Not long after dinosaurs had stopped roaming the earth, Gordon Pinsent starred in a weekly drama on CBC Television called Quentin Durgens. He was a fictional member of parliament, the Honourable member for Moose Falls.
It brought back memories of classic films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and like Jimmy Stewart’s character in that one, young Mr. Durgens was an idealistic hero. He could be a champion of lost causes, and actually be heard in the House of Commons. If the program were on the air today it would be dismissed as pure fantasy.
Just before they headed out of Ottawa for their Easter break, some of Stephen Harper’s backbenchers stood up in caucus and demanded more respect. They’re fed up with being muzzled. Back in the day, any MP had an opportunity to stand up and at least make a brief statement in the House about an issue of concern.
It gets the matter on the record. But since the last election, they have to clear their topics with the Conservative house leader and the party whip. Recently several backbenchers have been told “Sorry, you’re not on the list”. A brave handful of these MPs have complained to the Speaker, Andrew Scheer, that their privileges are being ‘breached’. Good luck fellows.
The Prime minister is well known as a control freak. For obvious reasons, he wants to avoid someone hijacking his agenda, and trying to bring up embarrassing subjects like abortion. Democracy in Canada is an ailing flower, and the flower needs water, fertilizer and words of encouragement.
Maybe it’s time to bring back those signs that say “We Need 13″. If 13 backbenchers got brave enough to risk being tossed out of caucus over these breach of privilege issues, who knows? Maybe others would find similar courage and there could be an epidemic of democracy.
Stay dry everybody, and remember Quentin Durgens.
I’m Roger Currie