Michael Chong used to be Stephen Harper's Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The story of how he came to resign his position makes interesting reading. Michael Harris writes:
Chong was the Intergovernmental Affairs minister back in 2006 when the prime minister broke all the known rules with his unilateral declaration that Quebec was a “nation.”
Harper did not bother to put the measure through cabinet, but simply did it by decree. Even though Chong was the minister responsible, he wasn’t informed about Harper’s decision until he was on his way to Wednesday caucus back in November, 2006. His then deputy minister, Louis Levesque, gave him the news.
The deputy also informed his minister that he, Levesque, had been in talks about the nation status issue the night before. It was staggering news. Chong’s deputy was involved in this hugely important decision and the minister was not? It was the clearest example of executive governance under Harper yet on record.
The rising star of the Conservative party was shocked by the PM’s unilateral action. He believed that it was the duty of the Clerk of the Privy Council to tell Harper that even the PM had to obey the rules. But with the Clerk’s office politicized under Harper, just like every other part of the government, that never happened.
Harper’s unilateral authoritarianism did not come as a complete surprise to Chong. As an MP and cabinet minister, he had noticed that Harper liked to make most of the big decisions at meetings of Planning and Priorities, a small but powerful committee of handpicked subordinates which the prime minister chairs. In the early innings of the Harper government, full cabinet rarely met and P&P did most of the heavy lifting.
Chong mulled over whether there was a way he could rationalize support for nation status for Quebec. He concluded that it was policy and procedural poison. There was nothing he could do but become the first Harper cabinet minister to resign.
Now the unelected Conservative majority in the Senate has gutted Chong's Reform Act -- which passed the House by a vote of 260 to 17. The Duffy trial has shown us that Mr. Harper makes sure that caucus votes his way. He can't claim that he knew nothing about what was going on in the Upper House.
Garth Turner refused to endure such arrogant insouciance. So did Bill Casey and Brent Rathgeber. Why does Chong stay?