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Monday, February 06, 2006

Are the Conservatives up by one?

This email from CKNW News:

Vancouver Kingsway Liberal MP David Emerson has apparently defected to the Conservatives to take a Cabinet post in the new Stephen Harper Government.

I guess we can take Emerson off the list of potential Liberal leadership candidates.

Posted by Steve Janke on February 6, 2006 | Permalink


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Makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. All the vitrol flung at BS will now be flung back in the face of the CPC, and yet they are showing that they do understand what politics is all about and for that I laugh!

Posted by: Dwayne | 2006-02-06 9:11:41 AM

Well, looks like the CPC just lost the so-called "moral highground." What a bunch of hypocrites!

Posted by: someone | 2006-02-06 9:20:18 AM

Now we will really see if Conservatives are as much about principle over politics as they claim. How loudly will we hear calls for re-votes/re-calls whenever an elected member crosses the floor? How about opportunism and bribery claims as Emerson exchanges his voting support for a platform he was opposing just weeks ago for an opportunity to stay in cabinet with all of the perks? What about all those who said you could never and should never entrust cabinet and party secrets to someone who shows such disloyalty as crossing the floor?

I'm sure the Conservative bloggers and rank-and-file will be up in arms about this in protest. No doubt.

I'm reminded of the refrain from The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again":

"Meet the new boss... same as the old boss"

It's going to be a fun 18 months for Liberals.


Posted by: TB | 2006-02-06 9:22:02 AM

I'm not sure what is more amusing about this:

1) the hypocricy,
2) the implication that the CPC didn't have enough qualified people on their own, or,
3) that it only took 1 day for Harper to reveal that it is business as usual in the PM's office.

Posted by: Bob | 2006-02-06 9:32:52 AM

This doesn't sit well with me, either. The electorate in that riding voted Liberal. This kind of fence jumping should not be allowed.

Posted by: Jeff | 2006-02-06 9:32:54 AM

Well, sure there's a slight aftertaste of hypocrisy there. But surely, there's a slight difference between crossing the floor to join a new government setting a new agenda. And crossing the floor to help keep a dying, corrupt government on life support for a few for months.

Posted by: Stopthetrain | 2006-02-06 9:33:27 AM

I don't like it at all. One more MP in the conservative caucus isn't going to make any difference on important votes and it sends entirely the wrong message. Emerson should step down and run in a byelection in short order.

Posted by: DrD | 2006-02-06 9:35:39 AM

As an ardent CPC and Harper supporter, I'm personally unhappy about this move.

Firstly, do we really need a cabinet minister from a big-three metro area that bad as to lower our standards to that of the Liberals?

Secondly, how would you feel if you voted and/or worked for Emerson to be elected Liberal in his Vancouver riding, only to find out he jumps to the CPC a couple weeks later. I'd be livid if my local CPC candidate flip flopped to the Lib's.

I know politics is rough, and all's fair in love and war, but I like to think we would not stoop to the level of the Liberals on this sort of behavior.

To his partial credit, Harper has always said he wasn't totally opposed to flippers, if their conscience as MP's changed. But how can your conscience change do drastically in two weeks?

Hopefully this will be cleared up, and hopefully the CPC will avoid politics as usual in the future.

Posted by: Joel K. | 2006-02-06 9:37:27 AM

This sleazy act will be rationalized as seeking some representation from "the big three" cities. Here are some reasons why this sucks:

Emerson's vote was not pivotal, the CPC is still in a minority position. It was unecessary.

Loyal, principled Conservative candidates for cabinet were overlooked.

The voters in Vancouver Kingsway, unless voting for the man and not the party, were insulted, although when it comes to riding pork, what better way than to have a cabinet posting.

Looks like we just elected Liberal Lite.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2006-02-06 9:40:14 AM

I'm afraid you're right John. It seems like only two weeks ago that Emerson was on Liberal ads here in B.C. with the former health minister(that bundle of principle) saying the Conservatives were going to wreck Canada. Not good.

Posted by: Stewart | 2006-02-06 9:50:20 AM

Shouldnt we at least wait and hear Harpers explanation before jumping to conclusions. I admit it doesnt look good, but maybe there is a plausible explanation somewhere. I hope.

Posted by: MikeP | 2006-02-06 9:55:32 AM

I too am VERY disappointed not only in the appointment of Emerson, but also of Fortier, who is unelected.

This will cause a great deal of "I told you so" comments coming from people that were cynical of the CPC, and, rightly so. Even good explanations for the moves are not going to cover over the fact that the CPC just pulled the same moves as the Liberals that convinced many voters to stop supporting the Liberals.

Given the anger felt by the supporters of the CPC about the crossings of Stronach and Brison, I don't understand the Emerson move. Given all the discussion about the need for an elected Senate, I don't understand the Fortier move.

CPC supporters need to become vocal about their disapproval of these moves and then see how responsive the new CPC government is. You can bet that the people that don't support the CPC will be.

In the end, my biggest concern is about creating an even more cynical electorate. If these types of mis-steps continue, I won't blame people for saying "they're all the same" about politicians.

Posted by: Active Listener | 2006-02-06 9:55:52 AM

Bwa! MikeP to the rescue!

Why doesn't your response surprise me?

What's good for the goose and all that.

Reasonable explanation, indeed.

Posted by: tim | 2006-02-06 10:02:33 AM

Two huge surprises: Emerson and Fortier. Emerson had to cross the floor to sit in cabinet; Fortier, the co-chair of the recent Cons campaign and a former PC president, had to get himself appointed to the Senate. Wow.

Posted by: Terry O'Neill | 2006-02-06 10:09:18 AM

Sooooo when a CPC defects to the Liberals, she's bad. But when a Liberal defects to the CPC, it's also bad? The people of Vancouver should be happy that now they have some representation in government. Toronto and the GTA won't have that luxury because they have more money than brains.

Posted by: Scott | 2006-02-06 10:14:56 AM

Hey relax y'all, this is good for Vancouver and good for the Olympics. He may turn out to be a great asset to the CPC.

They need more seats. Crossing the floor is not that unusual and if it's the worse thing the CPC does in it's first year, big deal ... let's wait and see.

Keep in it perspective. We all know that politicians are self interested so don't be shocked. Let's make the best of this event and hope it helps.

His constituants can toss him in the next election if they are really pissed.


Posted by: Duke | 2006-02-06 10:16:54 AM

>Well, sure there's a slight aftertaste of hypocrisy there. But surely, there's a slight difference between crossing the floor to join a new government setting a new agenda. And crossing the floor to help keep a dying, corrupt government on life support for a few for months.<

You are absolutely right, there is no comparison to the Stronach defection and this, but still it is disappointing to see this happening already, or at all. Part of cleaning up this mess called government in Canada should be putting a stop to this kind of tomfoolery.

It simply makes a mockery of this so called "democracy". This guy should certainly have to rerun in a by-election. I am deeply disappointed in Harper for this.

What is refreshing to see is people joining in criticism and debate of their own party and leader instead of simply drinking the "Liberal Kool-Aid" in which everything their leader does is right.

Hopefully people in the right places are listening.

Posted by: deepblue | 2006-02-06 10:37:59 AM

I am a Stephen Harper fan, but this does bother me in the fact that if Vancouver does not vote PC, why should they get a seat as a defector?? Now Vancouver will want us taxpayers to PAY that big deficit they are having with the OLYMPICS???????? I hope not

Posted by: FRP | 2006-02-06 10:45:19 AM

This is a fine move by Mr Harper, taking a credible and talented Canadian who will have a presence in Vancouver during the build-up to the 2010 games.

I never had a problem with MPs jumping ship for ideological reasons, and I don't have a problem with ensuring there is a credible respresentative from our key regions. I do have a problem, however, when MPs switch sides on the eve of a confidence vote in exchange for a junior cabinet position. A position, if you can recall, in which no tangible work had ever been accomplished in the aftermath.

At least Mr Emerson has talent and skill and will be a strong voice for his city at the cabinet table; The only thing Belinda brought was her butt and, specifically, where she was to place it during votes in the Commons.

Posted by: Huck | 2006-02-06 10:56:37 AM

Emerson is a smart guy, and will be a good addition to cabinet. I would suspect his inclination is to conservatism, and as such he will be able to work well in the CPC cabinet.


He did allow his inclination to conservatism to be subsumed to his inclination to power. I would give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope that he was trying to do good by working from within, but he bears watching.

