Gutted by the Gutless
There’s a joke about an old East Coast fisherman who decided to try something new he heard about on TV: sausages. In due time, he purchased a package of these sausages and his wife cooked them up for supper. A couple of weeks later, one of his fishermen friends asked him, “How did you like those sausages?” After a momentary pause, our crusty old codger ventured this: “Well, after ya cut the heads and tails off and gut them out, there ain’t much to ‘em”.
On Wednesday, June 5, 2013 we found out what a “Conservative” financial transparency bill looks like after you cut the head and tail off and gut it out. There’s nothing left. Even the worldly press and the spendthrift Opposition is shell-shocked that a “Conservative” government under former NCC boss and advocate for “smaller, more accountable government”, Mr. Stephen Harper, would stoop so low as to trash Bill C-461 in committee. The bill, framed by MP Brent Rathgeber, would have made public the salaries of federal public servants making $188,000 or more. By the time the committee finished with it, a Deputy Minister could make up to $444,000 (including bonuses) before reaching the threshold of public scrutiny.
Why this government has chosen to act so arrogantly and foolishly on this bill is a mystery but the intransigence of the PMO has pushed Mr. Rathgeber to resign from the “Conservative” caucus as the strongest way of registering his disapproval.
While the antics of the government are deplorable (they substituted four yes-men into the committee to do the hatchetwork when four regular committee members were unwilling to attend on June 5) equally distressing is the low level of principle and self-respect demonstrated by those seven “Conservative” MPs who sat on that committee, said nothing and voted in favour of the abominable amendments that made C-461 virtually meaningless.
Silence is not always golden. The cowardly silence of those government hacks—who allowed the PMO to overrule a great initiative by a Conservative backbencher who really wanted to make a positive difference—should earn them a plaque commemorating their docile and shameful submission to bullying, blackmail and bribery. Not, of course, the kind that can be proven in court or that puts the perpetrator behind bars. It’s the thinly veiled threat to pull privilege and favour from a young MP with a promising future or the hint that there could be a promotion in line for those MPs who demonstrate their loyalty to the PM and party by supporting a ridiculous and hypocritical amendment to a bill that would have given taxpayers a window into the scandalous waste of their hard-earned and easily-confiscated dollars.
Our hat’s off to the Hon. Brent Rathgeber. He showed incredible discipline and personal sacrifice by resigning from the government caucus over their self-serving agenda and tactics. The path ahead may not be an easy one for him but he has earned the gratitude of a great many Canadians who depend on courageous and principled men like him to defend the rights of all Canadians. However difficult the road he has chosen, he has made it easier for other MPs to make the hard choices to hold their own Leader and Party accountable. May he enjoy a long and satisfying career in Parliament.