Conservative MP says “We are not trained seals”

A Conservative MP says the recent and much bandied narrative that he and his colleagues are a bunch of "trained seals" kowtowing to the wishes of the prime minister's office is simply a fallacy.

[ Related: Conservative MPs used like 'trained seals,' Rathgeber says ]

As explained by Maclean's, Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, delivered this statement in the House of Commons on Friday morning.

Mr. Speaker, recently we have been called trained seals and it has been said we do not have any choice in representing our constituents. Let me set the record straight. It has been a privilege to represent my constituents who elected me based on the policies we put forward. These policies are made by grassroots members and elected members together. This is teamwork. We do not campaign on our personal agendas.

During my time in Parliament, since 1997, both in opposition and government, I have had numerous opportunities to put views forward and have input in public policy. Through caucus and direct access, we can influence policies on behalf of our constituents. This is teamwork. This approach is what makes one a very effective representative, and it has been an honour and a privilege to do this. Let me say, this statement is mine, my own sentiment and not approved by PMO, or anybody else.

Obhrai's comments comes at the end of a week where maverick MP Brent Rathgeber left the Conservative caucus citing PMO control of backbenchers as one of his reasons.

"I think legislators like myself have to take a stand. We have to take a stand that we are not going to read these talking points written by PMO staffers. That we're not going to vote like trained seals based on how they tell us," he said.

"Too many backbench MPs do willingly what the prime minister's office wants them to do because they see that as a way of advancement within the party and within the government."

[ Related: MP Brent Rathgeber quits Tory caucus: Another hit to the Conservative brand? ]

Obhrai also sent out a press release titled: "We are not trained seals" which generated some buzz on Twitter.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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