For a while, it looked like Raj Sherman had dodged the bullet.
Sure, he blasted the health care system in no uncertain terms. But after Sherman has a let’s-all-cry-like-men meeting with the Tory caucus, all was forgiven. He was under stress, he wrote the now notorious email at 3 a.m., and it wasn’t meant for public consumption. Just a bad day at the office for a good guy.
And it would have stayed that way, too, if he hadn’t Boutiliered.
Guy Boutilier, the former Tory MLA for whom the term ‘Boutiliered’ has been named (by me, just now) was famously tossed from the Stelmach cabinet in July for saying Energy Minister Ron Liepert was “talking gibberish” and suggesting that he should have been in cabinet because he is a Harvard grad. Arrogance is not worthy of expulsion, but criticising a fellow MLA — and a powerful, thin skinned, notoriously nasty one at that — is just not done. He deserved to be tossed. It’s one thing to defend your constituents, but you can’t do it while belittling the other members of your team.
So Sherman was doing fine at first. He blasted the system, then he took a run at the men who run the system, blaming them for “knuckleheaded” decisions. OK, that was a bit of a low blow, but still, his buddies on the team were unscathed.
But it wasn’t until Sherman took aim at Liepert — again — that Sherman sealed his fate, blaming the former health minister for being “rude and offensive” to front line medical staff.
Sure, Liepert no doubt was rude and offensive to health care workers. He’s basically rude and offensive to everyone; that’s what he does. He’s the Dick Cheney of Alberta politics, and apparently just about as powerful. But the comments were pointless and personal.
As Boutilier discovered, you can stick up for constituents, you can blast the civil service, but never, NEVER criticize one of your own. Consider if a benchwarmer on the Eskimos said QB Ricky Ray was a jerk. Or if a fourth-liner on the Oilers called Ales Hemsky a lazy so-and-so. That would be the end of his career, and rightly so. And so it is with Sherman.
I don’t know if Sherman overplayed his hand, didn’t recognize what he was saying was going to get him in trouble, or did it deliberately. But he threw down the gauntlet to Stelmach, who promptly picked it up, slapped Sherman in the face, and sent him packing.
Mistake? Yes and no.
If a backbench MLA steps out of line and doesn’t apologize, he deserves to get turfed. You can’t have members of your own team badmouthing other members of the team for public consumption. But, in this case, the Tories overreacted. If they had let the matter rest, his “rude and offensive” comments would have been forgotten. Somebody should have pulled Ron Liepert aside and said, “Suck it up, princess. Take one for the team.”
Even is Sherman deserved getting kicked out, it was a mistake. Now, instead of having a loose cannon under your control, you’ve got a loose cannon firing back at you. This is sure to backfire.