Ottawa

The Backbench Spring: The unvetted MP

An unscripted moment in the House
Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. Rathgeber is sounding off against the expensive perks given to cabinet ministers.THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Sean Kilpatrick

Brent Rathgeber tweets that he gave an unvetted statement—about taxation and government spending—in the House on Friday.

In theory, I’m told, all statements by Conservative MPs are to be vetted by the government whip’s office (I’ve asked Gordon O’Connor’s office for clarification, but the whip’s office tends not to comment on such matters). Mr. Rathgeber seems to have not submitted to that process. He was scheduled to deliver a statement on Friday, but it’s unclear whether he spoke because he was on the approved list despite not submitting his statement or because he stood and caught the Speaker’s eye.

Either way, an MP stood in the House and said something without the approval of his party’s leadership. So that’s… something.

Meanwhile, in comments to the Hill Times, Conservative MP David Tilson raises the possibility for conflict when some MPs are operating according to the whip’s list and other MPs are standing and hoping to catch the Speaker’s eye.

“If I was the last government member to make a statement in the House on the list, and was approved, and some guy stands up and makes a statement which precludes me from making a statement, they’re going against my democratic rights. They may say they’re losing their democratic rights, [but] I’ve been approved to speak, and now I’m being precluded from speaking,” said Conservative MP David Tilson (Dufferin-Caleton, Ont.) in an interview last week with The Hill Times.