For a guy that's such a leader, Stephen Harper seems to be having a good deal of trouble keeping his fellow Conservatives on message and on the team. And the campaign hasn't even started yet.
You'll recall that last week, an election looming, Harper's justice minister Rob Nicholson hastily convened a last-minute press conference to announce, minus any actual legislation, research or supporting materials, that he was killing Conservative backbencher Ken Epp's Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act and replacing it with his own legislation.
"We've heard the criticism from across the country, including representatives from the medical community, that Mr. Epp's bill could be interpreted as instilling fetal right," Nicholson said.
He said the new bill was specifically worded to avoid that interpretation.
"This bill will be very clear and straightforward, and the bill will not be misinterpreted," he said, noting that Epp had not yet been informed that another bill was being introduced to replace his.
This hasty decision coming after many, many months of Harper and this very Conservative government insisting that they had no problem with Epp's bill, nothing to do with abortion, we'll have a free-vote, nothing to see here.
Of course, we'll never see Nicholson's bill. And Epp's bill will die on the order paper along with this parliament. The press conference was just a PR exercise to make the Harper gang seem more palatable to mainstream Canada going into an election.
Unfortunately for Harper, Epp refused to go quietly into that sweet goodnight:
Epp, an Edmonton Tory, said he was given no warning of the pending government legislation.
"I definitely will not be withdrawing my bill," Epp told Sun Media. "They're quite different. I don't intend to let up."
Epp's retiring, so there's little Harper can do to him. But he's not the only one raging against the phony dying of the socially-conservative light:
The list of MPs who have pledged their continued support for C-484 are:
David Anderson, MP, Cypress Hills-Grasslands
Rod Bruinooge, MP, Winnipeg South
Royal Galipeau, MP, Ottawa-Orléans
Colin Mayes, MP, Okanagan-Shuswap
Myron Thompson, MP, Wild Rose
Brad Trost, MP, Saskatoon-Humboldt
Maurice Vellacott, MP, Saskatoon-Wanuskewin
Chris Warkentin, MP, Peace River
That's eight members of the Conservative caucus defying the will of the PMO and continuing to loudly and publicly support a bill Harper wants to kill. And their defiance is all the more interesting, given that the election will kill the bill anyway. So they don't really have to speak-up, except to preserve their so-con creds. One wonders though how The Dear Leader feels about eight of his MPs telling him to stick it?
Maybe not so bad, if Nicholson's press conference was just for show and Harper really doesn't want to kill Epp's bill after all (h/t BCL):
I called my MP's office (Dean Allison) for clarification regarding the apparent Conservative abandonment of Bill C-484...The Conservatives are not abandoning or distancing themselves from Bill C-484 or abortion. In fact, it is a mistake to view Nicholson's recently proposed alternative as such.
Or in other words, don't pay attention to a word Nicholson said, that was just meant for the ears of mushy centrist voters, we're still totally cool. Either Harper's justice minister is full of hot air, or he has eight MPs giving him the finger. Which is it Steve?
Meanwhile, out in Newfoundland, the province's Conservative premier is gearing-up to go to war with Stephen Harper's very Conservative government, and will even be making a cameo appearance in Ontario:
Premier Danny Williams is poised to take his campaign against Stephen Harper on to the national stage when a federal election is called, pushing his argument that the Prime Minister betrayed Newfoundland and Labrador.
He'll be taking it to them back in Newfoundland too, and has already been engaged in a nasty war of words with his federal cousins. It seems Harper's culture cuts aren't playing too well in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Williams government plans to make-up the cuts to its artists from provincial funds.
You'd think that the Harper Conservatives wouldn't care how a province spends money in its own domain, after all, I hear the Cons are big on provincial rights and separation of powers. Not when it embarrasses them though:
Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, the federal minister responsible for the province, accused Mr. Williams on Friday of trying to score political points that are not supported by the facts.
Really? Has Loyola visited his party's Web site lately? But I digress.
In his statement, Mr. Hearn took a swipe at the government led by Mr. Williams on a number of issues, including the quality of drinking water in the province after a series of boil water advisories were issued.
It also appeared to dismiss Mr. Williams as a threat to the federal Tories.
“Voters will make up their own minds as to how they will vote in the upcoming federal election, whenever it will be, based on what's best for their families, their communities and their wallets,” Mr. Hearn said.
Boil water advisories, Loyola. Do you really want to go there?
I don't think Danny's campaign will have much impact in Ontario, but if I were a Conservative MP in Newfoundland and Labrador I'd be updating my resume. I think Hearn's fright is showing. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers