Monday, March 20, 2006

Emerson/Harper Inquiry Over, But...

Shapiro concludes:
From the preliminary inquiry is that neither Mr. Harper nor Mr. Emerson contravened any of the specific Sections of the Members’ Code. I am satisfied that no special inducement was offered by Mr. Harper to convince Mr. Emerson to join his Cabinet and his party. In addition, there is no reason, and certainly no evidence, to contradict Mr. Emerson’s own claim that accepting Mr. Harper’s offer seemed, at least to him, a way to better serve his city, province and country. I therefore find no reason to pursue these matters further.

Hardly surprising, it was technically a weak case. Although, Harper's massive over-reaction now looks incredibly foolish, given the quick end to the inquiry. What is interesting is Shapiro concludes that, while no there is no formal breach of ethics, the appointment of Emerson leaves much to be desired:
This discomfort can be partly explained simply by partisan politics. It is always a matter of some delicacy to determine whether a request for a specific inquiry arises from a genuine concern for compliance with the Members’ Code as opposed to, for example, an attempt to gain partisan advantage.

In this case, however, I believe that partisan politics – in the very best sense of that phrase – is an insufficient explanation. “Crossing the floor” in the House of Commons is not at all unusual in Canadian parliamentary history. However, the closeness in time of Mr. Harper’s offer and Mr. Emerson’s acceptance of it to the general election heightened the issues – ethical and political – that always lay beneath a decision by a Member of Parliament to cross the floor and become affiliated with a political party other than the one under whose umbrella he or she campaigned and was elected. Fairly or unfairly, this particular instance seems to have given many citizens a “sense” that their vote – the cornerstone of our democratic system – was somehow devalued, if not betrayed.

Shapiro offers the Emerson protesters some validation, by rebuking the Conservative's standard spin, that this entire affair is mere partisanship. Shapiro gives support to the idea of voter disenfranchisement. Clearly, Shapiro makes a distinction between this floor crossing and previous ones, by outlining the close timeframe between vote and crossing. While Shapiro acknowledges that his office has no formal complaint against Emerson/Harper, he advises parliament to deal with the negativity that surrounds such manoeuvers.

On the surface, the media will spin this as a win for the Prime Minister. However, if you carefully read Shapiro's conclusions, you can read it as "yes it stinks, but it ain't my pile". I don't see this decision dampening any of furor over Emerson, Shapiro is sympathetic to the outrage.

6 comments:

jacobin said...

don't the people that voted for Emerson as a liberal deserve a new vote, they did support martin's liberal platform and not harper's didn't when they voted for him?

Anonymous said...

Shapiro's opinion is irrelevant. He's just another partisan hack remember.

Scotian said...

Something the Emerson/Harper defenders keep overlooking in their defence of this is that this is the first floor crossing I can remember where there was no conflict between the MP and his party, party leader, and/or policies supported by the leader/party. No, Emerson was solely his unwillingness to serve as an opposition MP when he could remain a Cabinet Minister albeit in the party he fought through the election against, denounced both party and leadership of more than any other through the election, yet was willing to serve in this party and under this leader when offered a Cabinet position.

Floor crossing is typically defended on the basis of a point of principle/disagreement between the MP and his party/leader, it is not out of pure unwillingness to lose a Cabinet position one has become accustomed to in the outgoing government by joining the incoming government immediately after the election has ended and the new government is sworn in. That is why the Emerson crossing stinks so extensively, well that and the timing right after an election given the lack of any evidence of difference with Martin and the Liberals. Put another way does anyone believe Emerson would have crossed without a Cabinet offer from Harper? Can anyone provide any evidence to support such a contention, which is the case in every other floor crossing I can think of in recent history, be it to the Liberals or away from the Liberals. Even the creation of the BQ by floor crossers was over principle.

For that matter there is zero evidence that Emerson would have refused to continue in a Liberal Cabinet if the Liberals had won a second minority, which is yet a further indication that the position of a Cabinet seat was the ONLY reason Emerson left the Liberals to join the CPC. If Emerson had joined the Cabinet as a Liberal and then changed parties because of uproar within his party then there would be a point of principle involved. However in the Emerson crossing there is no principle involved except the desire for power by Emerson and the willingness of Harper to buy an additional MP's seat in his minority government with the offer of a Cabinet seat. For that matter one is left wondering just how the CPC knew Emerson would be receptive to such an offer, because it appears the only Liberal Cabinet Minister they approached was the one Minister more concerned with being in a Cabinet than he was whose Cabinet it was nor which party it was, even one he had spent months arguing against as a danger to Canada and a party of "crappy" policies.

While the Ethics Commissioner could find nothing against the rules, that does not automatically give this matter the "Good Ethics Housekeeping Seal of Approval" to this matter. All it means is that the ethics code in the House needs more work. Although it wasn't until Harper acted like he was above the Ethics Commissioner that I thought there might actually be a real ethics violation occurring as defined by the appropriate codes. I did not expect any different result from Shapiro, what amazed me was that Harper despite it being all but certain to end is this outcome made such a big deal over being investigated at all. That was the biggest mistake I think.

Still, I never saw the Emerson appointment as the biggest scandal of his opening day, that was the unnecessary Senate appointment of Fortier and then placing him as Public Works Minister AKA patronage central Minister and having him unaccountable to the elected representatives of the Canadian public. This especially after the raft of patronage problems Public Works has had attached to it in recent years has a truly nasty stink. The only reason this has not gotten the attention it deserves is thanks to the Emerson crossing uproar taking up so much of the oxygen since then. I suspect though once the House is sitting again this matter will come back up and get the attention it deserves by the various opposition parties.

Steve V said...

scotian

well said!!

Georgia said...

I'm interested in anything to do with the Civil War and with Cassville, Georgia. Your blog is interesting.

Regards,

A Cassville Heritage Association member, Cassville, Georgia
Georgia

SCV Member said...

A good read. I'm looking for info on the civil war and anything related to it.

Regards,

SCV member
Allatoona Pass