James Rajotte basically gets right the multi-part riddle of MP independence in this interview.
And Linda McQuaig might make for an interesting case study (presuming that, at the very least, she wins the NDP nomination in Toronto Centre or, subsequently, in some other riding). Jonathan Kay notes that Ms. McQuaig has proposed some specific ideas about tax reform.
In the concluding chapter of The Trouble with Billionaires, McQuaig makes her policy recommendations very clear: She advocates a marginal tax rate of 60% for incomes above $300,000, and 70% for incomes above $2.5-million — plus an inheritance tax, the eradication of high-end tax-shelters, and the creation of a tax on speculative investments. That may sound radical, but it’s not so different from some of the progressive policies implemented by the (economically healthy) nations of Scandinavia.
The question is: Will Thomas Mulcair give her the green light to campaign openly on this sort of thing? And if so, how will it play in the Toronto and national media?
Mr. Mulcair has dismissed the idea of raising taxes—see the final two questions and answers in this interview. He could change his mind, of course, but presuming he doesn’t, Ms. McQuaig will have to decide how much she believes in these ideas and whether she wishes to pursue them (and, if so, how she wishes to do so). As the candidate for a registered political party, she is obviously not entirely her own person. She could foreswear her previous recommendations entirely. She could say that she still believes her recommendations are worthy of consideration, but that she will ultimately defer to the wishes of her party, its leadership and its membership. She could champion her recommendations and openly call on the party to adopt her ideas as official party policy.
Of course, should she win the NDP’s nomination in Toronto Centre or any other riding, the Conservatives and Liberals will have some cause to associate her recommendations with the party she now officially represents. And it will be all the easier to claim that association if she does anything other than completely renounce those recommendations.
How much in the grand scheme of things does it matter that Ms. McQuaig has proposed ideas that might not perfectly match the official policy of her party’s leader and platform? Possibly not very much. But it is a complication. And the people who run political parties do not appreciate complication.
Conceivably, of course, it should be possible to live in a world in which MPs can have their own ideas and views while also belonging to parties that present unified statements of what policies they would pursue as a government. As a basic model, I might point to how the Prime Minister handled the issue of abortion, at least before the silencing of Mark Warawa: taking a position as a government, but allowing backbenchers to pursue matters of their own initiative.