Friday, February 10, 2006

Day Five – A way out or two . . .

David Emerson’s floor-crossing and elevation to cabinet is not evidence of deep-seated hypocrisy on the part of the Harper regime. Nor is it fatal to the Conservative party. But it is a misstep that can and should be fixed, thereby minimizing its long-term effects. Here are two ideas of how to fix it.

Idea #1: Emerson announces that he will resign and run for Parliament as a Conservative after the spring sitting of the Commons, but before the fall sitting.

The same sex marriage vote will likely be held just before the house rises in June. If it fails, that would boost Emerson’s chances of winning Vancouver-Kingsway as a Conservative. Not that he has to run in that riding at all: since Emerson obviously has little attachment to being a Member of Parliament, he would probably be willing to run in any winnable riding. Brian Pallister’s seat in Manitoba is already open [CORRECTION: The seat may become available. Pallister has not yet resigned his seat. He is in the midst of deciding whether to run for Manitoba conservative leader]. And when Liberal MPs get back from their post-election vacations, some of them may decide that they are as excited about sitting in opposition as Emerson was. There might be half a dozen or so open seats for Emerson to choose from.

Idea #2: Emerson resigns from Parliament and cabinet, and Harper appoints him to handle the softwood lumber and 2010 Olympics files, as a special envoy (or whatever title is appropriate).

I don’t understand why this was not done in the first place. As we have seen in the last few days, Emerson has little love for running for office, serving as an MP, or participating in question period. He has apparently even said that if he could turn back the clock two years, he might not have gone into politics at all. Since he is interested in serving primarily to achieve progress on particular files, why not relieve him of the duties that only distract him from those files, i.e. looking after a riding and preparing for and attending question period. As a wealthy man, I doubt that Emerson insisted on being in cabinet primarily for the car and driver.

This would also give Harper and other Conservatives the opportunity to rightfully comment on the double standard that the Liberal party (and the media, if they dare) applied to the Stronach and Emerson cases, how they have learned nothing from their 12 years of internal warfare, and are still fundamentally a pack of bloodthirsty jackals who will say and do anything (okay, maybe not in those exact words).

The government has six months to call a by-election for a vacant seat, time that could be spent organizing the riding and finding a good Conservative candidate. Even if the Conservatives fail to take the seat, it’s no loss, as they didn’t have it in their column anyway.

Day Five -- Media notes

On Thursday night, TVO’s Fourth Reading a show devoted primarily to Ontario provincial politics – briefly dealt with the Emerson issue. One of the guests was Senator Hugh Segal. Segal said that he is in favour of legislation that would require floor crossers to seek the approval of their voters, and that he would vote for such legislation, but noted there is no law now.

Segal put the emphasis on Emerson and Fortier’s need to explain themselves, saying “Emerson has to understand that you actually have to explain more, and make a stronger case over time.” He credited Harper for reaching out to Emerson and Fortier, but noted that they cannot assume their job of explanation is over.

This morning on CFRB Newstalk 1010 (Toronto) Bill Carroll again expressed his disgust over Emerson, but said that the people he’s really angry at are the voters, who seem to re-elect floor-crossers. He even called the voters of Newmarket-Aurora “morons” for re-electing Belinda Stronach.

On CKNW Vancouver, Bill Good led off at 9 a.m. (local time) with the Emerson story, interviewing Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughan Palmer and another journalist whose name I didn’t catch.

Said Palmer: “This thing has gone on longer than I thought it would.” He thought it would be a 48-hour issue. “They’ve gotten a rougher ride than I thought they would get.”

The other journalist said all indications are that Harper is going to try and ride it out. He observed that Emerson’s comments have had the underlying theme of “I don’t need this”[job, grief, etc.] Good noted Emerson’s comment about how if he could turn the clock back two years, he might not have run at all. Palmer said he has been amused at the righteous indignation of Liberals in the past week, particularly Ujjal Dosanjh.

Joan's Note: I have been remiss in not mentioning a blog devoted to the Emerson issue, Remove Emerson. It is run by Gary McHale, who is certainly not a Liberal nor thinly-disguised Liberal, but a Conservative expressing his views. I do not agree with everything he writes or links to, but I believe his effort should be acknowledged.

Day Five -- Former Stronach riding president calls Emerson appointment “a mistake”

Joan's note: This is not yet posted on, where Aurora Era-Banner stories are posted. It was e-mailed directly to me by a reliable source.

UPDATE: The story is now posted online here.

Move different from Stronach’s because her switch made ‘on principle’, she says

Aurora Era-Banner
Feb 9, 2006
Caroline Grech, Staff Writer

A mistake.

That’s what one prominent York Region Conservative is calling the bombshell defection of a Liberal cabinet minister to Steven Harper’s government.

Stephen Somerville, president of the Newmarket-Aurora Conservative riding association, said while he understand bringing Vancouver MP David Emerson into the Tory fold will give the West Coast a voice in cabinet, he doesn’t like it.

“We’ve elected a great number of highly skilled people ... we didn’t have to go outside,” Mr. Somerville said. “I think we have a great platform, but did we make a mistake on the first day of government? Yes.”

Mr. Harper named Mr. Emerson international trade minister and minister responsible for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and the Pacific gateway strategy to boost Asian trade Monday.

In 2004, Mr. Emerson was named to former prime minister Paul Martin’s cabinet as industry minister.

York Simcoe Conservative MP Peter Van Loan said while he could never cross the floor himself, he welcomed the move by Mr. Harper to bring the Liberal into the cabinet.

While some are calling the move hypocritical given the party’s campaign vows to bring ethics and accountability to government, Mr. Van Loan defended Mr. Harper’s decision.

“I don’t think he ever said he would turn people away from our party,” Mr. Van Loan said.

While the Conservatives were outraged when Newmarket-Aurora MP Belinda Stronach crossed the floor last spring, Mr. Van Loan said Mr. Emerson’s defection is different.

“I think it was a different environment when she crossed the floor. She brought a vote with her that kept a corrupt government in power eight months longer than they should have been,” Mr. Van Loan said, adding Mr. Emerson’s vote isn’t a pivotal one right now.

Ms Stronach’s switch from the Conservative Party continuously placed her at the centre of an acrimonious campaign in Newmarket-Aurora.

Despite the parallels of Mr. Emerson’s move to the Liberals to those of Ms Stronach and Liberal MP Scott Brison, Mr. Somerville made a distinction.

“The qualifications of Mr. Emerson speak for themselves. His qualifications are stronger than the other two,” he said, adding Mr. Harper’s move is not retribution for other MP defections.

While the crossover has garnered some attention, missing are the scathing headlines that accompanied Ms Stronach’s defection.

Also missing are the negative comments from various elected officials.

Expressing her shock at the news of Mr. Emerson’s defection, Ms Stronach said the focus should fall on Mr. Harper for the move.

“I find it hypocritical and a double standard,” Ms Stronach said. “He (Mr. Harper) criticized me and the Liberal Party of doing anything to have power when I joined the government.”

Like Mr. Somerville, Ms Stronach drew a distinction between her move and Mr. Emerson’s, but in a different way.

“... I crossed on principle,” Ms Stronach said, stressing a desire to see the Liberal budget passed and concern for national unity as reasons for changing parties. “Mr. Emerson just got elected two weeks ago.”

As for the much more charged reaction to her decision than, Ms Stronach attributes much of that to the media reporting reactions from politicians such as Ontario Tory MPP Bob Runciman, who called her “a dipstick”.

“They were able to get away with those comments,” Ms Stronach said.

As for how the move will go over with voters, Ms Stronach said, “I don’t think the public will dismiss this or take it lightly,” adding Mr. Harper campaigned on ethics.

While Mr. Van Loan defended the prime minister’s decisions for his cabinet, he admitted he was disappointed he wasn’t among them.

“Of course, I’m disappointed but politics is a team sport... I got parliamentary secretary to foreign affairs and am very pleased with that. It’s about the best thing you can get if you’re not named to cabinet.”

Mr. Emerson represents the riding of Vancouver Kingsway and was first elected to Parliament in 2004.

