Stephen Harper's steadfast refusal to allow maverick Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey to return to the Conservative party has ignited an internal backlash at a time when each seat is critical to building a majority government, say party stalwarts.
In Amherst, N.S., Ron Elliott, 79, has prided himself on being the first to plant a Tory lawn sign during the past 20 provincial and federal elections. But in an interview Monday, he said Harper's decision will prompt him to end his long history of supporting the federal party in the next election.
"He (the prime minister) doesn't take anybody else into consideration," Elliott said of Harper. "It's his way or the highway."
Jeffrey MacLeod, a professor of political science at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, said Harper has ignored a regional Tory culture based on accommodation and "forgive and forget."
"The fact that Casey wasn't invited back just doesn't play well in Atlantic Canada," he said.
Harper, he argues, was "more concerned with the abstract concept of party discipline over resolving this political impasse in Nova Scotia."
Brooke Taylor, Nova Scotia's agriculture minister, said the prime minister's approach simply isn't good for the party in the province.
"My first choice is to bring Bill Casey back into the tent, (but) that's not doable," said Taylor, a staunch Harper supporter. "So, there will be some lingering effects."
With one vindicative stroke, Harper has undone any goodwill that was intended with the new arrangement. The fact that Harper found it necessary to "tweak" the fiscal agreement says quite clearly that the arrangement was flawed, which makes his stance against Casey all the more confounding, the consequences all the more deserved.