1. Whenever discussion turns to popular disenchantment with the political process, everyone will agree that there need be greater freedom for MPs to speak their respective minds.
2. Whenever an MP loudly attempts to assert his or her freedom of thought, said MP and/or said MP’s leader will be vilified.
This is hardly meant to defend Mr. Turner. For one, he’s hardly shy about defending himself. For another, it’s possible his error was more grammatical than moral—poor paragraph structure perhaps to blame for his equating Albertans with “losers.”
(If the concern is his reference to separatists as losers, perhaps we should merely ask ourselves when we became so sensitive to the feelings of those who would rather this country be split. Indeed, this government’s primary line of attack on the Bloc Quebecois is that they’ve not yet, and never will, amount to anything. For that matter, by the strict measure of referendums won and lost, Mr. Turner’s assessment is not inaccurate.)
It is perhaps, though, worth noting the shock (put-on as some of it is) that follows any MP so much as passing gas in this country. In Mr. Turner’s case especially. His every utterance tends to send the Prime Minister’s loyalists to their keyboards, each eager to broadcast new insight into the MP for Halton’s failings. At one point this weekend, Turner was being compared with the late Republican senator Jesse Helms. With Helms—once declared “the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country”—deemed the better man.
In this case, Mr. Turner made it a bit too easy on his detractors—typing rather nastily at the precise time his leader’s touring the country, vowing a respectful debate. And of course now there are demands that Mr. Turner be “reined in.”
It is testament to the profoundness of wisdom within official Ottawa that as Mr. Harper is most often criticized for gagging his caucus, Mr. Dion is most often slagged for not being more like Mr. Harper. Indeed, in that Mr. Baird offers only good advice.
Mr. Turner has said something mildly interesting. And for that he must be reined in—just as he would be if he voted differently than the rest of the party, publicly disagreed with the party’s official position or otherwise differentiated himself from the team.
That’s how this works. Even if everyone agrees it should be different.