Monday, June 22, 2015

Why Does Chong Stay?


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?


Dana said...

Easy peasy, Mr. Teacher.

He and his phony bill are a stalking-horse.

In reality he's just another snot nosed lying son of a bitch no better than the rest of the sycophantic Harperian horde.

Do I get an A?

Rural said...

It is beyond compression why a man who has been treated this way would remain in caucus, his bill to bring more accountability to party leaders was gutted long before it got to the senate and was destined from the start to fail to pass. It is just that Harper and his cronies did not have the guts to tell him (and the public) that they would block it!

Lorne said...

That is an excellent question, Owen. I have always regarded Chong, on the basis of his principled resignation from cabinet, as one of the few in Harper's caucus with real integrity. Perhaps he thinks he can outlast Dear Leader and someday be part of a Conservative government led by an equally principled person?

Owen Gray said...

Harris speculates that may be one of the reasons Chong is still in the caucus, Lorne. But he also suggests that Chong may be ready to join the exodus of former Harperites who are jumping ship.

Owen Gray said...

Harper believes it's better to operate in darkness, Rural. Light brings accountability.

Owen Gray said...

That's one possible explanation, Dana. And the longer Harper hangs around, the easier it is to be cynical about the whole crew. If Chong doesn't quit after this kind of treatment, you may well deserve an A.

Mogs Moglio said...

One can only wonder what goes through Chong's mind? He has been publicly humiliated by Harper and takes it? Unbelievable!

I shake my head and wash my hands...


Owen Gray said...

I confess the same thought occurs to me, Mogs.

Anonymous said...

It was a long time ago that Chong had resigned as Harper's Intergovernmental Affairs Minister on principle.

Since then, Harris pointed out that Chong had voted for C-51. But Chong had also voted for C-59 very recently that contained the retroactive law to legalize the RCMP action that had been said to undermine the rule of law.

Chong had also voted for the Unfair Election Act said to undermine out democratic rights. And he also voted for several motions to limit the time to debate those bills, also very hypocritical for someone who had so publicly claimed his commitment to democracy and reform.

At the end of the day, if he does not quit and sit as an Independent, then the only difference between him and the rest of the trained Cons seals, may be that Chong talks a good game but votes with his party when the chips are down.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Anon. This is a seminal moment for Chong. If he doesn't resign, he's signalling that he's all hat and no cattle.