Thursday, March 24, 2011

Peter Braid and seventeen votes

A brand new blog, just in time for a federal election?

I watched Peter Braid take office locally in 2008, by what ended up being a mere 17 votes. I was left feeling that protest votes against the Liberal party cost a good MP his job. Of course, there's a lot more to it than that: if you read the summary on Wikipedia, it outlines the fact that Braid's campaign was a strong one, and Telegdi was complacent. Regardless, thanks to the gloriously broken system that is First Past the Post, Braid and Telegdi were neck and neck for taking the riding with just over a third of the vote each and it could have gone either way.

I opined at the time that, despite the fact that I didn't much fancy the Conservatives, perhaps we would benefit locally by being recognized as a key swing location, and get extra love from a very support-aware minority government.

Has that happened? Hard to say. PI stands to get fifty mil in this unlikely-to-see-the-light-of-day budget, and the Feds ponied up as promised for Rapid Transit, while the Province curtailed their own promised contribution. But nobody is going to openly admit that one region gets preferential treatment, so we don't really know what would have happened if Telegdi had won instead.

So, no clear benefit. What about price? Oh yeah, there's been a price. I've been thankful that Harper has only had a minority to work with, but it hasn't restrained him much: we've watched our government take a very closed-door, Neocon bent, as they muzzled researchers and gutted the census for reasons that amounted to little more than ideology and control. Particularly control. In our history, we have never had a government more determined to control the message, and in doing so, being able to dictate policy without debate.

Not just debate in general, but even within the Conservative Party itself.

Which brings me back to Peter Braid, my MP. Have we done well by him? I would argue that we have not. KWC as a whole might have got some extra attention from the current government, by having voted uniformly blue with narrow margins. But, as for the individual MPs, we have seen how little influence those outside of Harper's inner circle have, and how quickly Harper's support disappears when someone crosses his line.

And we have seen how little room Peter Braid is given in this piece:

I feel sorry for the guy. Well and truly sorry: you can see his marching orders stamped on his forehead. He has no freedom to speak his mind, and the other people in the interview are able to pick him apart, even while openly sympathizing with him in his untenable position.

I feel sorry for him, because he owes his position to a party whose leader keeps such a tight grip on its members that a vote for Braid cannot be anything more than a vote for Harper.

The next time someone reminds you that we vote for our local members of parliament and not the party behind them, you may want to raise that point.


  1. I live and vote in the riding that Braid currently represents. At the time of the last federal election, I was still on the Cons' "supporter" list from my previous support of the party when Joe Clark was its leader.

    I got a robo-call the day before the election (pity I didn't record and save it) urging me to get all my friends out to vote Conservative because I was in a riding where there was a tight race that Harper believed "we can win". Perhaps I should have taken that call as a signal to encourage all my Green and NDP friends to vote Liberal, but hindsight doesn't change the past.

  2. I have to admit that this one has me a bit conflicted. I personally support and benefit from both PI and LRT, so I'm worried about how Harper will try to punish us if we vote out Braid. I voted Green last time because of antipathy for the Liberals at that time (so I am one of the 18 votes that Andrew T. needed). Braid himself is an alright guy but that clip shows how much independent thought Harper allows his party to have.