He is the first MP to cross the floor after being officially elected, but before being officially sworn in.

On election night, Mr. Emerson was quoted as saying, “I’m going to be Stephen Harper’s worst enemy.”

His defection gives the Conservatives 125 seats in the House of Commons and 102 for the opposition Liberals.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Day Four Media Notes – Adler, Garth Turner’s Blog, Mike Duffy Live, Newsworld’s Politics

This afternoon Charles Adler led with the Emerson story again, playing Emerson’s quote about how he is “flabbergasted” about the partisanship in politics.

His first guest was Democracy Watch spokesthingy Duff Conacher, who is alleging that Emerson’s role at Canfor precludes him from any involvement in the softwood lumber file. But Adler quickly moved on to a screaming match with CH-TV’s Mark Hebscher over the NHL betting story.

Sun Media’s Greg Weston was Adler’s next guest, repeating his thesis that Harper has seriously damaged himself with the Emerson and Fortier appointments, and suggesting there is more to come on the Emerson file (based on the Star story).

Next up was the ubiquitous (in a good way) Andrew Coyne, commenting on the Star story, Gresham’s law and how he fails to see how the Emerson move is consistent with Harper’s talent for playing the long game.

And while Monte Solberg has unfortunately wound down his very droll blog, Halton MP Garth Turner is continuing his, which includes his views on the Emerson affair:

I am a democrat who believes everyone in the House of Commons, including the cabinet members who make up the government, should be elected. They should sit in Parliament as they were elected. If they decide to change parties, they should go and get re-elected.

It would be a great idea for Mr. Emerson to do that, and hopefully he will decide that’s the right course of action. Given his new high-profile and powerful position, one would expect voters would be impressed enough to elect him as a Conservative. But maybe not. That’s their choice.

I am not demanding the guy resign today, given the fact he has just been handed huge duties and Harper surely had sound reasons for his decision. But it would look very good indeed on David Emerson to say something like this: Yeah, I understand the feeling of those people who are disturbed that I switched parties. I have decided my real home is with the Conservatives, and I am honoured to serve the PM, but I also realize it’s not all my choice. So after I’ve proven my worth in this job, and when the time is appropriate, I will go back to the voters.

End of story. Canadians are reasonable, even forgiving. Just be reasonable back.

What am I going to do about? Lobby for Parliamentary reform of the kind the prime minister promised and the Gomery Report recommended. More free votes. More powerful MP committees. An elected Senate. And more accountability, which should include legislation that, as Brian Mulroney used to say, means you dance with the one that brung ya.

You may also wish to check out the next item on Garth’s blog, “Torches & Pitchforks” for some grassroots reaction.

Mike Duffy Live on CTV’s NewsNet led off with the news that Emerson had cancelled a conference call scheduled for 4:30 EST because he was “caught in traffic.” He played the tape of the conference operator apologizing and explaining Emerson’s no show was due to Ottawa’s gridlock.

Garth Turner and NDP MP Peter Stouffer were Duff’s first guests. Stouffer spoke about Bill C-251, his private member’s bill, noting that half the Conservative caucus voted for it, while no Liberals did. The bill provided that those desiring to cross the floor would have to resign and run in a by-election under the new party or sit as an independent for the remainder of that Parliament.

Turner expressed sympathy for the plight of voters whose MPs cross the floor, noting that his constituents would be pretty angry if he had crossed the floor: “People should stick by their colours, if they want to change their colours they should go back to the people.” Turner added that he acknowledged Emerson’s ability, but that Emerson needs to clear the “hurdle” of democracy.

Turner scoffed at Stouffer’s suggestion that the Conservative government had already achieved the level of arrogance that it took 12 years for the Liberals to achieve. While Turner again defended Emerson's abilities, he said “the public perception is a negative one. We have to address that.” Turner was careful to say that Emerson should be given some time to prove himself, but the democracy issue needs to be addressed.

Turner also appeared on Don Newman’s Politics show on Newsworld (today hosted by Susan Bonner), but I only caught the last few seconds. Turner is coincidentally meeting with Harper today, so look for a report on the meeting on Turner’s blog.

Bonner’s next guest was new caucus chair Rahim Jaffer. Bonner grilled Jaffer on the Emerson issue and the floor-crossing legislation that 40 Conservative MPs had endorsed. Jaffer made a good defence, saying that the caucus is free to discuss all these issues and there was no fear of debate on the issue, but that there are currently no rules on floor-crossing.

On a panel of party spinners, the Liberal, NDP and Bloc spokesthingys took the opportunity to pile on Harper. Conservative spinner William Stairs, displaying unusual levels of energy and alacrity (it's like somebody moved his turntable from 33 to 45 rpm), provided a spirited defence of the Emerson and Fortier appointments.

After a detour to interview sole Liberal leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay, Duffy returned to the Emerson story, in particular the allegations in the Star about him supposedly nixing a softwood lumber deal with the U.S. He interviewed the head of the Fair Lumber Trade Council, then moved on to a journalist panel to talk about the supposed deal. CTV's Robert Fife excoriated the PMO for the communications handling of the issue, saying that they could have had innumerable spinners available to tout Emerson’s attributes, but failed to do so.

Back to Newsworld: Bonner led off her pundit panel by also playing the pleasant voice of the conference operator advising reporters that Emerson was not going to make his news conference call. The pundits immediately speculated that there must be a bigger reason for the cancellation. Like Fife, Sun Media’s Greg Weston condemned the communications tactics of the government.

As they often do, the pundits on both NewsNet and Newsworld were probably overstating their cases, but neither Duffy nor Bonner challenged their conclusions, nor urged the pundits to put recent events in context.

Day Four – You may not be interested in partisans, but partisans are interested in you*

Again, Andrew Coyne has an excellent roundup of the latest, here.

Hands down the juiciest item is the Toronto Star’s Page A1 story, alleging that the Martin regime was supposedly on the verge of a deal with the U.S. on softwood lumber, but that Emerson nixed it:

David Emerson defected to the Conservatives this week carrying a multi-billion dollar softwood lumber deal that Liberals, for political reasons, didn’t finalize before the federal election.

Former colleagues as well as officials and diplomats privy to the secret, backchannel talks insist Emerson was instrumental in delaying a breakthrough in the decades-old dispute that cost thousands of Canadian jobs. They say the former Liberal industry minister worried that a pre-election announcement would damage Liberal prospects in key British Columbia ridings.

In a telephone interview last night, Emerson confirmed he raised concerns about the proposal after discussions with the B.C. government and softwood industry. But he said it’s a “false story” to suggest his resistance was politically motivated and insisted the deal on the table before the election wasn’t good enough for Canada then and isn’t now.

Liberals and non-partisan sources tell a different story. They say the B.C. government and its powerful forestry industry only lost interest in the plan after meetings with Emerson. His objections, along with concerns in Paul Martin’s office that a pre-election deal would stop the then-prime minister from using George W. Bush as a campaign punching bag, convinced Liberals to delay formal negotiations at least until after the January election.

Meanwhile, the man himself is so upset by the hullabaloo that, as he told he Vancouver Sun, he may have to break his solemn vow to stand for election as a Conservative in the next general election:

A distraught-sounding David Emerson, now questioning his decision to enter politics in the first place, said Wednesday that Vancouver- Kingsway voters may never get the chance to pass judgment on his decision to bolt Monday from the Liberals to Stephen Harper’s Conservative cabinet.

Harper’s embattled new trade minister said he is “flabbergasted” by the Liberal attacks this week, and said he underestimated the public and media backlash triggered by his defection.

“I thought that that was a very logical move to make, to serve the riding and to serve the province and the city,” he told reporters in an evening conference call.

“The kind of reaction I’ve been getting -- well, it’s ... I find it surprising.”

He said if constituents aren’t happy he will “accept the consequences electorally.”

While he said he will “probably” run again in the riding as a Tory, he offered no guarantee.

“I may be so disillusioned that I won’t stand anywhere. I have to be honest. If I knew politics would be as it has been, I wouldn’t have run to begin with,” he said. “But I’m into it and I’ll finish the job.”

