John Robson - June 6th, 2013
The decision by Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber (Edmonton-St. Albert) to leave the Conservative caucus is good news. Not primarily because he is right on the substance of the dispute, hostile amendments to a transparency bill, though he is, nor because it is an issue on which the public will probably support his courageous display of independent thought, though they probably will. The main thing is the vital constitutional reason he gave for his decision:
The more popular feeling certainly at PMO and the whip’s office is that caucus members should essentially be cheerleaders for the government and spread the government’s message as opposed to being some sort of legislative check on executive power. I don’t accept their premise.
As if expressly to prove his point, PMO Communications Director Andrew McDougall snarled on Twitter:
The people of Edmonton-St. Albert elected a Conservative Member of Parliament. Mr. Rathgeber should resign and run in a by-election.
McDougall has hold of the wrong end of the stick. The people of Edmonton-St. Albert elected, primarily, a Member of Parliament, a legislator to keep the executive including cabinet in check by their control of the power of the purse. In electing Mr. Rathgeber they also chose a Conservative, someone they rightly believed would support the Harper ministry on most issues as it attempted to carry out its electoral program. But they did so believing, rightly and crucially, that they were electing someone who by endorsing that program promised to withdraw his support if the Harper ministry did not keep its key promises on matters ranging from accountability to fiscal prudence to respecting the rights of backbenchers.
In leaving caucus Mr. Rathgeber has therefore vindicated the judgement of those who voted for him, and our true, ancient and battered Constitution. For all its other merits, his decision is most important for that reason.
John Robson - May 29th, 2013
In Question Period yesterday the Prime Minister said:
By his own admission, Mr. Wright made a serious error. For that he has accepted full, sole responsibility. He has agreed to resign and he is subject to an investigation, an examination by the ethics commissioner.
Sole responsibility as in nobody else did it. Though it’s not clear how Harper can know that since he denies being told anything ahead of time and won’t admit to having asked his staff subsequently what happened and who knew about it and when. All in the hands of the ethics commissioner, folks. Nothing to see here. Move along. Economic Action Plan coming through.
What puzzles me, though, is that Wright has now “agreed to resign” whereas in Question Period last Wednesday John Baird claimed Wright “immediately submitted his resignation, and it was immediately accepted”.
So which is it? Did he submit his resignation, and if so was it as soon as he informed the PM of what he’d done, in which case why did Harper take days to immediately accept it? Or did Harper demand his resignation and if so when, and how long did Wright take to agree to resign?
Is the PMO deliberately babbling inconsistencies in the hope of confusing and frustrating us so much we stop asking? Or do the facts change from day to day, rendering old responses “inoperative”?
John Robson - March 19th, 2013
Authorities have now pulled more than 13,000 dead pigs out of the Huangpu river which supplies over a fifth of Shanghai’s drinking water. But as usual in Communist countries, there’s no problem at all. The People’s Daily observes cheerfully that both the number and size of dead pigs in the daily haul is now declining while an official with the Shanghai Information Office says water quality in the Huangpu river is “normal”.
Sadly, given China’s pollution problems it probably is.
John Robson - March 4th, 2013
Just possibly it’s a sign of greater openness that city officials in Chengdu, one of China’s vast number of horribly polluted cities, were caught spraying green dye on withered grass beside the roads and the press reported it. The makers of the dye deny absolutely that it’s more pollution and note that they have many public sector clients (two unrelated propositions). Chengdu’s landscaping department initially claimed it was a “nutrient fluid” to help the grass survive the winter before deciding refusal to comment was their least embarrassing strategy; meanwhile a spokesman for the dye maker said as manufactured it contained no nutrients before adding “Maybe they added some.”
Given China’s ecological and governmental problems, my advice is, stay off the grass. Especially if it’s this weird fluorescent green that sticks to your shoes.