Analysis: 'One MP is not going to make a difference' 0
David Wilks. (QMI Agency file photo)
Like all MPs, Conservative David Wilks is back in his riding this week, attending to constituency work and meeting with voters.
On Tuesday morning, in a coffee shop in Revelstoke, B.C., he met some constituents who told him they didn’t much like C-38, his government’s controversial 425-page omnibus budget bill. It introduces changes to everything from the age at which Canadians will qualify for old age security payments to the process for environmental assessments of resource projects.
One constituent filmed a 12-minute exchange between Wilks and these voters and put it on YouTube. It’s remarkable viewing.
Wilks is polite and patient but seems frustrated defending a government bill he has “concerns” with. He doesn’t sound too pleased, either, with the way party politics works in Ottawa.
A voter asks: “How can you pass something like that all in one fell swoop?
Wilks says, “I think you’ll find a (group) of Conservatives that do hold your concerns. And I am one of them.”
He goes on, “I do believe that (some provisions of the bill) could be separated out. However, having said that, as most of you are probably familiar with how Ottawa works, if cabinet and the prime minister (say so), then this is how you will vote on the budget. There is no argument. It doesn’t make it right. (But) this is what happens in Ottawa. It doesn’t matter what party you’re with.”
Wilks is asked if he and other Conservative backbenchers had any input to the budget bill. “With regards to the 425-page document, you saw it the same time the backbenchers saw it. We are not privy to it.”
Another voter asks, “Surely you have some conversations within your party and some kind of debate behind the scenes?”
“No,” Wilks says bluntly. “Certainly it concerned some of us backbenchers. The decisions are made predominantly by cabinet and then they come back to us informing us how this is going to move forward. At the end of the day, in my opinion, they’ve made up their mind and this is how it’s going to move forward. One person — one MP — is not going to make a difference.”
That, in itself, is a sad indictment for our system.
Wilks also spills another secret about life in the Tory caucus: The Conservatives have not had a “free vote” since he was elected in 2011. On every vote since, his party’s bosses tell him to stand or sit.
The video finishes with Wilks encouraging those who oppose C-38 to mobilize enough Canadians to put pressure on at least 13 government MPs to vote against it. This is a remarkable thing for a government MP to say because he must surely know that if that many Conservatives deserted their party, the government would fall and we would be into a general election.
Within hours of the video’s release, Wilks issued a terse statement that certainly reads as if it was written by his political bosses back in Ottawa: “I support [the budget bill], and the jobs and growth measures that it will bring for Canadians in Kootenay-Columbia and right across the country. I look forward to supporting the bill and seeing it passed.”
That kind of statement doesn’t make our system look much better.
Watch the Wilks videos at Akin’s blog: blogs.canoe.ca/davidakin/