Roundup: The perverse state of party leaders

Amid a bunch of bad puns by headline writers yesterday, seven out of ten Bloc MPs quit caucus because they can’t work with their leader, Martine Ouellet. Her demands that they push sovereignty above all else rankled too many, who felt their jobs as MPs were to represent Quebec’s interests in Ottawa boiled over, and they left to sit as a quasi-independent caucus (insisting that they still, deep down, belong to the Bloc) for the time being. It’s a move that some recall as being similar to when a number of Alliance MPs walked out of their caucus over dissatisfaction with Stockwell Day’s leadership, and they never really came back until the whole Conservative Party unification happened and Stephen Harper became leader.

This point that Coyne makes is exactly right. If things were running the way they should, someone from caucus would be the leader, and it would be the caucus selecting him or her, not the membership, and it would be the caucus who removes him or her. If Ouellet had an ounce of shame, she’d resign in the face of this revolt (as bad leaders like Alison Redford did once a mere two MLAs went public). But things are not running well. Rheal Fortin, the party’s former interim leader, went on Power Play and yet didn’t say that she should step down which is insane (though Gilles Duceppe did). Parties don’t serve leaders – leaders should serve the party. MPs shouldn’t be drones to serve a popularly elected leader, with all of the initiative of a battle droid. This perverse state of affairs is poisoning our parliamentary democracy, and it should stop. Ouellet should resign and mind her own affairs in the legislature that she already has a seat in, rather than trying to straddle both, and the Bloc should just choose a leader from their own ranks – Fortin was already doing the job, no reason he can’t go back to doing it.

Good reads:

  • Indian government representatives slammed the suggestion that their government had something to do with Jaspel Atwal’s attendance at events in India.
  • Parties in India are also asking whether there was some conspiracy to make Justin Trudeau’s visit look badly (and it’s not just our senior officials saying so).
  • Bill Morneau declared that what’s in the budget isn’t about universal pharmacare, but rather about “plugging the holes” in existing programmes.
  • While foreign aid spending increased in the budget, Canada is still well below our international development goals.
  • The budget agreed that the government will pay for negotiations with First Nations, but there is no dollar figure attached so it could be pricey.
  • Also in the budget was money to fund a new fleet of VIA Rail cars, but the decision on a high-frequency rail corridor remains up in the air.
  • In more budget tidbits, old paper currency – and especially $1000 bills – will soon no longer be legal tender. Also, money to fix the no-fly list and restore prison farms.
  • Treasury Board will take the lead in finding a Phoenix replacement system.
  • Tony Clement defends his government’s handling of the Phoenix pay system, but conveniently forgets that they fired all of pay advisors, forcing it to go “live.”
  • Some observers are concerned that the new bill on harassment will make things worse on the Hill, not better.
  • Senators are debating the motion about removing the “racist” letters from Senator Beyak’s site, but the privilege debate is not a slam dunk.
  • Kevin Carmichael says that the budget identifies the right problems, but proposes solutions that are far too timid.
  • Chantal Hébert sees both the budget and the India trip as an example of Trudeau’s style over substance.
  • Martin Patriquin notes that the budget looks remarkably like the rest of Canada trying to catch up to Quebec’s lead on a number of files.
  • John Ivison threads the needle over the so-called Atwal “conspiracy,” elaborates on the briefing, and calls out both sides for their handling and questioning of it.

Odds and ends:

Here are Suzanne Legault’s parting words as she leaves the office of Information Commissioner.

The Conservatives are planning today’s Supply Day motion to be about support for a united India…so they will spend it talking even more about Jaspel Atwal.

The Parliament Hill rink is no more as of today.