Entries from May 2009 ↓

Whither democracy?

michaelenright

Are we on the road to a presiential-style government, yet without the ability to vote for the prez? Or can Canadian democracy renew? Will we ever again have MPs who work for the people, not parties?

Two-time MP and best-selling author Garth Turner, whose latest book is “Sheeple: Caucus Confidential in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa”, joins Green Party leader Elizabeth May and veteran Toronto Star political columnist Jim Travers for a discussion on what comes next for voters. To listen to the CBC “Sunday Edition” broadcast, click here.

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‘Garth Turner unplugged’

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For a vid of Garth’s interview on ‘Sheeple’ click here.

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‘Pull no punches’

rick-garth

‘Renegade’ former MP tracks his fall from grace in Ottawa

One-time Tory Garth Turner upset the capital’s political game with his pull-no-punches blog that rankled Stephen Harper

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By Barbara Yaffe, Vancouver Sun, May 15, 2009

Can a Canadian MP write a web log that candidly communicates the blood and guts goings-on on Parliament Hill and keep his day job?

The answer, according to 60-year-old former Conservative-turned-Independent-turned-Liberal MP Garth Turner, is No. Certainly not as a member of the current Conservative caucus.

Turner, in his 10th and latest book, Sheeple; Caucus Confidential in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa, documents his own decline and fall from political grace in October 2006.

Five months later, Turner joined Stephane Dion’s Liberals — for which he was booted from politics by his Halton, Ont., constituents in the October 2008 election.

They understandably felt jilted by a floor-crosser. But Turner didn’t cross of his own volition. He was kneecapped by his party.

Or was it his party? Turner had been a Progressive Conservative, a Red Tory — once a committee chair in the Brian Mulroney government and revenue minister under Kim Campbell — and probably was destined to clash with the new Reform-minded Conservatives.

But it was the blog that apparently most riled Harper and Co. The Conservatives maintained Turner had breached caucus confidentiality.

The energetic and entrepreneurial MP had begun doing, in 2006, what no other parliamentarian had done before, or since.

In real time, Turner was posting video and print reports on political proceedings. And it was an effort uncharacterized by the usual spin that is protectively deployed by political parties for their own benefit and, some might argue, survival.

Turner quickly got labelled a renegade for spewing unvarnished opinions — like, how dare David Emerson, just elected as a Liberal, join the Conservative caucus?

For a party leader like Harper, for whom blabbing to the media is a treasonable offence, this was red-flag stuff. It wasn’t long before Turner was given the chop, initially by the Ontario Conservative caucus, then by the national group.

While other MPs have taken to running blogs on their websites, they tend to amount to vacuous spin, often written by a staffer.

Here’s Michael Ignatieff’s blog this week in the form of a tweet about his party’s convention: “We’re leaving Vancouver as a strong, united party, with a renewed sense of purpose. We’re ready for the challenge ahead.”
You get the idea.

Turner would like his readers to believe he was pilloried by Harper for blogging, that Conservatives were intolerant of the truths he was disseminating.

Doubtless they were. But it’s hard to imagine anyone surviving in our system of politics while acting as a free agent. MPs for the most part are required to adhere to their own party’s self-interested agenda and talking points.

Turner’s sin wasn’t so much blogging but being outspoken and operating as an Independent when he was in fact tethered to the Conservatives, under whose identity he got elected.

The ousted MP, a journalist and financial guru who keeps busy these days on the speaker’s circuit, predicts the sort of tell-all blogging he did is the way of the future for politicians and their constituents, and he’s probably right.

Direct communication via the Web will greatly empower MPs and their constituents and has the potential to raise political literacy enormously in a country where 40 per cent don’t vote.

For some time to come, however, MPs will continue to be highly constrained in their musings by the partisan way the game is played in Ottawa.

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