I’m surprised this took more than 24 hours for the NDP to put this out but I suspect Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, the newly minted Minister of State (Democratic Reform) will be a lightning rod for attacks by the opponents of the Harper Conservatives. And, I argue in our papers today, that Poilievre is in cabinet with the portfolio — Senate reform, taming Robocalls, etc. — precisely because he is a lightning rod for the kind of attack the NDP is unleashing today. Here is the NDP press release, copied and pasted exactly as received with one rather hilarious spelling error (see if you can find it!):
NDP REALITY CHECK:
How to get ahead in a Harper government – The sordid saga of Pierre Poilievre
“Nigel Wright did an exceptionally honourable thing.”
– Pierre Poilievre, CBC Power and Politics, 15/05/2013
Last session, a number of Conservative MPs stood up and spoke out against Stephen Harper’s iron rule over his caucus. One even resigned from Harper’s caucus over the Conservatives’ lack of accountability.
But Pierre Poilievre was not among the dissidents. While others were saying no to the PMO’s dishonest attacks on the opposition, Mr. Poilievre was standing up and repeating the worst of what Harper’s dirty attack squad could come up with.
And now, Pierre Poilievre’s appointment as Minister of State for Democratic Reform shows the rest of caucus exactly what it takes to get head in Conservative Ottawa. Forget about competence or working with other parties – to become a minister for Stephen Harper, you must leave the truth behind and embrace mean-spirited attacks.
A record of gaffes and low-ball attacks
Elected in 2004, Poilievre first made a name for himself for attacks he made during a parliamentary committee, [ the video is here] and offensive gestures in the House of Commons, earning him a combative reputation.
In 2008, Poilievre was in hot water again for offensive comments directed toward residential school abuse victims. During a local radio interview, he criticized funding to the survivors, saying “Are we really getting value for all of this money?” and questioning the work ethic of First Nations people.
In 2010, he again demonstrated his poor judgement and aggressive nature when he became impatient at a security gate on Parliament Hill and opened it himself – before the RCMP officer could even see who was in the vehicle.
Since 2011, Poilievre has become the Conservatives’ ‘go to’ parliamentarian, whenever Conservatives are under fire for another scandal, for creating a diversion during Question Period with made-up personal attacks or divisive comment.
A disrespectful approach that has earned widespread criticism
“He sounds ridiculous…”
– Susan Sherring (Ottawa Sun, 18/05/2013),
“He’s doing devastating damage to the Conservative brand”
– Bruce Anderson is categorical: (“At Issue”, CBC, 13/05/06).
For Stephen Harper, making a mockery of Question Period with outrageous attacks earns you a promotion to cabinet! And with his regular attacks on Elections Canada, Mr. Harper even made him the Minister for Democratic Reform.
Canadians deserve better
Canadians deserve ministers who work for them, not for their party.
Ministers willing to work with all Canadians, not just those who agree with them. Ministers who are respectful and competent, not hyper-partisan pit bulls who specialize in mean-spirited, unfounded attacks.
I’m quite certain you’ll read the entire column I wrote for today’s papers but here’s the bit about Poilievre:
Harper has put up arguably the most partisan person in his caucus to handle these files, Pierre Poilievre. The Ottawa MP positively delights his own caucus in question period by annoying the beejeezus out of the opposition (and many in the press gallery) with a dismissive take-no-prisoners, attack-dog style of debate.
As minister of state for democratic reform, it will be Poilievre’s job to lead Senate reform and to improve the way we elect our government.
In choosing Poilievre, though, Harper is conceding no quarter to his critics in Parliament and in the press, who believe the Conservatives are sneaky, underhanded, unprincipled players. Rather than negotiate or concede any points on this file, Harper, in choosing his most partisan of pit bulls, has decided that the best defence is a good offence.
And, truth be told, when it comes fundraising or electioneering, the Harper Conservatives seem to profit handsomely when they go into hyper-partisan mode and convince their own supporters that the world — Liberals, New Democrats, the Mainstream Media — is out to get them. For that mission, Poilievre should fit in just fine.
And if Harper’s bet on Poilievre — and the other 28 MPs he shuffled around Monday — pays off, the Conservatives think they can win again in 2015.
P.S. Did you find the error in that press release? Here’s a screen grab from the NDP Web site at 1 pm ET. Read that third paragraph very carefully: