The federal Conservatives have taken their lumps over charges they run the show too much from the top-down. That accusation took a new twist this week, with some of its own MPs complaining they aren’t getting to air their views.
Three MPs from western provinces, Mark Warawa, Leon Benoit and Rod Bruinooge, claim backbenchers are being stifled if what they say doesn’t match the party line. Warawa said he had hoped to deliver some comments during a session set aside each day in the House for members’ statements, but was stricken from the list at the last minute.
Lord knows Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t need any hint of rogue members in the party rocking the boat, raising issues he considers laid to rest.
Speculation is that Warawa planned to reiterate his condemnation of the practice of sex-selective abortion.
A serious matter to be sure, but Harper and the majority of the party want in general to keep the divisive issue of abortion behind them. Harper has said his government won’t reopen it, despite the wishes of some individual members.
But that raises the dilemma regarding members of parliament and who they serve – their party or the people who elected them.
The easy answer would be both. But it raises a problem for party politics. If they didn’t have a cohesive platform, they’d spend an awful lot of energy on an exercise akin to herding cats.
Yet such party planks need to reserve room both for matters of individual conscience and, more important, for what a politician’s constituents hold dear. Who’s to say, whatever the issue is, they haven’t had town hall meetings back home and expect their representative to raise it in Ottawa?
Parties might well want to remember that if they hope to have members returned to Parliament in a future election.
Better the views get aired, and let the chips fall where they may. Seeing an issue resurrected and run back through the discussion mill is far better than the belief that it was suppressed.