Monday, July 20, 2009

Boutilier Gets The Boot

And then there were 70.

Alberta's Tory caucus is one man smaller after Ed Stelmach's booting of Guy Boutilier over the weekend:

Premier Ed Stelmach is suddenly doing politics on steroids. Against a flood of public anger, and to the shock of some Tory MLAs, he kicked out a veteran Conservative for challenging him to keep a promise.

It was unilaterally done by Ed and Ed alone. There wasn't even an official statement from his office Saturday, just a blanket e-mail to Tory caucus members.

Many of those MLAs were overheating their BlackBerrys on Saturday. Stelmach's ruling goes to the heart of their dilemma --do they represent their constituents to the government, or act as the government's mouthpiece to the constituents?

Fort McMurray's Guy Boutilier chose to speak for his city by urging immediate construction of a deferred care centre. Along the way, he said Health Minister Ron Liepert is "talking gibberish."


Now, I've always been fairly supportive of the leader kicking out MPs/MLAs for disent - that's just the way our parliamentary system works. But this one is just weird. Consider:

1. Boutilier isn't some obscure back bencher. He's been a PC MLA for 12 years and served in both the Klein and Stelmach Cabinets.

2. This is very out of character for Stelmach. In a 2007 by election the PC candidate said he wanted to "choke Ed Stelmach" and Stelmach said he welcomed that kind of enthusiasm.

3. As far as criticism goes, this is fairly mild. It's not like Boutilier voted against the government. He certainly deserved to be taken out to the wood shed, but kicking him out of caucus isn't really a proportional response?

4. Fort Mac is a former Liberal riding, and probably one Boutilier would stand a chance of holding if he switched to the Liberals, Wildrose Alliance, or ran as an independent. I know, I know, that sort of math doesn't really come into the game when you don't have to worry about losing power, but still.

5. Guy isn't taking this very well and neither is his riding association.

So a small headache may just have become a bigger one for Stelmach.

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4 Comments:

  • I certainly understand that this is how Parliament "works", but I'm all for (constructive) dissent from our representatives in government.

    "It was clear to the premier that the MLA is not prepared to support government policy," Stanway said Saturday.

    No representative should be forced to support gov't policy. That's not why we send people to represent us in government.

    "To simply say that something is wrong is one thing," said Stanway. "But he went far beyond that."

    Is this Stanway guy for real???

    Anyways Dan, I agree with you whole-heartedly -- a big and unseemly overreaction. I lack your electoral insight into Alberta, though... the idea of Boutilier keeping his seat with another party is certainly very interesting.

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 9:48 AM  

  • This ain't how the parliamentary system works at all.

    The fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy is that the cabinet must be accountable to the people's elected representatives. In modern terms, that means accountable to the majority caucus.

    In parliaments all over the world, caucuses routinely tell PMs and cabinets to change their ways or be replaced. That's what makes a parliament worth having.

    Caucuses also discipline their dissident members -- but it's the caucus, not the leader, that holds that power, and discipline can be applied to the leader as to any other caucus member.

    Why is Canada so out of step with the parliamentary world? Because even people as smart and savvy as Calgary Grit say oh, well, that's how parliament works, we just have to lie down for it.

    This is not to defend Boutilier -- he may be God's own fool and richly deserving of being booted out -- but if the caucus does not hold on to that power itself, its political function is purely decorative.

    Christopher Moore

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:34 PM  

  • Christopher, that was a really interesting post... I keep checking this to see if anyone comments, because it's a fascinating issue to me, how much power leaders should have over their teams. I'm afraid I'm not as familiar with other Parliaments as you seem to be -- thanks for the good reading.

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