Posted by: BCDad | 2006-02-06 10:59:33 AM

Despite the obvious difference -- that Belinda went from an honest, decent party to a corrupt one, I'm disappointed about Emerson's crossing. This seems a hypocritical move for the Conservatives, after all the complaining about Stronach.

On the other hand, Liberals and Liberal voters, have absolutely no right to complain about it. Their reaction to Belinda's crossing was comprised of smirks and shrugs and high-fives, if I remember correctly. Of course, they'll be outraged now.

Posted by: EBD | 2006-02-06 11:02:32 AM

I don't think this is so unusual. Remember Jean Charest used to be a conservative. Lucien Bouchard was the right hand man of Bryan Mulroney.

We also have a situation where three important areas were not represented in a minority government. In a sense the result is Montréal and Vancouver will be better represented.

We have to remember that many countries have a system for a more balanced method of representation. I don't think morality is in question here but our system of government. Belinda Stronach was reelected even if she did a more questionable move because of corruption of the libs.

Posted by: Rémi houle | 2006-02-06 11:04:21 AM

BCDad, I like to think that the entire cabinet bears watching, not just those who once worked for the Liberals.

If Mr Harper moves to increase the importance of Parliament, that individual members are allowed to chastise and question policies brought to the floor by the cabinet, then I might be satisfied that the government is working for Canadians, not just the party.

To the rest of you who think Harper is "just like the others" and has betrayed his base,

It's all well and good to hold on to ideological populism shortly after the election, but the reality is, the country needs to be governed in its entirety, not just for certain regions which might have supported the winner by a wider margin. Vancouver (like Montreal) is not some small, insiginificant town in the middle of nowhere. It is North America's largest port on the Pacific, it is our gateway to the Asian trade community, it will be in the world's glare in 2010. The city needs representation at the Cabinet table. A voice for the Lower Mainland is a positive for the nation, despite which party is in power.

Posted by: Huck | 2006-02-06 11:21:37 AM

It may very well be that Emerson will be a good minister, perhaps even with Conservative policies.

But why did he then run as a Liberal?

Since he did, he should not become part of a Conservative government, just as Belinda should not have become a Liberal minster when elected a Conservative.

This is not a good start for Harper, I'm afraid.

Posted by: Johan i Kanada | 2006-02-06 11:36:27 AM

How many times will it take before Albertans who traditionally vote blue federally, support virtually anyone wearing a blue scarf, and naively think that coming into real power is only going to happen when the power base is controlled by eastern Canada.

Alberta and BC have what - a couple dozen months to get something going. Will it happen? Time will tell.

Posted by: calgary clipper | 2006-02-06 11:36:58 AM

Emerson is probably one of the more qualified Liberals, apparently he was fairly well respected by Conservative MP's. The most disquieting thing evident about him is that he originally chose to run for the Liberals. Don't necessarily appreciate him receiving a Cabinet post, even though the decision in his case may well have been based on merit.
Huck - If Vancouverites "needs representation at the Cabinet table" they should perhaps change their voting habits, instead of electing fools & chameleons like Fry & Robinson (at least he lost this last one)!

Posted by: Kevin | 2006-02-06 11:51:04 AM

In my view, Harper is ignoring partisan politics and focusing on good government. He wants people in his cabinet who can provide this - whether they are members of a particular political party is not the definitive attribute. What matters, is what they can provide, for a strong Canadian government.

Emerson seems to be important to this agenda, because of his Olympic business connections - and Harper's gov't has to ensure that these Olympics function well; and, because of his expertise in economics; and, because of his expertise in Vancouver business and affairs.

This is a completely different issue than the Stronach affair - where she switched parties, not because she had anything to provide for the good of the people of Canada - but merely to prop up a corrupt government. In other words, she was involved in partisan politics.

In an interesting difference, I'm concluding that the Emerson affair has nothing to do with partisan politics and everything to do with good government, and what he has to offer to the people of Canada - expertise, strength in enabling the Olympics to be successful, etc.

Posted by: ET | 2006-02-06 11:51:11 AM

Wow! It gets worse. Putting Fortier in the Senate just so Harper can put an unelected individual in cabinet.

