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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

White Knights And Dark Days In Ottawa

The truth is, Belinda Stronach has become an archetypal figure in modern Canadian politics. And a steaming Stephen Harper tells us why:

“I told my wife only a few days ago that I thought it had become obvious to Belinda that her leadership ambitions would not be reached in this party regardless of whether or not we won the next election, that they just weren't in the cards, and I thought that would mean trouble.”

So, in spite of essentially calling for the fall of the government in the past week, and her opposition to the Martin budget, she sold out her party, because it was unlikely that she would become leader. Why didn't she become a Liberal in the first place? Simple: it once looked like she had the best chance of heading the Conservatives. She did not cross the floor because she was unable to advance a progressive agenda within the Conservative caucus. The truth is that she left not on principle, but because she stood a good chance of losing her seat, and because it may be a little easier to get a top job with the Liberals than to undertake the more difficult job of reforming the CPC from within (incidentally, something I advocate). That she decided to leave is unsurprising, given that her rise to the top of Magna did not exactly involve a lot of hard work. Her acceptance of a cabinet position is not a 'gamble'; given the precarious electoral position in her riding, and some simple budget-vote arithmetic, it's a pretty reasonably choice, from a purely politically pragmatic point of view.

But here is the real laugher:

Mr. Martin said it is not unusual for MPs to defect straight into a cabinet post, although it is only the third time that has happened since Confederation [my emph]. He insisted that the importance of the defection was not that it will help his government win the vote — prompting an outburst of laughter from assembled reporters. “Just a minute,” Mr. Martin said, betraying a small smile. “We still do not know whether the budget will pass or not. Well, I've got to tell you I can count.”

(He can't even keep a straight face anymore!)

Belinda's move was craven and opportunistic, but admittedly smart, at least on a selfish basis. I bear no (well, little) malice toward Paul Martin for making this move -- this is part of something bigger than him and his current government, and the defection was pragmatic, if shameless. But it tells us what Canadian politics is all about these days: no matter what the precedent, no matter what the principle, all can be forsaken for political expediency and the all-mighty cling to power. The problem is, so long as the government continues to be rewarded at the polls, nothing is going to change. So enjoy your place in the history books, Belinda. I hope I'll be able to look back on this post in 20 years and laugh.

2 Comments:

Blogger James MacDuff said...

"No matter what the precedent, no matter what the principle, all can be forsaken for political expediency and the all-mighty cling to power. The problem is, so long as the government continues to be rewarded at the polls, nothing is going to change."

Worth restating. Very well said, and reason enough for liberal-minded voters to hope for Liberal defeat. Reforming the CPC from within has never been more necessary, and more within the next leader's grasp.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Mike McNair said...

An argument for liberal minded voters to perhaps switch parties and turn the CPC back into the PC. I'll buy that, but think it's unlikely.

It's not an argument for making Harper PM.

12:50 PM  

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