Premier Lord taking a page out of the Republican Playbook
I just learned of it this evening and it disgusts me. I'll provide a bit of background for those of you who know nothing about New Brunswick politics. Currently we have a Conservative government led by Premier Bernard Lord. The Conservatives have 27 seats, the Liberals have 26 seats and their is one independent (who was formerly a Liberal and votes with the Liberal side of the House). So that means that on most votes, there will be a tie. And who decides a tie? The Speaker of the House, Mr. Tanker Malley.
And it is him on which I shall focus because he is at the centre of the issue I am about to explain.
In a nutshell, back in January, old Tanker decided that he was passed over for a Cabinet position after years of being a "loyal" Conservative back bencher. So, he goes to Lord and demands some things, Lord says no, Tanker becomes an Independent and suddenly the Conservatives have a minority government. The Liberals get high and start planning a spring election because there is no way the Lord budget will pass.
Fast forward a bit. There is no Speaker. At the last minute, the Conservative member who was expected to get that job just drops out and (miraculously!) Mr. Malley becomes the Speaker! Hello! Huge pay raise, a government car, a job for "Judy", the works.
Then, last week, Mr. Malley decides he is going to join the Conservative caucus again. What's really funny is that he stated he was "crossing the floor". Well, guess what Mr. Speaker, you are supposed to be neutral, there is no floor for you to cross! Is it starting to smell fishy yet???
OK, I know it's my opinion and all, but think about it. Tanker gets everything he wants (outside of a little bad press, but for a $30,000/year raise, what's a little bad press?) And he's now back in his beloved party. The Liberals fell all over themselves planning for a new election, and Lord is sitting back smiling at his handiwork. "No election yet!", he's saying to himself. My wager is that this was the plan from day 1 and everybody fell for it.
But now Mr. Lord has a problem. How is he going to get his budget through Committee with the current numbers? Very difficult given the current rules and procedures that have been in place for 100 years. So what is he to do? Well, the only option is to change the rules. Right?
And that is exactly what he is trying to do. He wants rules changed that would allow one of the following: a government representative (read Conservative member) is allowed to have 2 votes in Committee, the budget gets approved in Committee rather than on the floor and the "government" picks the Committee members, and the time allowed for discussion on the floor is limited severely and if there is an impass, the new rule dictates that the bill under discussion automatically passes.
Can you say, "WTF????"
The last time I checked, we were a democracy, one person, one vote. Lord gets to pick who is on the Committee? If there is no agreement on the floor, the bill passes? Out-frickin-rageous!
I know, I know, you're sitting there thinking there is NO way he'll get away with this. Guess again. It all rests with the Speaker who said today if there is a vote on the rules, he will vote to change them. Done. Deal.
The Speaker is supposed to be neutral. He is there to ensure the government runs effectively and fairly. There is a certain code of conduct for the position and certain norms that are in place for a reason. For example, if a bill is on the floor (like the budget) and there is a tie, the Speaker will vote in favour of the government. However, if there are rule changes being debated, the Speaker will stick with the status quo until there is a majority on the floor to vote for the change. It's a way to keep the system clean and fair. Well Tanker Malley has shown his hand today. He is getting paid his big fat salary to be the corruption arm of the Conservative government, not a representative of the people of New Brunswick.
This is dirty folks, really dirty. We need to spread the word that this is unacceptable. It's going to take a filibuster on the part of the Liberals to prevent this tragedy from taking place and I hope they are up for it. If they are, then maybe there is hope.
This is dead serious, our system of democracy is at stake on this very issue. We need to call them on it, all of us.