So much for:

1) a functioning senate
2) ministers who are accountable to voters

Posted by: bob | 2006-02-06 11:52:45 AM

Of course, the fact that Emerson switching now means that the CPC and NDP together can hold the balance of power is totally irrelevant.

Why in the world is it Harper's responsiblity to ensure that the Olympics goes well.

Posted by: Tim | 2006-02-06 11:54:30 AM

I have started a blog to focus on the need for Emerson to seek the endorsement of his constituents, www.electemerson.blogspot.com.

Posted by: Joan Tintor | 2006-02-06 12:01:29 PM

Re. unelected Fortier: Lord Beaverbrook served in two Cabinets, in WW1 and WW2, without being an MP. And what's the problem with him being in the Senate until he can get an MP's seat? (Didn't Brian Tobin sit in one of Crétin's Cabinets without a seat too?)

I'm not happy about Emerson, however, even if it wasn't a bribe for a vote as was BS's crossing. Let him sit as an Independent until the next election.

Posted by: andycanuck | 2006-02-06 12:03:28 PM

There is no hope of a plausible explanation as I had hoped in my earlier comment. I just watched an interview and he said he can do much more for BC as a minister, and that he ran as a small c Liberal. If he considers himself that indispensible, he could resign his seat and run in a bye election.

Posted by: MikeP | 2006-02-06 12:15:43 PM

Huck wrote:

"I do have a problem, however, when MPs switch sides on the eve of a confidence vote in exchange for a junior cabinet position."

And when the former minister of a relatively important portfolio swithces sides (and takes another cabinet post) only two weeks after his government loses power and just hours before the new cabinet of a former- opposition-party-now-government is introducted, this doesn't present a problem?

Posted by: Clement Ng | 2006-02-06 12:28:05 PM

I see the Emerson move as retribution for the Paris Stronach defection. A little of rub it the Librano's faces. Hope it drives the moonbats even more nuts!

Posted by: JRob | 2006-02-06 12:31:16 PM

Hypocrisy at it's finest! Both Emerson and Fortier show not much has changed from any ethical standpoint between conservatives, or liberals. What bothers me most about Emerson, is the fact that all his constituents and workers on his campaign have to feel betrayed.

It's one thing for a member to have doubts about where his party is headed after a couple years, but for only two weeks to lapse after an election and cross the floor is simply shameful.

Posted by: Lollypoppery | 2006-02-06 12:38:18 PM

I support the CPC and these two moves are boneheaded and Librano-like.

Elected MPs in Cabinet only.
No party jumping for Cabinet reward.

On his first day, Harper slides down the ethical slope the Liberals greased so well.

Posted by: wharold | 2006-02-06 12:43:18 PM

Kevin and Clement, re: your comments directed my way;

My concern, as it was with ET, is with the overt partisanship of the Belinda episode, as well as with good governance in general. Our parliamentary system is built in such a way that whole regions can get left out of the inner circle of government at any given election. However, no matter which way a person votes, it doesn't make them less Canadian. And even though Vancouver voted drastically different than Conservative Calgary, it doesn't make a healthy Vancouver less important to the country as a whole, Calgary included.

Just because Vancouverites didn't vote Conservative doesn't mean they don't deserve representation at the Cabinet table. That same argument was used against Calgarians who refused to vote in Liberals despite the fact the city didn't have any cabinet ministers. Instead of catering to western Canadian values and needs, the Chretien and Martin governments chose to alienate Alberta, to dire effect. Calgarians could very well have voted for the Liberals had they acted in a different manner.

Mr Harper is not trying to stave off a vote of non-confidence in the House, nor is he attempting to derive a majority mandate that the electorate didn't give him; By suggesting to the important economic region of the Lower Mainland that they matter, even though they didn't vote for the Conservatives, Mr Harper comes across as someone willing to govern for the entire country, rather than fractional blocs which are politically expedient. The cynical might see this move as politically advantageous; others in the Lower Mainland might see this as a government which wants them in.

We have to stop looking in partisan terms for the time being during this minority government so that important work can be done for the next couple of years. With a different mandate and under different circumstances, this wouldn't be a smart move; Today, it's borderline genius.

Personally, I would not mind to see a more American-style governing system, where the administration is held separate from the legislature and so questions between constituency and cabinet representations don't conflict with each other. If that was the case, Belinda could not have switched when she did, and Mr Emerson could have served in both Cabinets without raising too many eyebrows,

However, I do like Joan Tintor's comment above which suggests Emerson should seek a mandate from his electorate. If his constituents demand it, Emerson should be obliged to throw his name in, though he should be given a few months on the job to justify his move.

Posted by: Huck | 2006-02-06 2:02:23 PM

"I never had a problem with MPs jumping ship for ideological reasons"

Yes, I'm sure that the guy who claimed he was going to be "Stephen Harper's worst nightmare" only two weeks ago, jumped ship for ideological reasons.

Give us a break.

Posted by: Jim in Toronto | 2006-02-06 6:07:46 PM

So much for accountability (to the voters who elect you to public office). So much for transparency, ethics and integrity in government. David Emerson is a sleaze.

Posted by: Me | 2006-02-06 6:31:39 PM

If Emerson's a sleaze, what do you call the man who offered him a cabinet post?
Just curious.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-02-06 7:08:24 PM

Your discussion is really educational for an American observer like me. While I am as partisan is humanly possible (although we don't have an American political party which is sufficiently conservative for me) and thus I appreciate the disappointment of those who express outrage at various Liberals "crossing the floor" in efforts to form a government, I think that Huck's comments above offer both realism and optimism for you Conservatives. One more thought, if my memory serves me, I believe that Winston Churchill switched parties TWICE after two successive elections in order to remain in cabinet positions (and down here in America, we think of Sir Winston as essentially a Saint).


Posted by: Conrad-USA | 2006-02-06 7:37:11 PM

Ahh, get over it! The disillusioned Tories that are blogging are somewhat touching, but a little sanctimonious and short on the bigger picture. Kinda like biting off your nose to spite your face.

Posted by: Janice in SK | 2006-02-06 8:30:29 PM

Jim in Toronto

My comments were in reference to Keith Martin and Scott Brison, who felt that they could not belong to a Conservative Party at the time of the merger. I didn't agree with them but then, they switched parties after the conservative merger ,not the night before a key vote in the Commons.

If anyone feels that Ms Stronach changed hands for purely ideological reason, I have a bridge I want to sell you.

As for Emerson, he is a respected businessman of note in Vancouver and an experienced cabinet official. Electioneering aside, he would do as well in a Conservative government as he would in a Liberal one which, to me, shows that he is a man who knows how to get things done.

If anyone has a right to bitch, it would be his constituents and advocates there of. If they want to get rid of him now, then fine. That is their perogative.

However, my issue is with the system of government which allows for a conflict of issue with a member of both the legislature and cabinet, since those are often not one in the same. Here is a situation of a man who is both willing to work and more than qualified to do so. Just because the election didn't go the way he wanted, does it mean he shouldn't be able to help out our nation?

To be honest, I would rather Emerson sat as an independent and served in cabinet, but our parliamentary system would not have it, as far as I know.

Thus, we have our dissentors who would rather the government not include a member from the Lower Mainland to go along with no minister from Montreal or Toronto, and who are willing to call that "democracy in action".

Pat yourselves on the back then, brave souls. Pray tell, let us all in on your brilliant solution as to how you would govern Canada without members of the three largest metropolian centres in the Dominion.

Posted by: Huck | 2006-02-06 8:42:11 PM

I'd govern Canada with the MPs that were elected. The idea that regional representation in Cabinet is a prerequisite for legitimate government is nonsense and I'm not going to give it undeserved credibility by seriously engaging it. If you want a voice in government, elect a member of the governing party -- it really is that simple. Frankly, were I a Conservative MP I'd be insulted by the suggestion that I couldn't (or wouldn't) represent the best interests of any part of the country just because they didn't vote CPC.

Make no mistake, though: my scorn is far less for Harper, Emerson or Fortier, than for those Reformist partisans who:

(a) condemned Belinda's defection on the grounds that it defrauded constituents who voted Conservative, but see no issue with Emerson doing the same thing (and it is the same, no matter how you try to rationalize the two as different); or

(b) condemned Ontario voters for not merely accepting as an article of faith that a Conservative government would govern any differently than the Liberals, and then today are crowing about how Harper should use every sneaky trick in the book... which is to say, govern like a Liberal.

Posted by: Jim in Toronto | 2006-02-07 10:14:09 AM

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