“Don’t Get Fooled Again”: Can Conservatives Be Non-Partisans?

Posted by on Apr 20, 2012 in Blog, News

With only four days left in the election campaigns it’s time to take a close look at the bill of goods Conservative Senate candidates are trying to sell you when it comes to their abilities to walk the talk about non-partisanship they like to use.

The Senate is a partisan institution, they are running as members of the governing political party, and Doug Black has said he would be proud to sit as a Harper Conservative.

Yet, they also tell you that party politics doesn’t matter, that they will be non-partisan, and that they will put Albertans first, party second.

Doug Black said the following: “One of the advantages of being an elected senator from Alberta, is that the senator has a mandate to represent the people of the province – not the views of their political party.  Alberta’s cities need a strong voice at the table who can advocate on behalf of Albertans, regardless of party politics.”

Scott Tannas said: “It is time for thoughtful, non-partisan work toward solving long-standing problems that are too difficult and/or controversial for politicians seeking re-election to tackle.”

These positions reflect either unfamiliarity or naiveté when it comes to how the Senate operates. They reflect either unfamiliarity or naiveté about how  important toeing the Harper Conservative party line is for Conservative Senators. Those who don’t toe the party line are disciplined by party bosses. Positions on committees they would like to serve on are either taken away or not offered if they “misbehave” by actually being independent.

If you want an excellent Alberta example of how much partisanship and party discipline matters to the  Harper Conservatives look at Calgary’s Independent Senator Elaine McCoy. Senator McCoy has tremendous expertise on two vital Alberta policy issues: energy and environment. It’s illustrated by her positions as President of the Macleod Institute and Vice Chair of Climate Change Central (two excellent reasons in addition to her endorsement of my candidacy to realize Senator McCoy’s intellectual and character strengths!).

So you might think that, with this impressive background and expertise, the Harper government would offer Senator McCoy one of the party’s spots on the Senate Energy and Environment Committee.

Did they? Nope. Instead, Senator Bert Brown, a Harper loyalist, sits on the committee as an Alberta representative. What does Senator Brown think about climate change? He’s a denier (This “fiscal conservative” may have done a bit of travel to come that conclusion – at $331,000 he spent more taxpayers’ dollars than any other Canadian Senator in the 2010/11 fiscal year).

So why is Bert Brown a member of that committee and not Elaine McCoy? Because Senator Brown faithfully toes the party line Senator McCoy is not afraid to walk her independent thoughts. On more than a few occasions this genuine non-partisanship has put her at odds with the Prime Minister’s party (recent examples include her position on the crime bill and criticism of the government’s decision to cancel the energy retro-fit program – a program that was good for small business and the environment).

In light of this example and the fact the Senate is a partisan chamber how likely is it that candidates such as Doug Black and Scott Tannas are really going to be able to put people ahead of party as Conservative Senators?

My answer: not very. If you want independent voices to speak on your behalf you need to support independents. As The Who wrote a generation ago “Don’t get fooled again.” Support this Independent candidate on April 23rd.