So I paused in the cold drizzle before walking through the outside stone portal that leads to the House of Commons this afternoon, thinking about things. Jack Layton power-walked past me. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to stand out here, Garth,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You can still come inside.Ã¢â‚¬Â
It was the first time I had come to these stone buildings as anything other than a Conservative, and now as an Independent I was briefly unsure of how I was going to fit in.
But, I said to myself, suck it up and remember a few basic truths.
It is not Stephen Harper or the PMO who determines who a Conservative is. That is the peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s choice Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the volunteers, the riding association, the delegates, the members and the voters. In the last 18 months they chose me in two nominations and one general election. They may not like it on the Hill, but in Halton democracy is still cool.
No matter what the party bosses of the day decide, I am a member of Parliament who worked his ass off to get elected for a clipboard full of causes, who knocked on 25,000 doors promising to represent people to the hilt, and nothing about that has changed. Live with it.
The blog rants and the Ezra Levant trash talk about me having to resign my seat because PMSH, Ian Brodie and Doug Finley donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like a journalist-populist-entrepreneur in their hen house, should be taken as flattery. I suppose if IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d done what I was meant to do last week Ã¢â‚¬â€œ die a quick, tortuous and public political death on page 32 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ they’d have retreated to something else.
And where in these stone castles is it written that one person, duly elected by the voters, cannot be an effective, productive and responsible MP, regardless of what labelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on their back? I mean, if the agriculture minister wants to ignore MPs who sit beside him in caucus just as he does the MPs on the other side of the House Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and yet his colleagues canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t grab a microphone and rally the farmers back home Ã¢â‚¬â€œ how is anything better?
So, I thought, watching Layton disappear through the brass and glass doors, I might be in this pickle for greater reasons than having been a thorn in the prime ministerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s paw and a walking surprise to the PMO communications lady. Perhaps my actions can show that an Independent MP is something we ought to have more of Ã¢â‚¬â€œ able to speak freely, truly at ease to represent his or her constituents, unfettered by policy positions nobody ever consulted on, and unrestrained in using every tool available to champion the causes that brought him here. That might be speeches in the House, noisy rallies on the Hill, the mainstream media or, of course, all the arsenal of digital democracy.
And in I went. I spoke to the Speaker and worked out a way to ask questions every few days in Question Period. As a Conservative MP, I had been banned from doing so by the party.
I arranged to make statements in the House regularly on issues that need to be addressed. As a Conservative MP, any rare statement had to receive both advance permission and approval of the script.
I have started the process of being able to table private memberÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bills. As a Conservative MP, I was not allowed to pursue any legislative initiative without ministerial approval.
And I am planning my schedule to allow me to travel and promote the causes I am fighting for Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from income-splitting to the environment to property rights. As a Conservative MP, I was not permitted to leave town when the House sits.
In fact, almost all of those things that Canadians expect a member of Parliament to do and say and now available to me. Nobody can shut me up. No one can prevent me from demanding what my constituents want, and sent me to get. No political boss ever again will tell me to alter a paragraph or that I can’t go home for a community cause. No compromise. No excuses.
I visited the Speaker for a few minutes in his big green chair, and then headed for my little one up in the back row, a spring in my step.
Damn, but we learn some things late.