It’s surely the question on the lips of all those “Canadians” politicians keep mentioning with such transparently insincere fondness, us normal ones who aren’t up to our eyebrows in politics or indentured since birth to one particular party and whose political allegiances are rather more flexible.
It is this.
For God’s sakes, why are those other people — the muscled-out and muzzled Jody Wilson-Raybould, the booted and betrayed Jane Philpott, the deeply confused members of Philpott’s riding association in Markham-Stouffville, Ont., — all still proclaiming themselves to be proud Liberals?
According to CBC News, 10 of 16 association board members in Philpott’s riding resigned after a meeting Monday night.
I attempted to confirm the mass resignation with Stuart Young, still as of Tuesday listed online as the chair of the Markham-Stouffville Federal Liberal Association. But, asked for a few minutes of his time, he replied, “Thank you, but no.”
Thus, we are left with the remarks of the outgoing secretary, one Leea Nutson, to the mother corp.
The resignations, said Nutson, weren’t meant as a “protest” against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, heaven’s no.
Rather, she said, the board members, all volunteers, are disheartened; they “don’t have the energy to support another candidate.”
And, Nutson said, she didn’t resign because of the SNC-Lavalin controversy. (What was that business anyway? Was there a controversy?) Rather, she said, “it’s strictly about Jane Philpott,” whom she has supported since 2015.
And, of course, Nutson told the CBC, she still plans to vote for Trudeau and the Liberals in the October election.
Ditto, of course, JWR and Philpott herself.
From the moment Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet — because of the political pressure being applied to her by the PM, the PMO, the clerk of the Privy Council and anyone else they could draft in to give SNC-Lavalin a deal so the company could avoid prosecution on bribery and fraud charges for its alleged conduct in Libya — she announced her intentions to remain a Liberal, insisting she still “fundamentally” believed Trudeau shares her vision for the country and that she supports the Liberal platform.
And when Philpott resigned as Treasury Board president — she made it crystal-clear she was bloody well resigning because she’d lost confidence in how the government dealt with SNC-Lavalin and how “it has responded to the issues raised” — she, too, pledged to continue on in the Liberal caucus and pronounced herself “firmly committed to our crucial platform priorities, especially justice for Indigenous peoples and implementing a plan to tackle the existential threat of climate change.”
Wilson-Raybould even wrote a letter to the Liberal caucus, pleading with her colleagues to let her stay.
Naturally, instead she and Philpott were smartly kicked out the caucus door last week, meaning they now sit as independent members.
The caucus didn’t actually vote on the expulsions of the two women, that decision being made unilaterally by Trudeau, albeit after alleged “consultations” with some regional chairs which gave him, he said, a sense of the “will of caucus.”
Philpott raised the issue in the House of Commons Tuesday, suggesting that the PM broke the law.
It appears that back in 2015, the Liberals didn’t bother to have the vote required by the Reform Act — brought forward by Conservative MP Michael Chong two years before — on how to deal with expulsions.
These rules lay out a clear process for expulsion — 20 per cent of the members have to write the chair requesting an expulsion vote, and a majority of the caucus, in this case 90 Liberals, has to approve it by secret ballot.
Every party caucus is required to hold four such recorded votes — on expulsion, re-admission to caucus, the election or removal of caucus chairs, leadership reviews — after each general election and report the results to the Speaker.
The underlying notion, as Philpott told the House, is that MPs are not accountable to the leader, but he or she to them.
Put another way, MPs ought to have a say in how their organization — the caucus — is run.
Philpott apparently consulted Chong before rising in the House, and he told the National Post’s Marie-Danielle Smith that she’s right on the money — that failing to have the brand-new MPs vote on their own administration in 2015 and then failing to have a vote on the JWR-Philpott expulsions are inherently illegal acts.
Speaker Geoff Regan has promised to come back with an opinion.
It is, as with much about Jane Philpott, a principled, serious and important issue. Inshallah, there will be a miracle, and the Speaker, a Liberal of course, will agree with her, and then the Liberal caucus can vote, in secret, so that the PM doesn’t get to frog-march them into giving him the result he wants.
And what then — they’d be back in the Liberal caucus, in the warm Liberal embrace? How would that in any way (aside from the principle) be a victory, I wonder, to get back to work for a prime minister whose idea of the rule of law is setting the rules and laying down the law?
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019