The worst thing that happens in Canada is that sometimes we say things we’re not allowed to say. Sometimes our politicians say things that they didn't read in the talking points distributed by spinsters in their leader’s office. And sometimes we have an accidental debate about things that weren't pre-programmed by our Beloved Leaders.
That’s what the NDP’s Niki Ashton was pushing on us last week after three backbench Tory MPs started talking about partial birth abortions. The trio, perennially encouraged by pack leader Maurice Vellacott, sent letters to the RCMP asking them to investigate partial birth abortions as homicides.
In response, NDP MP Niki Ashton jumped on the issue and attacked -- not the MPs involved but -- Prime Minister Harper. Harper’s sin, apparently, was that he didn’t affix a choke chain to the people Canadians elected to represent them in parliament. Harper hadn’t prevented these duly elected representatives of the people from speaking, and therefore Harper is guilty. Of something. Ashton’s attack was repeated by several other NDP MPs in the days that followed.
This is what’s wrong with Canadian politics. On the one hand you have three Tory MPs who represent ridings in which anti-abortion antics bring in the donations and the love of their constituents. On the other hand, you have the Niki Ashton’s of the NDP who exist for the sole purpose of claiming women are one piece of legislation away from being zapped through time back to 1920. That’s fine. Every party has it’s ideological extremes and reasonable people do their best to filter them all out in search of the political middle.
What’s painfully ironic in this event is that the NDP talking points for over a year have been, well, to accuse the Tories of being a bunch of hacks who only read talking points written by Harper’s youngen’s in the PMO. On the one hand, the NDP says that Harper is a dictator whose MPs do and say whatever he decrees. On the other hand, the NDP now says that Harper isn't dictatorial enough for refusing to silence three people who have an independent - and politically incorrect - opinion. It’s nonsense.
And that’s what’s wrong with Canadian politics. We demand greater independence from our MPs and talking heads, but the moment they go off the leader’s script they’re pummeled with public criticism. Saying something that your leader hasn't pre-written for you is an MP’s way of getting a guaranteed invitation to national cable programs to be ravaged by self-appointed experts and various pundits. Vellacott garnered himself an invitation on national programs for going off Harper’s script and Ashton garnered a follow-up invitation to denounce the phallus. The extremes won the day while the middle ground of politics was asked to leave the room for children’s debate time.
It all speaks to a greater problem in Canadian politics. Our executive branch of federal and provincial governments have, frankly, lost sight of their own boundaries. They’re so far across the line they’re convinced the line was a myth. Our legislative bodies need to be more assertive in reclaiming their power and standing firm in their responsibility to hold the government accountable.
Few can take legislative bodies seriously when the opposition parties are against the government no matter what the government does and few have any patience for conspiracy theories involving time travel for women. Vellacott’s opinions may be unwelcome. But let the voters of his riding determine if they want to keep him around. He isn’t in cabinet and he never will be. That’s fine. That’s Vellacott.
So in the meantime, let’s be glad that our MPs can stand up and speak to issues which are important to them and their constituents. If all MPs took that approach we’d likely see cross party support for new initiatives and private members bills might be something more than a soap box rant. Free speaking MPs are a good omen for Canada and for our democracy. So when the NDP talks smack about MPs not being silenced by the Prime Minister, applaud Harper, not the NDP.