Earlier this week, a video of David Wilks, the rookie Conservative backbencher for Kootenay-Columbia, was posted on YouTube. Some viewers had harsh words for Mr. Wilks's performance in that meeting.
In the video, Mr. Wilks is seen with some of his constituents, who are calmly expressing concerns about aspects of Bill C-38, the federal government's omnibus budget bill, which contains a number of controversial provisions, such as watering down the Fisheries Act. He admits that he and a “barrage” of other Conservatives have reservations about the bill and seems to agree that it should be broken down.
However, he explains, it would take 13 Conservative MPs to defeat the bill – a number he clearly views as too fantastical to contemplate. I suppose this answers the age-old question, “How many is a barrage, anyway?” A barrage is clearly fewer than 13, if one is measuring Conservatives.
Onscreen, Mr. Wilks's listeners seem to be searching about for a way to help him visualize this number, as in: “If you were to line up 13 Conservative MPs end to end, their spines would reach – oh, wait a second, I see your problem.”
And then, in response to his constituents' suggestions that he could be one of those 13, Mr. Wilks carefully explains to them how it is that democracy, as he understands it, works: “One person is not going to make a difference. One MP is not going to make a difference.”
Canadians, he essentially explained, elect an object akin to a decorative teapot to represent them in Ottawa and, once there, that teapot lives in mortal fear of being broken by the Prime Minister. Backbencher MPs can achieve nothing and it would be silly to attempt to do so.
However, by the end of the video, Mr. Wilks appears ready to oppose Bill C-38. “I will stand up and say the Harper government should get rid of Bill C-38,” he says. This rebellion was reported in the press.
Based on the wording of the retraction he hastily posted on his website, many surmised that someone high up in the Conservative Party had words with poor Mr. Wilks. And while some might call his retraction – in which he endorses Bill C-38 with all the passion of someone whose adorable grandchild has just been kidnapped by the bill's architect – craven, I say, please, think again.
Before we mock Mr. Wilks, let's take a look at the big picture. Let us consider those who have led and inspired humanity, and then let us sit back a moment and picture just how much more stable the world would have remained had it only contained a few more men like the affable Mr. Wilks.
I imagine, for example, there would have been far fewer people burned at the stake had Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg's Castle Church and the sixth one had been, “Look, I don't think we should dismiss the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church out of hand. Nay, I am firmly convinced that these initiatives will bring jobs and growth measures to the Canadians of Kootenay-Columbia.”
Who would have forgotten Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Abject Apology and Endorsement of the Economic Action Plan?
And there's a certain understated charm to the immortal words, “We will serve them daiquiris on the beaches. That way they will stay longer and maybe later we can get a game of Frisbee going.” Much, I imagine, as there would have been to the unassuming, “I have a dream, but I won't bore you all with it, because I know other people's dreams are never very interesting.”
Not enough credit is given to the man who seeks only to defuse awkward situations – the guy who says, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you have Kennedy's eyes.”
Perhaps president Ronald Reagan could have just said, “Mr. Gorbachev, nice wall.”
It is always possible that the Zelig-like Mr. Wilks's support for the budget is constantly in flux. Of course, voting against one's own party's budget is no small matter. However, Mr. Wilks's situational budget support is troubling. The portrait he paints of the ineffectualness of the people we elect to represent us is more troubling still.
“Is it right?” he said of the situation. “ No, but that's the way it is.” In case anyone thought they had elected Gandhi.