Sunday, November 3, 2013

Stephen's Chosen, But the Hope of the Party Remains

As I recently noted on this blog, I've lost confidence in Stephen Harper as Prime Minister and as Conservative Party leader. His refusal to rein in the secretive backroom behaviour in the Prime Minister's Office, and his determination to double down on that by circumventing due process have become an utterly untenable position for anyone who values democracy.

That being said, I'm not pulling a sonakent. What I mean by this is that, unlike some, I never supported or joined the Conservative Party merely as a means to gain political prominence. Rather, I supported and joined the party because I cherish the values for which it stands, and principles upon which it was built.

To allow the political destiny of Canada to be dictated by unelected officials in a backroom of the PMO flies in the very face of that. It's the reason why then-Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay turned his back on the demands David Orchard made in such a backroom and put the destiny of that party before its membership.

Stephen Harper should know this very well. In the end, he was a beneficiary of that decision. It allowed him to negotiate the merger of the PC and Canadian Alliance parties. The events that followed culminated with him becoming Prime Minister of Canada. He seems to have forgotten this. But I haven't.

Today, rank-and-file delegates at the party convention voted to tighten party rules regarding financial reporting. It's an imperfect means to discourage -- if not outright prevent -- unilateral decisions to use party funds for questionable purposes, but it does serve to one very specific, and important, end: it reminds party brass that they are not to simply use party funds for any purpose they deem fit, up to and including making potentially-embarrassing episodes go away.

Interestingly enough, a number of labour unions in Canada -- those who donated funds to help Pat Martin fight a defamation lawsuit that he eventually settled -- have a very similar issue of their own to plumb. I'm not aware of any of these unions holding a convention since these donations became public knowledge, but whether or not rank-and-file union members try to head off such actions in the future will be interesting to see. As it will be interesting to see how hard their leaders may resist such rule-tightening.

The Stephen Harpers and Nigel Wrights of the party brass need to take note of the message rank-and-file members have sent today: we expect that party officials will take their direction from party members, and that unelected bureaucrats will take their directions from elected officials, not vise versa. Any of you who cannot abide this had best vacate your positions.

As for myself, I will not turn my back on the party and on my fellow party members; not so long as they continue to stand for the values and principles for which this party -- and this country -- stand.

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