PMO A Fortress Of Solitude, Maverick MP Charges

Posted on Monday, November 27 at 15:01 by 4Canada
Mr. Turner isn't a newcomer to politics. He was a Conservative MP under Brian Mulroney from 1988 to 1993 and was revenue minister in Kim Campbell's short-lived government in 1993. He says he's never seen MPs treated this way. “There has never been a policy debate where people have lined up at the microphone and been asked for input into a pending policy decision in the national caucus, and that has been a huge difference from my experience in the past, where that is the reason that caucus existed.” There have been meetings where cabinet ministers presented policies and took questions about them, but there was no debate. “Why the heck are we here?” Mr. Turner asks in frustration. “We're supposed to be here representing people. We're supposed to be bringing back what the grassroots and the voters are saying in the ridings, and bringing it back for a distillation here in Ottawa to help influence government policy. “That's what an MP does.” Last summer, with the war in Lebanon raging, a Tory MP tried to open that subject up for debate. “She was shut down,” Mr. Turner said, adding that Harper later came out with a policy that was strongly pro-Israeli without any discussion by his MPs. Mr. Turner portrays the government as a rigid, top-down operation, which brooks no dissent and where the Prime Minister's Office holds a tight rein, to the point where Mr. Harper's staff sit in on caucus meetings. “I've never been in a national caucus before where there are so many PMO staffers. It's quite extraordinary.” He says Mr. Harper has no time for dissenters, unlike Mr. Mulroney, who stroked and cajoled cantankerous MPs and largely maintained caucus loyalty even while his public support was in fee fall. [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 29, 2006]

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