Much ado about Garth

Well, it seems the last few days have been a bit interesting in Canadian politics, as much of an oxymoron as that would appear to be. But the fact is, its been nowhere near as interesting as talking heads have been trying to make it. It seems that the national media is out to paint Garth Turner as a turncoat, no matter what it takes. Perhaps its because he was so vocal about the David Emerson affair, as Rex Murphy seemed to think in his editorial on the National last night … the media is looking for ways to paint him with the same brush, but as much as I usually respect Murphy’s “rants” (and I use that word with high respect … his “rants” are pithy and cogent, with a point honed to razor sharpness, whether I agree with the point or not), he and others trying to paint Turner’s joining of the Liberal party as an example of just the sort of party jumping he opposed in the Emerson affair are missing the point completely on this one.

I was dissapointed in Rex, honestly … usually, he sees past such silly obfuscations, but instead, last night, he ridiculed Turner’s answer to the question of loyalty, that he didn’t leave the Conservatives, but instead was booted out. I was confused as to what point Rex was making with his reference to “the dog ate my homework” … that excuse is a lie, but Garth Turner WAS, in fact, kicked out of the Conservative party. I suppose an argument could be made that through his actions, Turner made it impossible for the Conservative caucus to keep him, and as such, he forced his firing in order to avoid looking like the turncoat he called David Emerson. In politics, that certainly wouldn’t be above consideration, but the fact remains that several months after his ouster, there is still no smoking gun pointing to why he was kicked out, no REASON given to justify the party’s disloyalty to Turner. Journalists like Murphy seem to want to stand and point at supposed disloyalty of Turner to the party, but no such disloyalty has been clearly demonstrated, only hinted at with vague statements like “violations of party secrecy.” The party, on the other hand, cut loose one of its own with no warning, and no formal explanation of what he’d done wrong … if there was disloyalty on ANY part, surely its on the part of the party who kicked him out.

David Emerson made a political choice to leave the party he’d been elected to, LITERALLY hours before, and join the party he’d called irresponsible and dangerous during the campaign. There is no question of the “loyalty” or lack thereof in that act … its CLEARLY an act designed for political expediency on both sides, and there is no reasonable way to characterize it ANY OTHER WAY. I wonder why journalists are so upset at Garth Turner for standing and pointing that out so loudly, frankly, so upset that they must try and find a way to paint him with the same brush. They tried the same tricks back when he was kicked out of the party in the first place, and now that he has chosen to join the Liberal party, the arguments have started again. Its at least possible, this time, to make a case for political expediency … this WAS a choice by Turner, a choice made based on considerations of his political future.

But at the same time, we need to remember that had he not been kicked out by the Conservative Party, none of this would have played out, at least not in this way. Arguments about loyalty are difficult to make when the start of the process is based on disloyalty of a party to one of its members. Turner is a smart enough political operative to know that as an independant in Canadian politics, he has VERY little power … Canadian politics is structured so that it is really Parties, and not people, who have power in Ottawa. I’m not sure that I’m 100% happy with his choice to join the Liberals … I was secretly hoping he’d head towards Elizabeth May’s Greens … and I’m pretty sure I’m not happy with the decision not to hold a by-election to be certain he has his constituents wishes at heart (though I do think the arguments about cost and the possible nearness of an actual Federal Election again are valid, legitimate arguments as well). But none of those issues seem to be the thrust of the news coverage of the event on Tuesday … instead, its about Turner’s apparent similarity to the Emerson case now, a similarity which is flawed on many levels, as I describe above.

I usually enjoy Murphy’s rants quite a bit, and I even liked the main point he was making … that its generally a bad idea to start as one thing and end as another in politics. What I disagree with, strenuously, is that Garth Turner is an example of it … I’d like to ask Rex how he expected Turner to “end the way he started” when he was forcibly ejected from the party he started with. How is that an irrelevant point, or a case of “the dog ate my homework?” He never chose to leave the party he was elected to … the party chose to leave him. Murphy never adequately explains why he ridicules that so much when it is patently true in the case of Turner. There is no way that Turner could have lived up Murphy’s expectations … the people he was supposed to be showing loyalty to after the election chose to cut his legs out from under him instead … I wonder how Murphy expects Turner to end how he started when the Conservatives themselves, the party he started with, chose to end without Turner. If you need to end the way you start in politics, why isn’t Murphy complaining about the party that chose to cut Turner loose, rather than the man who then had to make the best of that situation?

The Turner case is nothing like the Emerson case … Emerson made a conscious choice to kick his constituents in the gonads (or ovaries if you prefer) within hours of his election as a Liberal, whereas Turner was cut loose from his party and then chose to find another home. It wasn’t Turner who kicked his constituents in the sensitive bits … it was the Conservatives who abused them by refusing to abide by their decision to elect Garth Turner as a Conservative. If his constituents gave him a mandate to go to Ottawa as a Conservative, who is the party to contradict the mandate of the people? To say that Emerson’s crass political move (or the crass political move of Harper to even extend the invitation) is the same as Turner trying to find a home after being ousted by a party that was supposed to be loyal to him is missing a very large point … the point that loyalty goes both ways, and that it was the Conservative party that betrayed Garth Turner, not the other way around. I would have typically expected Rex to see that, and that was the most disappointing thing about his editorial.


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