that executive group are then required to confirm that a candidate is indeed running as the representative of a particular party.

        It’s only one level of remove, of course, but given that most riding associations have rules about how the executive is elected and changed at the local level, I think it might be enough to ensure that the candidates nominated are responsible to the riding association more so than the party leader.

        • I agree that the Liberal Party of Canada has abused that party leader control over nominations the most. Shame on them. Shame on all of them for thinking otherwise.

          • Since nobody in this particular thread mentioned any party at all, your hyper-defensiveness is notable only in that it outlines what a partisan waste of skin you are.

            Well.. that and that you’ve apparently forgotten to take your meds to deal with the voices in your head.

          • Oh, come on Thwin, I was just messing with your post. I can’t be too serious all the time. Then I would start behaving like you and we shouldn’t be all the same, don’t you agree?

            (What do you think of my most serious question I asked NIck – see my post.)

  2. Sorry, Wherry. Canadians from coast to coast to coast elected the Conservatives to a stable majority government. Canadians don’t need to scrutinize the Stephen Harper Conservatives — they knew they were going to get a government that puts jobs first, and keeps our streets safe. What Canadians want to see scrutinized is the NDP and their reckless job-killing carbon tax. That’s why every Conservative MP is doing whatever he or she can to make sure Mulcair never get his hands on the reins of power.

    (I’m not sure, but I think I was just possessed by Pierre Poilievre.)

    • So who are you, anyway…the anti-Orson Bean?

  3. Perhaps dearly departed Kevin Page would have had access to the numbers if he would have stuck to number telling only. But,no, dearly departed Kevin Page could not resist giving personal comments to go with the number telling.

    For the record: Kevin Page is not an elected Member of Parliament.
    The MP’s have the rights and responsibilities to add political commenting to the numbers to set turn of events into context. That is their jobs. And if Kevin Page wants to run for office he could do so in the upcoming by-election of Labrador: I hear the Liberals are searching for a candidate. Lol.

    • Just so we’re straight, you’re saying the Conservative government is wilfully withholding information — information he might otherwise be entitled to — because of political reasons? Is that REALLY a state of affairs that you find acceptable?

      • What I find acceptable it for politicians to tell none-elected officials to stay out of politic making.

        If Mr.Page, during the years of holding the position, had merely tabled his numbers for all of the MP’s in the House to look into (note: I say ALL MP’s to look at) he and the government would have been on good terms right now. Since Kevin Page could not resist to add comment after comment when tabling numbers, it is more than reasonable for the government to put a stop to that. And the only way possible to do that, it seems, is to not further feed the problem.

        But if you are in favour of having none-elected officials do the politicking in Ottawa, then clearly say so. Your opinion is as valid as mine or anyone else’s for that matter.

        • Well, I don’t think Page was politicking, I think he was doing the job he was hired to do.

          Out of curiosity, is there anyone besides the Conservative Party faithful who thinks that Page was out of line? Anybody?

          • I can’t recall his name so quickly. Lavoi or something like that. He wrote about it the other day. I don’t think Lavoi is a CPC faithful. I think I read it in the G&M. I will try to find the article. or anything on his remarks in regards to Page.

          • Found it:

            “In his latest book, What Happened to the Music Teacher?, Donald Savoie, a
            professor at the University of Moncton, decries the power and growing
            number of parliamentary watchdogs for contributing to a large, costly
            and inefficient public service. He was particularly critical of Page for
            becoming a political player and catering to the media. Savoie wants
            fewer watchdogs and he says the PBO should be among the first to go.”

            Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Kevin+Page+blames+weak+public+service+serving+Parliament+Canadians/8106344/story.html#ixzz2OaUtNjIF

          • Based on what you’ve presented, I think Prof. Savoie’s problem isn’t with Page in particular, but with the PBO office altogether. Prof. Savoie’s problem is the whole ‘running government like a business’ approach (employed by the Chretien Liberals and Harper Conservatives).

          • “He [Savoi] was particularly critical of Page for
            becoming a political player and catering to the media.”

            Don’t think too much before reading what Savoi has written.

          • If you read what Savoie has written in that link you have provided and come away from that thinking it was an indictment of Page himself, then we are going to have to agree to disagree. What Savoie is presenting is an indictment of how government has operated over the better part of the last two decades.

          • I know what Savoie has written. I have read some of his writings a few years back.

            Of course we disagree on the subject Page. But just because you think Page has acted as a patriot does not mean that he has. Such is just your opinion.

            In regards to the subject Page, I happen to think, after having considered Page’s conduct, that Page as PBO went too far when commenting on the numbers. That does not mean that my opinionated assessment of Page’s conduct is the right one; it just means that my opinion of Page can be just as valid as any one else, because I have looked into the matter as well.

          • Then you should have known that you were cherry-picking his quote.

            And I didn’t say he was a patriot, I said he was doing his job.

            There are plenty of Conservatives like yourself who think Page overstepped. There are lots of Dippers and Libs who love him. I was just curious to know if there was someone without a partisan axe to grind who thought he overstepped.

          • I apologize for having stated that you considered Page to be a patriot. You did not say that.

            Actually, I was not cherry picking when I brought in Savoie’s quote.

            Here to quote you literally when asking me some questions: “Out of curiosity, is there anyone besides the Conservative Party faithful who thinks that Page was out of line? Anybody?”

            I then gave you the answer of Savoie and the article he was quoted in. Are you now suggesting that Savoie is a Conservative Party faithfull? Or do you think that Savoie is not anybody? You are confusing me.

            You further confused me by telling me that, upon reading two differing articles on the subject including Savoie and Page (I assume), you were frightened a bit but then not answering me as to why you felt the reading of the articles was a bit frightening. Could I ask you again to explain that to me further or are you no longer a bit frightened?

          • I’m saying Savoie was not critical of Page as much as he was critical of the position, and government watchdogs in general. But, you’re right, he was somebody that was critical of the PBO, and if that’s the best you can come up with, that’s the best you can come up with.

            And, yeah, I did find it rather frightening how Savoie’s quote was used in the Citizen story. After reading the Globe piece, it put a different spin on Savoie’s quote — for me, at least. Well, frightened is a bit dramatic. Vexed, maybe.

          • I cannot say that I would have drawn the same conclusions, but in any case, I have no idea what part of the articles you are referring to.

            Savoie, generally speaking, writes indeed about all things parliamentary. The system. How the system churns, and how it could be better serving its citizens. But Savoie also put things into perspective alongside the lines of changing times. He understands that 10 second sound bites are just as much a player in the mix as are other elements, and there are many elements involved in the proper workings of a democracy.

            My opinion is that besides Kevin Page’s descent understanding of numbers and graphs (seriously), I think that Kevin Page also had a good idea what the value of a ten second sound bite could accomplish (seriously).

            Thanks for the exchange. Catch you next time. Good night.

          • What is wrong with the putting in context skills of the Ottawa citizen?

          • Actually, after reading both stories, it’s a bit frightening.

          • What do you find so frightening about it? If it is even a bit frightening (that what you have read??) you must get it off your chest quickly, so as not too leave you unaccompanied in times of shock……. :)

        • So you said the same thing about Sheila Fraser?

          • Why would I?

            An auditor does not project. An auditor checks numbers after. What is there to dispute about? Not much.

          • I thought her press conferences following her reports were pretty memorable and relished by the media. Harper has a lap dog in that office now, but Fraser was a good role model for Page. That’s the way I remember her anyway.

          • Silly you: you ask me a question in your first reply to my post.

            You asked: “So you said the same thing about Sheila Fraser?”

            I answered your question to the point as follows:

            “Why would I?

            An auditor does not project. An auditor checks numbers after. What is there to dispute about? Not much.”

            Upon which you then completely ignore my answer and go on about how you liked Fraser’s press conferences and how you hate Harper (again).

            If you feel you just want to get your opinions out on Fraser and Harper, why get me involved???

          • She did more than numbers.

  4. Holy geez! this must be a conservative site! lol!
    We all seem to agree that Harper is a God send to us Canadians!
    We voted him in, Harper can count on us to stand for his government.

