Backbench Conservative MPs ‘rebel’ against PM’s control

·Politics Reporter

Is Stephen Harper losing control of his caucus?

A handful of Conservative backbenchers are speaking-out this week about being muzzled by party leadership.

The backlash seems to emanating from last week's apparent muting of MP Mark Warawa's non-binding motion that would have Parliament condemn the practice of babies being aborted because of their sex.

On Tuesday, Warawa also complained to the Speaker — with the backing of two other Tory MPs — about the Conservatives not allowing him to make a 'member's statement' in the House last week.

A CBC report claims that some Tory MPs are upset with the"heavy-handed tactics on the part of the Conservative leadership."

"There has been predominantly informal discussion about what is, or what is not, our rights, and MPs have to decide what's wrong and what's right, and what our rights are," said one Conservative MP, who requested anonymity.

The MPs haven't gone as far as to set out other specific actions in protest, but "there has been discussion among members of Parliament about how it's important to maintain the right of MPs to vote freely and stand up," the Conservative MP said in an interview.

"If our rights continue to be trampled upon, as appears to possibly be happening [with the Warawa motion], at that point MPs are going to have to sit down and decide where their line in the sand is and what to do."

On the surface, this looks like the Harper government trying to avoid bad PR with regard to the 'abortion issue.'

There have, however, been calls from the Conservative backbench, in the past, asking for a more meaningful voice.

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Last year, Saskatchewn's MP Brad Trost publicly questioned the "ironclad" party discipline that prevails in Ottawa, saying it stifles debate and prevents independent thinking.

And earlier this year, Brent Rathgeber called for more free votes in the House.

"It is unfortunate when Members of Parliament are reduced to automatons, dependable and loyal above all else," he wrote his blog.

"Our system would benefit if the experience and qualifications of Members of Parliament were given greater emphasis and if Members paid as much deference to their constituents as they do to their [party] whips."

But this seems to be the first time — in the Harper government's tenure — where multiple MPs are publicly voicing their displeasure.

Former Liberal MP Dan McTeague says if he was in the Conservative caucus, he would have been thrown out of the party a long time ago.

"I was definitely in the rebel category and voted many times against my own [Liberal] Party, which rarely disciplined, choosing instead to recognized the differences of opinions that make up our Party," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"The Conservatives as the prodigy of the Reform Party called for more freedom for MP's, but have behave in a way, in power which is frankly hypocritical.

"Canadians....now see a dull Parliament with Conservatives MP's relegated to the role of willing voting machines, afraid to speak out for their constituents, much less question the authoritarian nature of things such as the use of omnibus bills or budget bills to sneak through a lot of other policy changes."

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Are there cracks in the fortress known as the Conservative Party of Canada?

We'll have to wait and see how far this 'rebellion' goes and if it's quashed by the PMO.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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