Friday, July 15, 2005

Does Carolyn Parrish Understand Democracy?

Yesterday, I took what you might have concluded was a cheap shot at Carolyn Parrish MP for Mississauga-Erindale (Ind.).

"US political discourse often manifests itself in bitter and ugly political battles the likes of which would make that foul-mouthed stomper of George Bush dolls, Carolyn Parrish MP appear to be a rube (which, come to think of it, she is.) No offence to rubes."

It may have been a cheap shot then. It's an empirical fact now.

My comment was made before I read about her views on a by-election to replace the late Chuck Cadman MP who died recently from melanoma. The Liberals are considering delaying the by-election because it would likely return a Conservative to the Commons.

Parrish has written a letter to the Toronto Star (hat tip to Kate of Small Dead Animals) In the letter she sets out her belief that the citizens of Mr. Cadman's riding should not get an opportunity to elect a new member of parliament until Paul Martin gets around to calling a general election. Mr. Martin has promised to hold one shortly after Judge Gomery tenders his report on Liberal wrongdoing, but it is not constitutionally required until June 2009, (unless he sooner loses the confidence of the Commons before then). Whether you believe Paul Martin's promises is entirely up to you. Here is her letter.

To suggest the best way for Prime Minister Paul Martin to honour Chuck Cadman's memory would be to call a by-election quickly is to make his courageous effort to get to Ottawa on May 19 a waste of whatever strength he had remaining.

Historically, Surrey North elects representatives who are right of centre. In this case, it will most logically elect a Conservative. That Conservative will vote quite opposite to the way Cadman voted should there be another non-confidence motion. Fundamentally, representatives in a party-based system such as ours do not break ranks on matters of confidence. The vote of confidence was decided by independents, of which Cadman was one. No one breaks rank with his or her party on confidence motions, else that politician is immediately cast out . Only a truly elected independent, such as Cadman, can purely and completely vote the way a majority of his riding wants him to, once he's fairly sure he has a true picture of their wishes.

Cadman's constituents did not want to go to the polls this spring. It's probably safe to say, that feeling hasn't changed in the last two months. Cadman has chosen, I'm sure, competent staff for his constituency who mirror his attitudes and beliefs and who will continue to deal with constituents' cases efficiently and sympathetically.

Also, Cadman's constituents very clearly were concerned about the expense of an early election which would probably not have dramatically changed the composition of the House. A single by-election would cost at least $250,000 only to be re-run less than a year from now.

If Martin truly wants to honour the memory of Chuck Cadman, who went to superhuman lengths to cast a vote against a precipitous election, he will ensure Cadman's staff has the backup required to continue to serve the constituents of Surrey North in a manner to which they are accustomed. And he will honour Cadman's last wishes rather than "move quickly" to call a by-election.

(Carolyn Parrish, Independent MP, Mississauga-Erindale)
This letter is extraordinary on a number of levels, but her assertion that the citizens of Surrey North are (or should be) content with being "served" by Mr. Cadman's former political staff is breathtaking. I used to work on political staff in the Commons and never thought I was representing constituents. I knew I was there to represent the member of parliament; the MP being the one accountable to the people. It is called parliamentary democracy for a reason, Ms Parrish . It is not called unelected and unaccountable parliamentary staff democracy.

Of course, the real reason for the letter is self-serving. Note the bold claim that:

Only a truly elected independent, such as Cadman, can purely and completely vote the way a majority of his riding wants him to, once he's fairly sure he has a true picture of their wishes.

Don't laugh. Ms. Parrish is just working on honing her "messaging" for the next general election. She was properly potty trained in her earlier caucus voting configuration, but the unexpected solitary experience of foraging for oneself beyond the party Pale can unhinge the best MP.

Of course, Ms Parish did not always think that way. Back before being kicked out of the Liberal caucus for not being sufficiently discreet about her anti-Americanism, she was a partisan keener. Lusting for Cabinet posts will do that for many in the Commons. I expect she was no exception. Alas she lacked the royal jelly of current Cabinet luminaries as Lisa Frulla (Heritage, Status of Women), or Claudette Bradshaw (Human Resources). Never heard of them? I am truly shocked.

Her calling our American allies bastards was tolerated by Paul Martin and one speculates that stomping on a George Bush doll was okay too, as long as she was content to do it at nearly sophisticated soirees where the Liberal elites are wont to gather. But she erred by doing it on national television, where the White House staff was liable to get news feeds and see Grit feelings towards them revealed up close and in their face.

Parrish is a rube alright. Her notion that a new MP would likely be a Conservative and that this would result in that MP bringing down the government in a confidence motion is remarkable, not because it isn't true, but because she believes such an outcome would be illegitimate and a betrayal of chuck Cadman's memory.

Is she really suggesting that the only reason Conservative MPs vote as they do against this corrupt government is because of the party whip? I suppose as a former Liberal caucus member, she may be reflecting on the reasons she why she voted as she did and is projecting her experience as a Liberal onto the opposition benches.

Does she also believe that those party members who voted confidence in the government a short time ago were casting illegitimate (as in not "valid" not as in "lineage," though you would be excused for wondering) votes because they were whiprespectivee rspective party House Leaders? Just asking.

Additionally, isn't a by-election the best way of determining what the voters of Surrey North want. If the voters really don't want a general election they can elect a Liberal in the by-election can't they?

Her most absurd remark is based on fiscal rectitude. She says a by-election would be wrong because it would cost this G-8 nation, with one of the world's wealthiest economies, $250 thousand to hold. Has the Liberal/NDP budget coalition brought us to this low state? We can't afford a mere quarter million now to give the voters of Surrey North a representative in parliament?

In my view Carolyn Parrish MP is doing her best to toady favour with the Liberal Party and Paul Martin by fronting this trial balloon. Despite her ringing endorsement of the value of being an independent MP, she really must want back in the Liberal paddock quite badly.


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