    I like you need to be informed and don’t mind one bit if Harper uses Canadian tax dollars to pay for his commercials, after all we Canadians have to pay if we want those big media corporations to be successful in Canada how else can we ensure that they will feel welcome here and support the conservatives because god knows we need their support here in Canada with that young Trudeau about to get in as leader of the Liberals and Tom Mulcair drooling over all those the votes of those undecided former Liberals supporters and conservative mutineers.

    Those ads are not only informative but entertaining as well and I’ll bet you like me don’t rush off to make a tea at commercial time when there could be a Conservative commercial to educate us a little more on the war of 1812! I have 1 year of college yet for the love of me I must have been absent because I honestly never knew how we had to fight those Americans who were trying to take our land and I’m so proud that Mr. Harper brought that up to our attention and now I understand why he needs all those F35 ships in case those damned Americans try it again! We must assure that our borders are protected !

    I don’t know why those lefties have their tights in such an uproar over Mr. Harper canceling the protected status of 98 percent or so of our lakes after all we still have lots and besides the people here can do what they have to do in other countries and get off their asses and get together to clean them up if they ever become unusable as if it will even happen in mine or your lifetime anyways besides we need to make it easier for those corporations to ply their business here in Canada so they won’t go elsewhere because we need to keep corporations looking to Canada as the best place to invest their billions and maybe if things work out for them and our kids stop being so lazy and agree to work for a little less pay with longer hours (like I used to when I was young) in a few years they will have Canadians trained well enough that maybe Harper can bargain with the corps so they don’t have to bring their temporary workers with them when they buy in to any new resources that have been discovered by then cause god knows more of those young Canadians will be willing to work for less pay by then lol!

    We have to support big business if we want to encourage the trickle down of jobs that Mr. Flaherty told us about on TV. It makes good sense to me to allow big corporations to take the water out of lakes if the minerals are under the water and they can just put it back in when they’re done whats the harm when they know how to do that?

    Now that they will be free to take water from the lakes whenever they see fit without the tedious paperwork that used to be necessary to even build on the shore of a Canadian Lake the the water bottling companies can take what they need and that that shows them how nice we Canadians are to invite them to use our water and they certainly won’t waste it cause unlike some Canadians they know its true value besides Mr. Harper has that under control too because Canadians are being taught not to waste water and energy and if they overuse it will be very expensive.

    And all this carrying on about Mr. Harper and his Panda’s really! As if the this man that works so hard for us Canadians is being accused of squandering money to bring a couple panda bears to Canada.! He is trying to educate us and I don’t believe he spent 10 million dollars to rent those bears, as if! I’m sure he would have told us in one of his infomercials if that was the case. I watched him to-day he was so proud and the press they loved him so much! He’s very photogenic you know and all those pictures they took of him and his wife as they greeted the bears to Canada.

    I was so proud to hear that he is setting up a special scientific laboratory just for his pandas and will even hire some scientists to work around the clock with the bears ?. I’m very happy for Canada and even if we had to pay it would be okay because Mr. Harper got rid of so many other scientists that he can afford these very special ones which I bet makes China very proud since they lent us those bears in the first place as a gesture to show prime Minister Harper how much they are thankful for the good deal Canada made with them.

    I can’t wait to visit the panda bears but, because of the hard times those bumbling idiots in Europe and the United states are causing the economy the Conservative government needs more money to run Canadian affairs and has been forced to cut back a little over 50 million dollars from our own National Parks and I may have to wait at least a year longer to have enough money to stop at the parks along the way .

    They should have listened to Mr. Flaherty and our Prime minister they’re not world famous for nothing! Then I could have afforded my trip earlier.

  5. What do these backbenchers want? If they they were valuable to Harper in the first place he would have not made them backbenchers and they should shut up and quit trying to rock the boat! After all they are well paid to follow orders and should respect that!
    If I was one of Prime minister Harper’s right hand men I would get rid of those mutineers and
    assure that no one else dares to speak badly of Canada’s Harper government .
    PM Harper is at the helm and deserves our respect because he’s the one we’ve put in charge of steering this great country into a becoming the wealthiest most prosperous democratic Country in the world! Lets be winners too and shut down those that want to upset our democracy!