Roundup: On leaders, interim or “parliamentary”

In the wake of the Patrick Brown resignation, the Ontario PC caucus gathered behind closed doors to name Vic Fedeli as their “parliamentary leader,” a term that irks me to no end. Fedeli came out and called himself “party leader” rather than “interim” or “parliamentary,” clearly signalling that he wanted this to be permanent going into the election, but within hours, the party insisted that they would indeed hold a full leadership contest to be concluded by March 31st, where the party membership would vote on a leader (and yes, Fedeli will be running while still acting as the interim/“parliamentary” leader).

The adoption of the term “parliamentary leader” is recent, and as far as I know was only first used by the NDP to give a name to what Guy Caron is doing as Jagmeet Singh’s proxy inside the Commons while Singh refuses to get his own seat, and generally avoids being in Ottawa as much as possible. Caron is left to be the de facto leader, even going so far as to make key decisions around staffing in the leader’s office in Ottawa, which would seem to make him de jure leader as well and Singh to be some kind of figurehead, wandering the land. But why it’s offensive as a concept is because it attempts to normalize this notion that the leader isn’t in the parliamentary caucus – something that is an affront to our Westminster system. The Ontario PC party using this term both affirms the use of this term, and opens up the notion of a similar arrangement where a new leader could be chosen by the membership while not having a seat, further taking us down this road to debasing our system.

Mike Moffatt, meanwhile, has the right idea – all leaders should be considered “interim,” because they should be able to be removed at a moment’s notice by the caucus (given that the caucus should select the leader, and that the leader should live in fear of the caucus). What happens instead with electing leaders by the membership is that they feel they have a sense of “democratic legitimacy,” which they feel insulates them from accountability, and they wield their imagined authority over the caucus, meaning that it’s the caucus who has to fear the leader instead of the other way around – especially if the rules persist that the leader signs their nomination papers. That’s not the way our system was designed to function, and it’s caused great damage to our system, and it gets worse as time goes on, with each iteration trying to turn it more and more into a quasi-presidential primary. The way the Ontario PC party has had to deal with this Patrick Brown situation within the context of their bastardized rules (and fetishizing the 200,000 members signed up in their last leadership contest, the bulk of them by Brown and his team) is utterly debasing to Westminster parliaments. More than anything, the events of the past week should be an object lesson in why we should restore caucus selection, should anyone be listening.

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau has set up a conflict of interest screen for future dealings with the Aga Khan.
  • At the conclusion of the “emergency meeting” on Indigenous child welfare, no province signed onto the deal offered, but there was agreement on core principles.
  • Ten senior American congressional leaders went to the NAFTA talks yesterday to check in on the progress there.
  • Bill C-65 on workplace harassment will be debated Monday, but despite assurances, it’s not clear how it would help staffers on Parliament Hill.
  • There are rumblings that there will indeed be some kind of financial assistance for newspapers in the upcoming budget.
  • In an unexpected move, Bombardier had a resounding victory against Boeing in the US trade tribunal panel hearing Boeing’s complaint.
  • Here’s an interesting take on how adopting UNDRIP in Canadian law would undermine Supreme Court jurisprudence on Section 35.
  • In case you’ve forgotten about Jaimie Baillie, the PC leader in Nova Scotia, here’s more about the accusation and the investigation that led to his ouster.
  • There were rumours about Patrick Brown that reached fellow MPPs before this blew up, but party officials apparently chose to ignore them.
  • Lisa Raitt is not discouraging talk that she may be interested in running to be the next Ontario PC leader.
  • Marie-Danielle Smith talks about her experiences and discomforts as a young woman reporting on the Hill, where sex, power, and alcohol can combine.
  • Andrew Coyne writes about the need for fairness and believing credible stories when it comes to #metoo, in and out of politics.
  • Kady O’Malley previews the return of Parliament.
  • Susan Delacourt looks at the culture of alcohol in politics.
  • Colby Cosh offers both a eulogy of former Senator Tommy Banks, as well as praise for the institution and its denizens.
  • My weekend column looks at the common thread between Patrick Brown and Kellie Leitch’s woes.

Odds and ends:

Trudeau’s sock game continues to gartner international attention.

Former Senator Tommy Banks, a legendary jazz pianist, died at age 81.

4 thoughts on “Roundup: On leaders, interim or “parliamentary”

  1. Provinces are reluctant to sign on to Federal indigenous programs because once they write the first cheque they will be on the hook forever. Conditions on First Nations reserves are deplorable. All levels of government are to blame. Monies have been given to the Aboriginals for untold decades with little or no accountability mechanisms. That is why on many reserves there is poor housing and infrastructure and no businesses to provide employment for those who wish to remain on their land. On a recent visit to a reserve 50 miles northwest of Edmonton I observed that conditions there were virtually unchanged from 1962. I was shocked and saddened. I did research on this reserve and found that the education levels were extremely low, seventy five percent were unemployed and the statistics went on. The current attempts to ameliorate these conditions though admirable will surely fail until a Nationwide final treaty is reached with Aboriginals that puts their wellbeing and success in their hands without ongoing support from the non native part of our society.

  2. “The adoption of the term ‘parliamentary leader’ is recent, and as far as I know was only first used by the NDP to give a name to what Guy Caron is doing as Jagmeet Singh’s proxy….”

    Perhaps, but probably not. Wikipedia cites Grant Hill as …”parliamentary leader of the Conservative Party of Canada while the party’s interim leader was John Lynch-Stauton, a Senator.” It appears that some MPs have served as both parliamentary leaders and interim leaders at different times. In making the distinction between “interim leader” and “parliamentary leader,” the same source also notes that the following have also served as parliamentary leaders: Bill Blake (NDP); John Reynolds (Canadian Alliance); Deborah Grey (Canadian Alliance); Elsie Wayne (Progressive Conservative Party of Canada).

    • Interesting that there’s a bit more history. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s related to this bastardization of Westminster leadership norms.

  3. Nicola Sturgeon is the Leader of the SNP, but Angus Robertson is the party leader in the Commons, since Sturgeon is in the Scottish Parliament. Back in the day, Mitch Hepburn resigned as Premier but remained leader of the Ontario Liberal Party (and in cabinet — I think he was treasurer). It isn’t a common practice, but I don’t really have issues with it, and in some cases, it’s necessary (e.g. the SNP). There isn’t a rule anywhere that says there can’t be a leader of the extra-parliamentary political party and a different leader of the parliamentary group in the legislature.

Comments are closed.