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Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth rises to start the debate on the rights of the unborn in the House of Commons on Thursday April 26, 2012. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth rises to start the debate on the rights of the unborn in the House of Commons on Thursday April 26, 2012. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Harper may have to watch his back(bench) Add to ...

The Conservative backbench is poised to become a bit more vocal.

Now in their seventh year on the government benches, Conservative MPs are known for keeping a low profile in Ottawa and rarely causing a stir. That’s starting to change.

Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth has scheduled a news conference for Monday morning, where he will talk about his motion to study the definition of a human being, which is reviving the abortion debate.

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Meanwhile, the House of Commons finance committee will soon be debating a bill from B.C. Conservative MP Russ Hiebert that would force labour organizations to fully disclose their finances, including money spent on political activities.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has distanced himself from Mr. Woodworth’s motion, and it will likely be defeated. But the government is supportive of Mr. Hiebert’s bill.

Another Conservative MP is carrying on with his outspoken blog, in spite of some negative feedback.

In one recent post, Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber talked about the reaction he’s faced since he started writing his occasionally critical opinion pieces online.

“I received derision from hyper partisans, who believe to be seen to be critical of one’s own party is tantamount to disloyalty if not treason,” he wrote. He dismissed one theory that he was being used by the Prime Minister’s Office to test out controversial positions.

“I assure you that the PMO has no such confidence in me,” he said.

Rather, Mr. Rathgeber says he is simply doing his job as an MP, reminding his readers that MPs – including those on the government side – are supposed to represent their ridings and hold the government to account in a parliamentary system.

“One can occasionally be critical of the Government without being disloyal,” he writes. “I proudly serve in the Conservative (Government) Caucus but do not leave the viewpoints of my constituents behind every time I board a plane to Ottawa.”

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. Mr. Harper made it very clear in the early days of his leadership that critical blog posts from Conservative MPs were not welcome.

It was a lesson Garth Turner learned the hard way. His sometimes critical blog was a major reason why he was kicked out of the Conservative caucus only nine months after he was elected as a Conservative MP in 2006.

Follow on Twitter: @curryb

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