Yesterday, the National Post had an interesting story on the connections between lobbyists and governments and how the federal accountability act has evolved to restrict and allow lateral movement between the political and lobbying sectors.
The story highlights longtime Harper communications guru Yaroslav Baran, who recently quit the Earnscliffe firm to work as Chief of Staff to government whip Jay Hill. While news stories about lobbying, including this one, are critical and skeptical in tone, the article points out that Baran will face a five-year ban on returning to the private sector as a lobbyist. Baran’s move is comparatively selfless as an election is expected quite soon and most lobbyists simply deregister days before the writ is dropped, work on the campaign and then re-register and continue in their jobs lobbying government. Baran has instead elected to leave a high paying job and bind himself by the accountability act.
The Conservative ban on lobbyists in a future war room, however, is self-imposed rather than a matter of law, as Liberals have not yet committed to the same standard that Conservatives have set upon themselves.
This makes the tone of the article somewhat frustrating as it implies that Baran is sidestepping regulations internal to Conservative Party (not even legal ones) by being a chief of staff to a cabinet minister just so he can work in a war room?. Baran is sacrificing his earning potential by putting himself under the accountability act and when an election comes, the outcome is still unknown; Yaroslav could be out of a job (and legally restricted from returning to his old one) in as little as two months. While war rooms are the stuff of political junkies, the prize isn’t one of monetary enrichment or increased political contact; Baran already has an extended history built with Harper. Perhaps Baran is more interested in being a team player and has long term plans of public service?
Today, Nova Scotian MP Bill Casey from Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley voted against his party’s budget by voting against C-52, a budget implementation act.
This is odd, because Casey has spoken favourably about the budget in the past. Consider this article from the Truro Daily News on March 22nd of this year:
TRURO – Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Bill Casey feels the 2007 federal budget is a boon for his riding.
“I have never seen a budget that has had more in it for the people of my riding than this one does,” Casey said from his Ottawa office, yesterday.
He said benefits can be easily pinpointed throughout the budget for the high population of seniors, working families with children and low-income families in his riding.
Casey was surprised by the controversy caused by the federal budget because it provides extra funding for health, infrastructure, and post-secondary education through equalization payments and other programs.
The vote, of course, is one of confidence and if parliamentary tradition is any guide (and it usually is), Casey will find himself outside of caucus tomorrow.
UPDATE: According to government whip Jay Hill, Casey is out of caucus.
A whip, in a legislature, is the member of a party who is responsible for ensuring member attendance at votes, for handing out offices, standing committee assignments and seat location in the House. Whips are also famously known for enforcing party discipline.
For the Conservative Party, that title (and the responsibility that goes with it) lies in the hands of Jay Hill, an MP elected under the Reform banner back in 1993. Hill has been the whip for the Conservative Party, the PC-DRC, the Canadian Alliance and Reform Party which likely makes him the only person to be a whip in four parties in any country with a parliamentary system of government.
I’ve chatted with Hill on a number of occasions and he once told me that the only vote outcome which the Conservative government didn’t know before hand was that of the Afghanistan mission extension. Every other vote result (not totals per se, but ultimate outcome) was known by the government before the MPs voted. Quite an interesting fact from this 39th session of Parliament, I thought. (Of course, since this was communicated to me in private I contacted Hill’s office to get the “OK” before writing it here.)
The Afghanistan mission extension vote passed by a narrow margin last May (149-145).