Needed: a Parliament of rogues

Michael Ignatieff needs to get a grip – on his caucus, on his party and on his staff. Too many of his Liberals are going rogue.

Eight of his MPs voted with the Tories this week to kill the long-gun registry. The Chrétien Liberals created the registry, spilling political blood to frame it into law. Privately, in the closed-door caucus meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Ignatieff urged his MPs to stand together and vote against the government. His pleas fell on deaf ears.

— Jane Taber, in today’s Globe.

No, no, no. This is exactly what’s wrong with so much coverage of politics. It is not “going rogue” for MPs to vote as their conscience or their constituents would wish. It’s called parliamentary democracy. Party discipline is not synonymous with the public interest, nor is everything to be assessed in terms of whether it makes life easier for the leader, or his strategists.

That said, I think both Ignatieff and Jack Layton were privately relieved to see the long-gun registry put to rest, much as Stephen Harper was keen to put gay marriage disposed of. Not only was it a source of internal division — and hence stories like the one above — but it was hugely harmful to their chances in rural Canada, where the gun registry has become a symbol of urban-elite insufferability.

That the issue was decided by a private member’s bill gave them the pretext not to whip their caucuses — and thus spared them the embarrassment of individual MPs actually doing the job they were elected to do: representing their constituents. Lord knows we can’t have that.

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