Turner Fiasco Shows Tories Fuzzy on Accountability

By Jason Menard

Good for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Nothing says openness and accountability in government better than censure!

Garth Turner, the Member of Parliament representing Halton, Ontario has been suspended from the Conservative caucus. The reason? Being too uppity and not toeing the party line. Funny, I thought the Tories ran their last campaign on bringing accountability back to politics. I guess that accountability doesn’t extend to an MP’s responsibility to their constituents.

His transgressions? Turner voiced displeasure with his party’s apparent about-face on party hopping when it because convenient for them in the form of David Emerson, seemingly swallowing the outrage that overwhelmed them when Belinda Stronach’s defection compelled Conservative MPs Helena Guergis and Joe Preston to bring forth legislation to prevent this sort of then-nefarious activity.

Turner also voiced opposition to the party’s fiscal and environmental policies. And, perish the thought, Turner regularly kept his constituents abreast of the inner workings of the political scene via his blog.

What it all boils down to is that Turner has been suspended for one simple reason – representing the will and interest of his constituents, and not making party politics a priority even if it swims against the tide of his electorate.

I suppose Mr. Harper can be excused for thinking that the voters of the Halton region were choosing a party, not a representative. But what we do through the very act of casting our ballot – whether municipally, provincially, or federally – is voting for someone who can go and represent our interests. Not the interest of the party necessarily, although those will sometime march in time, but more importantly the interests of the region.

So by suspending Turner for using the voice that his constituency gave him, he’s essentially silenced an entire group of voters. More despicably, he’s shown that he doesn’t value their opinions.

A representative is supposed to represent. Not just the few who drink the party Kool-Aid, but the entire constituency – even those who didn’t vote for him or her. They are commissioned, through the electoral process, to work diligently to ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear, and that everything is done to ensure that the needs and desires of our communities are heard on the national stage.

Of course, by forcing Turner to exit Stage Left, the residents of Halton no longer even have a voice in the chorus – they’re forced to watch this production from afar.

How exactly is that accountability? How is that more responsible government? In essence, we need more Garth Turners in Ottawa – and at all levels of government! We need more people who are willing to speak out for the interests of those who voted them into power, even if it means at times not toeing the party line.

And by suspending him from the Conservative caucus, Harper effectively has told Conservative voters in the region that they were wrong during the last election. These are people who voted for Turner, partly because of his Conservative affiliation – and now their voices, which they lend to Turner, will be forced to sing a different tune, whether that’s Green or Liberal, it’s not the same song that they originally requested to hear. And there better not be a peep out of one single Conservative if Turner jumps to another party – they’ve lost that right with Mr. Emerson. Of course, Turner himself may demand a by-election so that the constituents in Halton have an opportunity to have their true voices heard – not one that’s been distorted by the political machine.

Turner was duly elected as a representative first and foremost. Ideally, constituents are voting for the person they feel best represents them, regardless of party affiliation. Usually, a particular party will attract a particular candidate who appeals to the morals, values, and intents of those predisposed to vote a certain way. However, there are no absolutes. No matter what political party you support, chances are you’re hard-pressed to find any one candidate or party that perfectly embodies all your beliefs. There’s give and take.

Unfortunately, by getting the gift of accountability and responsible representation from the candidate for whom they’ve voted, the people of Halton have had their voice in Parliament taken away from them. For a party that preaches accountability, how do you account for that?

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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