Conservative MPs Jumping Harper’s Sinking Ship
With 2015 federal election just over a year away, it’s clear that the Conservatives are panicking. They are unprepared for what appears to be a thorough shellacking by the opposition.
Conservative MPs, including veterans representing safe ridings, are jumping Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s sinking ship.
Last week week, long-time Edmonton MP Peter Goldring announced that he will not seek re-election in October, 2015. You’re certainly familiar with the 69-year old ex-Reform MP. He once called on Canada to annex the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos. He often trashed Louis Riel, the 19th-century leader of the Métis people, and the founder of Manitoba province.
Goldring’s imminent departure makes about 20 the number of Conservative MPs chickening out of the 2015 federal election. No doubt, some of the quitters are eyeing fat pensions. For example, Diane Ablonczy, who has served since 1993, is guaranteed an annual pension of about $130,000 a year. A majority of the MPs aren’t guaranteed that much. Besides, the Canadian MP’s gig pays quite well: a whopping $163,700 per year, plus $25,850 in accommodation expenses. MPs can also making a killing on the speaking circuit.
Before I get carried away, the full list of Conservative quitters so far, all 20 of them:
- Diane Ablonczy, Calgary—Nose Hill, first elected in 1993 on a Reform ticket
- Russel Hiebert, the MP for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, famous for Private Members Bill C-377, which requires unions to publicly disclose their finances
- Barry Devolin, a former losing Reform candidate who beat Liberal incumbent John O’Reilly to win Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock in 2004
- Michael Allen, who beat Liberal incumbent Andy Savoy by only 254 votes in 2006 to win Tobique—Mactaquac
- Garry W. Breitkreuz, first elected as MP for Yorkton—Melville on a Reform ticket in 1993
- Rick Norlock, who beat the Liberal incumbent in Northumberland Quite-West during the 2006
- Ray Boughen, elected MP for Palliser in the 2008
- Peter Goldring, MP for Edmonton-East since 1997
- Colin Mayes, the MP for Okanagan—Shuswap, first elected in 2006
- Laurie Hawn, who beat former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan to win Edmonton Centre in 2006
- Ed Komarnicki, the MP for Souris—Moose Mountain
- Joseph Preston, the MP for Elgin—Middlesex—London
- Gerald Keddy, a same-sex supporter who currently represents South Shore-St. Margaret’s
- Gordon O’Connor, the MP for Carleton—Mississippi Mills
- Greg Kerr, the MP for West Nova
- Maurice Vellacott, the MP for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin
- LaVar Payne, the MP for Medicine Hat, first elected in the 2008
- Brian Storseth, the MP for Westlock—St. Paul, famous for private members’ Bill C-304, which repealed Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The section had prohibited “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet.”
- James Lunney, the MP for Nanaimo—Alberni
- Vic Toews, the former public safety minister famous for the Conservatives’ internet surveillance Bill C-30, quit in 2013.
Brent Rathgeber, a rebellious backbench Alberta MP known for criticizing the Conservatives, quit the party caucus in 2013. He’d serious issues with Harper’s heavy-handed enforcement of party discipline. He has new book discussing the whole thing: Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada.
It’s easy to see why Conservative MPs are chickening out the 2015 federal election.
The Liberals have led in public opinion polls since Justin Trudeau took the reins 18 months ago. According to the Toronto Star, a poll conducted on September 5 “found Harper has the support of 34 per cent of Canadians down slightly from last month’s 35 per cent. Justin Trudeau’s approval numbers dropped to 44 per cent from 48 per cent last month, while NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair saw a slight increase to 38 per cent from 37 per cent.” It’s a three-way race for the top job, with a guaranteed “slim majority” for the Liberals if an election was held now.
The Conservatives are losing ground in Ontario, where ethnic voters handed them an undeserved majority during the 2011 federal election. After a plethora of restrictive immigration and citizenship polices, it’s highly unlikely that Canada’s vote-rich ethnic communities would ever reward the Conservatives as they did in 2011. Election-time attack ads targeting Trudeau, the kind that sunk Michael Ignatieff in 2011, aren’t working. They’re unlikely to work in 2015.
In fact, the Conservatives aren’t even assured of official opposition status after 2015. The traditional tendency for power to alternate between the Conservatives and the Liberals is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. As of October last year, the federal political scene was in a tight three-way race, according to an Ipsos Reid poll. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair sees “the first three-way race in Canadian history” during the 2015 federal election.
Canadians have had enough. The Senate expenses scandal. Harper’s dictatorship-style attack on Beverly McLachlin, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Muzzling of scientists. Robocalls election fraud scandal. The sellout Canada-China FIPA trade deal. Attacks on environmentalists, respected think tanks and dissenters. The escalating war on science. The list is endless.
The economy won’t be on the Conservatives’ side in 2015 either. The government’s radical free-market policies – underlined by generous “corporate welfare” handouts – aren’t exactly working for Canada. The country’s accumulated debt now stands at $612 billion. Meanwhile, corporations, enjoying a federal corporate tax rate of 15% (2012), are hoarding $630 billion. According to the IMF, Canada’s energy sector boom is weakening the country’s competitiveness in non-energy sectors, particularly in manufacturing. Statistics Canada just revealed that the private sector “shed a record 111,800 jobs in August.”
As Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert eloquently pointed out on Monday, Harper passed on “last good chance for early exit.” He’s determined to stay on and enter the pantheon of Canada’s longest serving prime ministers. That’s not going to happen.
Harper will cost the Conservatives the 2015 federal election.