When Wolves Become Sheep
What happens when an MLA is elected as a member of the government party is they become effectively silenced by the power of the party. No one truly believes a backbench MLA has a whole lot of say in the direction the government takes. Those at the top, the cabinet, their advisers, and those who hold the purse strings make the decisions. The back bench MLAs really don’t do much more than reap the rewards received by ensuring the government has the votes to do as the puppet masters require.Occasionally their constituents may benefit as well.
So what happens when an MLA crosses the floor to sit on the back bench of the government side? In the case of Danielle Smith, Rob Anderson, and the rest of the Wildrose MLAs who crossed, they have become mutes. They are now votes for whatever policies the government wants to pass. None of them is a Gordon Dirks, capable of making promises to constituents because he holds a ministerial position and can move budgeted money around his ministry. They have pens, but no ability to sign anything.
So imagine my surprise upon reading statements made by the Mayor of High River, Craig Snodgrass, regarding having an MLA in government caucus.
“I need access to the people with decision-making power and a chequebook, if I’m going to get High River fixed,”
“I won’t speak for other communities, but with what we have going on in High River now, I think this (Smith’s crossing) is going to serve us very well.”1
With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, are you that naive? As Leader of the Official Opposition, Ms. Smith had a voice. She had the ability to make as much noise as she could about the needs of High River. She could be relentless. There was nothing stopping her from using question after question after question in question period to further the cause of meeting the needs of High River. Her noise generated press. The government hates bad press. Things get done to stifle bad press. Look at the results of the relentless pressure Wildrose MLAs put on the government regarding the abuses of power, and excesses of Ms. Redford.
Now? After crossing to the government side of the house, Ms. Smith has the ability to ask fluff-ball questions. She will be able to question ministers with pre-approved, “pat the government on the back” questions. Now and then she will be permitted to ask questions about things that benefit High River. She will receive answers that offer no concrete solutions. She will be responded to with platitudes about what great things the government has already done in High River, but nothing of substance in the form of promises will be heard.
What of questions about the over-stepping of the R.C.M.P. and the Solicitor General’s office? You know, where the R.C.M.P. illegally entered residences and stole property belonging to people in High River? Do you think Ms. Smith can now put any pressure on the government about these shenanigans? Not if she wants to stay a member of the government she can’t.
The Progressive Conservative government has a whip. They know how to use it. Sorry, Mr. Snodgrass, but Ms. Smith won’t take a chance at feeling the sting of the whip.
So keep saying the right things, Mr. Mayor. At least we all know that you are willing to sell your soul, and the dignity of the people of High River in order to have access to people in power, and cheque books. But don’t hold your breath when it comes to waiting for the benefits. Your best advocate for High River is now crippled.
For more about the effects of this mayor’s statements on democracy, check out Joe Albertan’s blog entry.