I am really puzzled about how nonchalantly Liberals are treating the Newfoundland MPs who are threatening to vote against the budget. There has been more reaction to the news that Michael Jackson's Thriller is heading to broadway than this development. Aaron Wherry frames what I imagine is going through most Liberal minds:
At the risk of asking a silly question, why talk about discipline at all? Shouldn't discipline be reserved for actual wrongdoing? And can voting as you see fit-and, theoretically, in the bests interests of your constituents-ever be classified as wrongdoing? If the Prime Minister or, in this case, the leader of the opposition, want a piece of legislation passed, isn't the onus on them to persuade a sufficient number of MPs to vote their way?
Aren't these MPs just doing their job? Voting their conscience and the interests of their constituents? What could be wrong with that? A few questions: 1. Is there any proponent of "democratic renewal" who doesn't think that budget votes should remain three-line whip votes and therefore matters where you either follow the party line or deal with the consequences? That's what Aaron is proposing here -- that MPs should be free to vote as they see fit on any issue they want. Period. I am all for democratic renewal and more freedom for MPs (actually, I'm not really -- not until we change our electoral system -- but it sounds like the politically correct thing to say) but is there a serious proposal for democratic renewal in Canada that says budget votes should be free for alls for all MPs? If there is then please point it out to me in the comments section since I have never read it before. 2. A hypothetical: if Dalton McGuinty or Jean Charest said the budget was bad for Ontario or Quebec (as McGuinty has in the past and Charest does this time) and a handful of Ontario or Quebec MPs wanted to vote against the budget, would there be the same que sera sera reaction?
If not, then why is Newfounland in some way unique and why do MPs from the Rock have greater freedom to vote as they see fit than other MPs? Now of course the MPs are free to do whatever they want. Vote for or against the budget or any bill -- that's every MP's right and obligation. All I'm saying is if you vote against your party on a budget bill, there should be consequences. And again, for the sake of clarity, this isn't a commentary on the legitamacy of the Newfoundland MP's or Danny Williams's grievances with Stephen Harper's budget. I have nowhere near enough information to judge whether Newfoundland is getting a raw deal here.