Brent Rathgeber … hero?
I never thought that an MP once called a “carbon blob” by a blogger (that would be me) would ever be hailed as a hero, but there are strange times in Canadian politics. Wonderful times, too. For the first time since Canada became an autocracy under the vile Stephen Harper, there are signs that Harper’s iron grip on his party, and the country, have weakened. Perhaps forever.
Rathgeber, the lugubrious MP from Edmonton-St.Albert, became a household word this past week (at least in the few households that pay attention to politics) by quitting the Conservative caucus. On the surface, it looks like he quit in a fit of pique; he had a private member’s bill that was watered down by his own government, apparently on orders from the PM’s office. Actually, watered down is an understatement. Rathgeber wanted all government salaries over $188,000 published, in the spirit of the most overused phrase in politics today, transparency. The word came down from the PMO that the bill would be changed — only salaries over the quite astonishing limit of $444,000 would be published, effectively eliminating almost everyone except Don Cherry, Ron McLean, Peter Mansbridge and various other CBC ‘stars’. That’s as transparent as a brick wall.
This was the final straw for Rathgeber, who doesn’t even recognize the band of economic crusaders he signed up with. He quit the caucus, and in a province where the surest route to becoming an MP is to win the local nomination for the Conservative party, Rathgeber is risking his political career.
As I wrote earlier, not having Rathgeber around be no loss at all. I interviewed him during the 2001 provincial election, and was completely unimpressed. (I dunno, maybe he was just having a bad day.) He won in 2001, but the voters of Edmonton-Calder found him unimpressive enough that he was defeated in his bid for re-election in 2004 as a provincial PC. Seeing something even safer, he sought and won the Conservative nod federally, and has been an MP since 2008.
Now, with his rejection of Stephen Harper’s ham-fisted leadership — which could be described as an iron fist wrapped in another iron fist — Rathgeber is a hero to some. I still can’t get over the terrible impression he made on me when I interviewed him about a dozen years ago, but I will give him his props. So, two cheers for Bret Rathgeber.
So what will come of the defection? Maybe, just maybe, Rathgeber’s departure will force Harper to rethink his style and change his method of governing. If that is the case, Rathgeber will have a lot to answer for. You see, I don’t want Harper to change. The best way to get rid of this cunning, scheming control freak is if he STAYS a cunning, scheming control freak. Canadians have never loved Harper; I think we can say most of us wouldn’t even admit to liking him. But with the long, slow destruction of the Liberal party, and the fact that the New Democrats will never form government in Canada, the Cons were the only viable option. With the Mike Duffy senate scandal, the Rathgeber defection, and any number of other problems small and large, Harper is riding for a fall. But, there is still time to right the ship. The election is not until 2015, Harper has time to right the ship. He can clear out his cabinet deadwood, devise a plan to make it appear he may be human, soften some of his increasingly reactionary policies, stop his negative campaigning against Justin Trudeau … there is so much to do, and lots of time to do it.
Frankly, I doubt that Harper can change. The man’s personality is set in stone, and there is no way he will change. And if he doesn’t, his reign of terror will end. So please, Stephen Harper, I’m begging you. Stay just the way you are.