Something that’s always bothered me about Canadian party politics is the way in which supposedly intelligent men and women prostrate themselves at the feet of the party whenever they are told to do so. I just don’t get it. I mean, these are generally accomplished, successful people that we elect to represent us and, presumably, think on our behalf and use their brains for the good of the country. But as soon as the final vote is tallied they turn into a flock of highly paid and well trained sheep. Baaaaa! This “following orders” shtick was lame when it was used at Nuremberg, and it’s no less lame now.
Take the latest Mulroney-Schreiber affair (PLEASE!) and Harper’s ban on contact with the former prime minister. In his latest rant, Rick Mercer puts it best when he says:
Look at Marjory Lebreton. Sure, she's a cabinet minister, but she's one of Mulroney's oldest friends. She goes to his children's weddings. They talk on the phone every day. If Marjory croaked tomorrow, he'd be one of her pallbearers. But nope, there's Marjory, proud as punch in the Montreal Gazette saying she's going to follow orders. She's never going to speak to Mulroney again until this thing is settled.
If I had friends like that, I'd want to shoot myself.
Personally I’d probably want to point the gun in the other direction, but regardless, how shallow, how fickle, how downright insincere can a person actually be to let her job (gravy train though it may be) stand in the way of a deep and abiding personal relationship?
And that’s only one example. How about Harper telling his MPs that they can’t go to the Press Gallery Dinner, and they do the ‘Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir’ jig and all stay home on a Saturday night. (And do what one wonders. Cower in the dark because of the crime spree sweeping Canadian neighbourhoods? Stuff plain brown envelopes with slips of paper to see what getting $300,000 would actually feel like? Think up catchy new negative ads for the next non-election campaign?) I mean it’s like you can’t trust your teenager not to get into trouble on a Saturday night so you ground him. Come on! These are adults we’re talking about here. Well, except for John Baird maybe. Or that Poilievre guy. Or ... Yeah, on second thought, maybe it is better to not let them out without adult supervision.
You also have to question the PM’s leadership skills. Granted, he doesn’t pick his MPs and so he has to work with whatever the voters give him (slim pickings indeed), but, Kim Jong Il aside, most prime ministers and successful managers of all stripes don’t want to be surrounded by grovelling toadies. It attracts ridicule, stifles progress and blunts innovation. If Harper ran a business like this he’d be bankrupt in a week and he and his yes men would be experiencing firsthand the benefits of Canada’s social safety net. A confident and strong leader will always trust and encourage his senior staff to think independently, show initiative, and do the right thing. A bad leader overcomes his weaknesses by dictating behaviour.
But let’s get back to the main point which is this: What kind of self-respecting person would allow themselves to be treated like this? The Members of Parliament we elect aren’t stupid. Most of them would be able to get some sort of real job if they had to. So how can they possibly go home feeling good after a day at the office wearing a choker collar tied to a short leash, and knowing that all they are is another bum in a seat doing what they’re told.
Nope, I just don’t get it.