Flaherty-Kenney spat just the latest in series of Tory caucus squabbles

Kenney Flaherty (CP)This past weekend, the spat between Jim Flaherty and Jason Kenney dominated Canada's political news.

According to CBC News, the finance minister publicly took umbrage to the labour minister's assertion, last month, that Toronto Mayor Ford should step down after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine:

The finance minister, who is an old friend of the Ford family, got word of Kenney's public upbraiding of Ford and confronted his cabinet colleague once the two were seated in the Commons for the daily question period.

In a voice loud enough for several of their cabinet colleagues to hear, Flaherty told Kenney to "shut the f--k up" about Ford.

Neither Kenney nor Flaherty have denied that the story is true.

[ Related: Flaherty says Kenney crossed into his turf in criticizing Toronto mayor ]

On the surface, this sounds like a pretty significant story: Two senior cabinet ministers, after all, were having a confrontation in the House of Commons.

Former Conservative MP Paul Forseth, however, suggests the media is making a bigger deal about this than they should. In an interview with Yahoo Canada News, he said these kinds of caucus arguments are more common than the public might think.

"When you have a large caucus there are differences. I think with Mr. Flaherty, he was connected with the [Ford] family," said Forseth, who was a Reform/Alliance/Conservative parliamentarian for 12 years.

"Whereas [Mr. Kenney] is more detached and I think is reflecting more of the average Canadians' view. He's making a reasonable conclusion based on what he observed. I think this is normal human relations.

"The outside media, of course, is trying to play up differences."

[ More Politics: Out of context? Industry Minister James Moore slammed over child poverty comment ]

There have been other 'differences' within the Tory ranks.

Earlier this year, Tory MP Mark Warawa 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.

At the time, one Conservative MP — who requested anonymity — told CBC News that this had upset several backbenchers.

"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," the MP said.

And last month, as explained by the Ottawa Citizen, there was this exchange between two backbenchers:

[ Recently] some wit on the Conservative benches decided it would be amusing to play Communist anthems on his laptop, apparently a clever reference to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s open-mic riff about his admiration for the efficiency of Chinese environmental initiatives. The music annoyed several MPs and uncharitable remarks were directed to its source.

Suddenly, two [Conservative] MPs were up on their feet and, according to one witness, “screaming at each other.”

Contrary to Forseth's belief, political pundit Gerry Nicholls says these squabbles reveal "a growling tension within the Tory ranks."

"The Senate scandal, bad poll numbers, constant war with the media, these are all taking a toll. It also serves to remind us that the Conservative party is really a heterogeneous collection of warring clan," Nicholls told Yahoo.

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper united them under his banner. His main job in 2014 will be to restore party discipline and unity."

Maybe they need to partake in some off-season team building exercises?

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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