He acknowledged he thought this week about quitting politics before he had a pep talk with Harper, but said that hasn’t been unusual since he was recruited by Paul Martin in 2004.

“Well, I talked to the prime minister . . . and he was very, very supportive. He certainly wasn’t the scary Mr. Harper,” said Emerson, who during the election campaign called Harper “heartless” and intolerant of minorities. “He’s been very kind and the Conservative cabinet ministers have been very, very kind. And I’m committed to staying the course.”

Still, Emerson’s rationale for the move has not been shaken:

His political allies say the trick to understanding Emerson’s sudden switch of political colours, from Liberal industry minister to Conservative minister of international trade (in charge of Olympics), might be to view him in terms of his last careers: He’s the corporate executive and prudent public servant.

In that world, staying on an organization’s board, even if the CEO who hired you happens to get fired by the shareholders, you can still find honourable, personally rewarding service and perhaps even improve the corporation’s long-term aims by cutting a new deal.

“Doing something that is imperfect, and doing nothing and dreaming that it could have been perfect. Which is better?” Emerson asks.

Emerson argues that partisanship is a waning force, and in a phrase that could have come straight from a Maurice Strong speech, asserts that “We’re into a “global moment.”
“I think the [partisan] lines are blurring,” he says, when asked about party politics and picking a side as a politician. “We’re into a global moment, economically, socially, environmentally.”

Emerson doesn’t look down on those who are traditionally partisan, but he doesn’t think such partisanship is a virtue.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Liberalism is blurring, which seriously got in the way of David Emerson’s opportunity to have a David Emerson moment.

Whatever the credibility of Emerson’s claims of non-partisanship, unfortunately for him, the party he just left is decidedly not of that persuasion. They will now proceed to come after him hammer and tong, in their uniquely vicious yet hypocritical way. And they have absolutely nothing to lose in the short run (which is the only run that ever occurs to them) by doing so. I suspect that Mr. Emerson is about to be served some big doses of castor-oil flavoured partisanship from his former colleagues.

The most amusing so far comes from Liberal party president Mike Eizinga who, as I recall, owes his position to some heavy handed, last-minute Martini shaking that catapulted him over the head of the rather poncy but admittedly smart and sincere Akash Maharaj:

The president of the Liberal party is joining the chorus of demands for Emerson, the former Liberal industry minister, to resign his parliamentary seat in the wake of his decision to switch parties shortly after being re-elected as a Liberal.

"Absolutely, Mr. Emerson should quit," said Mike Eizenga, adding that the honourable thing to do would be for him to go back to his riding and run as a Tory in a by-election.

Emerson says "I don't understand why they would go to such bizarre lengths as to raise that kind of issue when in fact I had done so much and raised so much for the Liberal Party.” Because Liberals don’t care what you did for them yesterday, only what you can do for them tomorrow.

* As per Leon Trotsky’s saying “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” (And Liberals know how to handle an ice pick.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Day Three – Media Notes

The media has been reporting on several initiatives – such as a petition, Emerson office protest and demand for repayment of campaign funds – spearheaded by Liberals or thinly disguised Liberals. Contrary to my usually generous linking policy, those seeking links to these initiatives will have to look elsewhere. (If you can’t fathom why, ask yourself this: where were these people when Belinda came over to them last May? Precisely.)

Andrew Coyne has a fulsome rundown of media coverage here.

According to today's Toronto Star:

Senior Liberals in British Columbia complained that, as late as Sunday, Emerson had engaged in a lengthy chat with a top B.C. party organizer about how to refurbish the Liberal machine after the Jan. 23 loss. The next day, Emerson was sworn in as part of Harper's cabinet.

"Until the night before, he was saying, 'Sure, we have to rebuild the party and I'll be there,'" said former health minister Ujjal Dosanjh, who was re-elected as a Liberal MP in the riding of Vancouver South. "How much credibility does that leave?"

