Monday, May 15, 2006

A Tale of Two Traitors

Emerson and Stronach are no different -- and both should have faced by-elections

It's no great secret that since his post-election defection to the Conservative party, David Emerson has become one of the most controversial figures in Canadian politics.

When he was elected in the riding of Vancouver Kingsway, Emerson promised he would be Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "worst nightmare". Instead, he secretly crossed the floor from the opposition Liberals to sit as the Conservative Minister of Trade and the Pacific Gateway. His duplicity was entirely unknown to Canadians of all political stripes until he was caught by news cameras emerging from the inaugural Conservative cabinet meeting -- he had just been sworn in.

Now, Canadians of all political stripes are calling for Emerson's resignation. Leading this campaign is Vancouver Kingsway constituent Manuel Pereda. Along with Kevin Chalmers, a key fundraiser for the Emerson campaign, Pereda has organized his own little protest movement. At one point he even paid for an airplane to fly over Ottawa with a trail instrucing Emerson to "call home".

An online petition demanding the recall of Emerson (found at currently has 20810 signatures -- more than enough to inspire some sober second thought from Emerson. However, it is obvious this has yet to come. Emerson has developed a habit of denouncing his critics as "partisan zealots".

Resultingly, Pereda is getting little response from Emerson. Pereda reports, " He responds to all my questiosn with one single sentence: his sentence is he's only accountable to constituents at election time."

Naturally, Emerson has tried to shy away from this attitude in public statements, saying, " the reality is I was elected. Once the election was over, I was faced with a decision on how to best serve the people of the riding, and that's all the people of the riding... I concluded I could better serve them , I could get more done, I could get more results for British Columbia if I was in the cabinet than if I was not."

Translation: " I'm bettering my own career, while claiming I'm doing so for my constituents. Meanwhile, as I claim that I am, in fact, doing this for them, I will disrespect them entirely."

Pereda's frustration with Emerson's arrogance and contempt for the electorate is familiar to many Canadians -- many felt the same way after the equally shameful defection of Belinda Stronach.

Certainly, there is one key difference: namely, that Emerson has made himself useful since crossing the floor, helping to settle Canada's softwood lumber dispute with the United States. Although the settlement didn't pull as many American teeth as critics of the settlement would have liked, it did resolve the matter faster than any Liberal government would have (then again, how much faster than "never" would he have had to be?). Stronach, on the other hand, took to a new cabinet position as the Minister for "Democratic Renewal", and proceeded to rest on her non-existent laurels. There is one other inexplicable difference -- Stronach was somehow able to get reelected after her betrayal. Now, one wonders if Emerson could accomplish the same feat.

Like any Member of Parliament who crosses the floor after election, Emerson owes it to his constituents to resign and run in a by-election.

It seems like the only party advancing in the interest in democracy is the NDP. On March 10, it was the NDP that requested that the ethics investigation into Emerson's defection also investigate the defection of Stronach. It is the NDP that is currently proposing legislation that would require any defecting Member of Parliament to immediately submit to a by-election in their riding in order to ascertain the will of their constituents.

In the wake of the last year, neither the Conservative party nor the Liberal party have any credibility on this particular matter. It may indeed be up to the NDP to address this very serious culture of duplicity, because anything the Liberals or Conservatives have to say on the subject will certainly be nothing more than partisan grand standing.

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