Roundup: Baillie and Brown gone

While provincial politics are not my bailiwick, we had a couple of very big developments in two different provinces yesterday. The first was that Jamie Baillie, leader of the PC party in Nova Scotia, was forced out over sexual harassment allegations that came out after an independent investigation, resigning his seat immediately. And in Ontario, graphic sexual harassment allegations were made against PC leader Patrick Brown dating back to his days as an federal MP, and Brown called an emergency press conference to deny the allegations, but was quickly met with a string of staff resignations, plus calls from his own caucus to resign (while federal leader Andrew Scheer slightly underbussed him, without actually coming out to actually say so). Around 1:30 AM, Brown offered his resignation as leader (but not as MPP).

Part of what interests me in this is less the day of reckoning for sexual misconduct, but yes, that is happening, and perhaps now those smirking Conservatives who insist that the Liberals are the party of sexual harassers, owing to the fact that they’ve ousted theirs rather than swept it under the rug, will see that this is very much not the case. Rather, it’s the mechanisms in each party around what happened. With Nova Scotia, the party ousted the leader (who, admittedly, had already announced his intention to resign but planned to stay on until a successor was chosen; he is now out completely). In Ontario, their provincial party constitution doesn’t give them that option. And this really boils down to the way in which we have moved to a system of “democratic” elected leadership contests rather than caucus selection, where leaders can be deposed and replaced in a single vote, and have that accountability mechanism be right there, at all times.

This will, no doubt, renew calls for “formal mechanisms” in parties to depose leaders, and calls for more Michael Chong-esque “Reform Act” laws that will simply protect leaders by putting a high bar to depose them, rather than the current system, where shame and public pressure can force a resignation in a hurry once one or two caucus members go public. (In this, Paul Wells notes that politics is the “art of the possible”). None of this disguises the fact that the root cause remains the broken system of selection. We need to return to caucus selection if we want leaders who are afraid of their caucus, and not the other way around. Because we could see more of these kinds of incidents in the months to come, and the alternative is to have an endless series of interminable, expensive leadership contests where accountability remains out of reach.

Good reads:

  • In Davos, Trudeau was talking trade and had a quiet meeting with Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu. Meanwhile, here’s some cheap outrage about Davos prices.
  • The government announced that all future community mailbox conversions have been cancelled. Now comes the parsing over whether this is a broken promise.
  • Here are some more details on what is in the TPP deal, and what the repercussions have been back in Canada and abroad.
  • Both the Conservatives and NDP are in the midst of caucus meetings before the Commons returns.
  • The NDP are walking a fine line in criticizing the government’s handling of the Summer Jobs Programme issue, while still agreeing with the outcome.
  • Here’s a glimpse into the heritage committee deliberations on their M-103 report, and it looks like the focus on Islamophobia will be toned down.
  • Senator Murray Sinclair wants more action, less talk, on Indigenous child welfare.
  • Civil service executives are starting to grumble that they’re not getting raises when everyone else around them is.
  • Éric Grenier looks at the NDP’s softening numbers, particularly in Quebec.
  • Chantal Hébert wonders if the TPP deal won’t give some hope to flagging NDP fortunes, as their union allies fret about the deal.
  • Andrew Coyne is thoroughly unimpressed with the Canada Post decision.
  • In Maclean’s, I talk about how our broken debate rules are responsible for MPs spending QP on their phones. (Aaron Wudrick offers a sort-of counterpoint here).

Odds and ends:

Chatelaine offers sock suggestions for the PM and his upcoming world summits.

A new Parliamentary Poet Laureate has been appointed.