Principled opposition from the government backbenches?

Tease the day: a group of Conservatives could give the House a healthy dose of common sense

<p>Conservative MP Mark Warawa, left, is given a handshake from fellow MP Merv Tweed after delivering a members statement prior to question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick</p>

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

The revolution, or revolt, or general backbench uprising on the government side of the House of Commons may be mostly fiction. Even those among the more vocal backbenchers, including Brent Rathgeber from Edmonton-St. Albert*, refuse to use the word revolt to describe their discontent with their party masters. Rathgeber, for his part, sounds fairly clinical when he talks about holding government to account. He’s not rising up to beat down the powers that be. He’s just asking questions.

Rathgeber appeared on CBC’s The House this past weekend, as part of a segment devoted to some Conservative MPs’ desires to ask the government some tough questions. Rathgeber spoke these words: “I believe that some ministers, from time to time, have been disrespectful with respect to their expense accounts and I believe that some departments have budgets that are not justified in times of economic uncertainty where scarce resources are becoming scarcer.”

That sounds an awful lot like something that might come from the opposition benches—except, of course, the opposition would probably phrase things a little more in the extreme:

I believe that some ministers, from time to time, This government’s ministers have been disrespectful with respect to treated their expense accounts like personal piggy banks, and I believe that some the government’s spending money in all the wrong places, including wasteful ad campaigns, departments have budgets that are not justified in times of economic uncertainty—where scarce resources are becoming scarcer.

Compare that with Rathgeber’s wording. Assuming he follows through on his pledge to hold government ministers to account, and Speaker Andrew Scheer recognizes his interventions, the Edmonton MP could offer the House of Commons a healthy dose of something it sorely requires: principled opposition, free of partisan colour, that keeps the government on its toes.

That’s no revolution. That’s just common sense.

*I mistakenly referred to Rathgeber’s riding as Edmonton Centre. I regret the error.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with planned reforms to Canada’s temporary foreign workers program. The National Post fronts speculation about who may or may not be promoted to cabinet in an expected shuffle. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with tightening polling number in Ontario, where the Liberals are tied with the Progressive Conservatives. The Ottawa Citizen leads with the Canadian man who alleged Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev met on a trip to the Caucasus region. iPolitics fronts a B.C. riding where the Greens could pick up a seat in the provincial election. leads with the lack of any more survivors in the rubble of the collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh. National Newswatch showcases John Ivison’s column in the Post about the coming cabinet shuffle.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Food safety. The beef industry hopes the feds approve a previously denied application to introduce irradiation as a means of eliminating E. Coli from Canadian beef products.2. Labour unrest. U.S. Steel locked out 1,000 workers at a plant in Nanticoke, Ont., after the union refused to accept contract concessions—the company’s third lockout in four years.
3. Justice. The government’s expected move to make it more difficult for mentally ill offenders to be released from prison will only crowd the correctional system, say critics.4. Pipeline. The Quebec government will conduct its own review of the reversal of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipe, in addition to the federal review, because of ongoing reservations with the project.