Forgive me if I find Mr. Dosanjh somewhat less than an authority on credibility or loyalty after he (1) abandoned the NDP to book passage on the Martin JuggerNot (but at least he wasn’t a sitting MP when he crossed); and (2) denied that he and PMO chief of staff Tim Murphy attempted to entice Gurmant Grewal to cross the floor to the Liberals last spring. To add insult to injury, Dosanjh made some half-hearted threats about suing Grewal for slander, after the Ethics Commissioner’s report condemned only Grewal and failed to nail the Liberals.

Also in the Star article, several Conservative MPs have carefully expressed concern about the Emerson appointment:

In addition to the unease over handing a plum cabinet position to Fortier, a financier and lawyer who is a long-time Harper organizer, Tory MPs expressed concern over the other surprise addition: former Liberal minister David Emerson.

"I'm a little bit uncomfortable with it, but I guess we'll go from here and work with him as a colleague," Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) said outside the Tories' first caucus meeting.

Nova Scotia MP Gerald Keddy (South Shore) said he would have preferred that Emerson first sit as an independent and then run as a Conservative.

This afternoon, Alberta MLA and former elected Senator Ted Morton appeared on CTV NewsNet’s "Mike Duffy Live." Though a florid-faced Morton conceded that, had he been a voter in Emerson’s riding, he too might be angry at Emerson’s defection, he quickly moved on to his main message that Emerson’s defection is a minor matter.

Morton argued that the biggest issue in British Columbia is softwood lumber, and that if Emerson is able to resolve it in short order then the story of his defection “may have a different ending.” On that basis he urged the public to take a “wait and see” attitude toward Emerson.

Upon being pressed by Duffy, Morton offered: “In politics as in life sometimes you have to take one step backwards in order to take two steps forward. Stephen Harper and his team’s achievement on January 23rd was a remarkable feat, but in the end if he’s a one-term wonder like Martin then what happened on January 23rd won’t make much difference. The challenge is to turn a minority government into a majority government in 18 months.”

Morton’s final comment was to observe that Harper had made “very astute choices” for his cabinet.

On Global National at 5:30, Ottawa correspondent Jacques Bourbeau reported that several Conservative MPs have indicated to him – in very strong language and off the record – that they believe Harper is “betraying his principles.”

The blogosphere (or at least my main barometers of it, Andrew Coyne and The Blogging Tories), seems to have cooled considerably on the Emerson issue, with many bloggers and comment posters offering the following arguments: the issue has been overblown, focus on the big picture, scooping Emerson merely demonstrates what a genius Stephen Harper is, no one is going to care about this by the time of the election, this is not the same as Belinda, etc.

While I agree that the issue should not be overblown – and that we must always be careful to not help our enemies – I believe this is a misstep that can be fixed. I continue to hope that it will be.

If you or your riding association are taking action or contemplating taking action, whether as suggested below or otherwise, please contact me at Confidentiality will be assured.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Day Two – Some Food for Thought, Plus Radio/TV Notes

"Let’s pledge to the people of Canada, not that we will be perfect, but that we will deal with problems before they become scandals and that we will always try and do the right thing."
--Stephen Harper, Saint John, New Brunswick, January 16, 2006

Newstalk 1010 (Toronto) morning host Bill Carroll seethed at length this morning about the Emerson defection and elevation to cabinet. Carroll said he considered it a personal betrayal, and now regrets that during the election he attempted to convince many people to put aside their unfounded suspicions of Harper and vote Conservative.

By the way, while tossing with insomnia overnight I caught the replay of Belinda Stronach’s Monday afternoon cold call to Newstalk 1010 afternoon host John Moore. Stronach delivered a self-righteous rant about how hypocritical the Harper Conservatives are, given their reaction to her defection. (“See? They’re just as bad as I am!” Not the best doggy to put in the window, Belinda.) Initially I was impressed with Stronach’s ease on air, especially given that she claimed to be driving on the Don Valley Parkway at the same time, but then she reverted to classic Belinda form: once she reached the end of her talking points, she started again from the top.

Dave Rutherford of Calgary’s CHQR AM 770 also kicked off his show today talking about Emerson and Fortier. His first interview was with Jamie Elmhirst, president of the Liberal Party’s B.C. wing. Elmhirst was at pains to distinguish Emerson’s defection from Stronach’s, and his main argument seemed to be the length of time that had lapsed since each had last faced the voters and her/his subsequent defection. Perhaps not wishing to burn any bridges, Elmhirst noted that “David Emerson is a guy who is tremendously respected in this province.”

CTV Toronto’s Talkback Toronto feature on the noon news ran this web/phone survey:

Should MPs be allowed to cross the floor?
Web survey: 95% No, 5% Yes
Phone calls: 90% No, 10% Yes

Charles Adler also led with the Emerson story on his CHQR show, with guests Tasha Kheiriddin, Ontario Director of the Canadian Taxpayers’Federation and Alberta’s Scott Hennich (sp?).

Later, Toronto Sun Senior Associate Editor Lorrie Goldstein was a guest of Adler’s and proceeded to excoriate Harper, expanding on his column in the Sun today.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The loyal opposition grows . . .

Gary McHale has also started a blog focussed on the Emerson issue,

David Emerson must resign and be elected as a Conservative

Note: If you or your riding association are taking action or contemplating taking action, whether as suggested below or otherwise, please contact me at Confidentiality will be assured.

Last fall, the United States witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, withdrawing before her confirmation hearings even began. Not because of opposition from Democrats, but opposition from Republicans, especially Republican commentators and bloggers. While these conservatives were generally supportive of President Bush, and were loath to embarrass him, they could not stand by while he appointed an individual who, while a competent White House legal counsel, was not a top candidate for the top court. They did not view their actions as disloyal, but the highest form of loyalty: loyalty to the principles of merit, integrity and conservatism.

I support Stephen Harper. I do not want to embarrass him. But it is because I am a loyal Conservative that I cannot remain silent while he commits the moral and political error of accepting an individual elected by voters less than a month ago as a Paul Martin Liberal – and a Paul Martin cabinet minister, no less – into the Conservative caucus and promptly appointing him to cabinet.

The fury and cynicism of Conservatives and many Canadians were well founded when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor last May in exchange for a cabinet seat, to assist the Martin government facing a close budget vote. As has been confirmed in February’s Toronto Life profile, former Ontario premier David Peterson, acting on Stronach’s behalf, demanded a cabinet post as the price of her entering the Liberal caucus.

Emerson’s crossing the floor in defiance of his constituents, and Harper’s placing him in cabinet, is fundamentally the same. People who looked with hope to a party with at least half its roots in the Reform Party’s democratic traditions, have just been given an excuse to retreat to what has become the universal justification of the disaffected and disinterested: “all politicians are the same.”

More ominously, this act not only puts a stain on the new government, it taints the entire Conservative party. The Harper government will live for only a time – and I hope it is a long time – but political parties and their deeds endure. In the past two elections, the federal Liberal ad campaign featured dark references to the regimes of Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris. Fair or not, those ads and references resonated with some. How will Emerson’s defection and Harper’s anointing of him resonate with voters?

Conservatives who disagree with this act are not helpless. The party and its candidates rely on us to maintain their riding associations, raise and donate money, and identify and get out the vote during elections. If the Harper government bans all corporate and union donations as promised in the Conservative platform, the amount that individual candidates will have available will depend entirely on donations from individuals.

Below is a quick list of suggested actions loyal Conservatives can take to show their disapproval and dissent:

1. Do not make further donations to the party. Write the Conservative Canada Fund and advise why.

2. If you receive a fundraising letter, return it with a letter indicating why as above, or simply mark it “Return to Sender – ELECT EMERSON.”

3. Contact your Conservative MP or candidate and advise them that you will not be assisting them in preparing for an election until this matter is resolved in a principled manner. The mailing address for all MPs is (postage is not required):

Member’s Name, MP,
House of Commons,
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

4. If you are on a riding executive, ask your executive to pass a resolution expressing its opposition about the appointment, and asking the Prime Minister to require Mr. Emerson to seek the support of his constituents as a Conservative. Issue a press release to your local media about your riding’s resolution.