Inside the federal Conservative Party they’re disparagingly described as the ‘boys in short pants.’ PMO staffers in significantly important positions making decisions caucus members find increasingly impossible to accept and for which those same caucus members complain the ‘boys’ aren’t qualified. The most recent blunder? Caustic attack ads aimed at new federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau.
To describe them as juvenile is to disparage decisions made by boys with reason to wear short pants, 8 year olds. Attempts to employ subtlety to question Justin Trudeau’s manliness are not only thematically challenged, but worse, they miss the mark completely. The assault on the new Liberal Party leader creates among many a sympathetic reaction for Mr. Trudeau. How did the ‘boys’ come to wield sufficient influence in the Prime Minister’s office that they are said to routinely insult senior Conservative members of parliament, not to mention cabinet ministers and Senators? A good question. Many, we in media are informed had little or no political experience prior to gaining access to the PMO.
A Tory of national prominence cornered me during the 2011 federal election and at length detailed how though his experience during national campaigns was significant, any suggestion he offered through channels at the CPC election war room was routinely and without explanation ignored. I recall him saying “I could live with my ideas being rejected if they’ve at least been analysed and considered, but the ‘boys in short pants’ don’t even offer that modicum of respect”. I cannot identify this individual here, but I can say there isn’t a reader of the Bay Observer who wouldn’t instantly recognize his name and consider this person as someone you might want to retain on your strategic planning group prior to and certainly during a federal campaign. I would have expected that by now on the- job training for the ‘boys’ would have borne some visible fruit.
That the brightest among them would have become competent and perhaps even excellent at their jobs. The attack campaign on Justin Trudeau though suggests little of such development has in fact taken place. Fear of the PMO, even of the Prime Minister himself among the ranks of Conservative members of parliament has dissipated. The iron grip and total control is being shucked by backbench MPs particularly. The party has governed since 2006 and any caucus member still toiling in the gulag of the rear seats understands his or chance at advancement to a cabinet position, or even that of parliamentary secretary to a Minister isn’t in the cards. Recent restlessness among the occupants of the parliamentary gulag have been documented.
Mark Warawa, representing Langley, British Columbia and a social conservative brought forward a motion for the house to oppose sex-selective abortion. Mr. Warawa’s resolution was declared non-votable by a subcommittee of parliament and Mr. Warawa, who publicly spoke of his discontent was removed from the lineup of Conservative MPs scheduled to make pre-question period remarks or statements. The benches don’t seem to be intimidated. Just days ago Conservative MP Leon Benoit, reacting to a decision by the Speaker of the House that MPs may request the floor during question period from the Speaker directly and without obtaining party permission first, indicated he would hold his own government to account saying “what’s wrong with MPs asking some really tough questions of their Ministers”? While that was going on, other Conservative backbenchers were snubbing party discipline and the PMO by publicly voicing their refusal to include the party approved attack ads on Justin Trudeau in their mailers to constituents. Is a revolt against Stephen Harper taking form? Probably not. At least not yet. However, the ‘boy in short pants’ have made few friends and it’s hardly healthy when decision-makers in the PMO become subjects of derision within the ranks of the caucus.
By Roy Green
Roy Green is the host of Corus Radio Network’s national show – The Roy Green Show, heard locally on weekends on AM900 CHML