MP Rathgeber resigns Conservative caucus due to its lack of accountability

Julian Wolfe
June 6th, 2013

Former Conservative backbencher MP Brent Rathgeber resigned the Conservative caucus tonight, citing the government’s lack of accountability as the reason. This comes as he tried to pass private members Bill C-461 which aimed to release public sector salaries but got shot down by the Conservative government. Rathgeber was one of the 9 MPs that revolted in support of Stephen Woodworth’s right to discuss abortion politics and stood against PMO muzzling.

At 10:18pm this evening, Rathgeber resigned from the Conservative caucus.

I just notifed the Board of Directors of the Edm-St. Albert CPC Association and the Speaker that I have resigned from the CPC Caucus.
— Brent Rathgeber, MP (@brentrathgeber) June 6, 2013

In a follow-up tweet, Rathgeber cited the Harper government’s lack of accountability as the reason for his resignation.

My decision to resign from the CPC Caucus is because of the Government’s lack of commitment to transparency and open government.
— Brent Rathgeber, MP (@brentrathgeber) June 6, 2013

The resignation came after private members Bill C-461, meant to raise the bar of accountability was shot down by the Conservative government. The bill proposed the publishing of high-level bureaucrats with salaries of more than $188,600 per year. However, Conservatives would barely even meet him half way as the only measure they were willing to adopt was one that scrutinized those with a “total monetary income” of over $320,000 per year – like a senior deputy minister. Rathgeber has since resigned the Conservative caucus.

Setting the income level so high limits the amount of people who would be forced to comply. Meanwhile, the salaries and job descriptions of senior government staff would remain private – many of these people are working closely with the Conservative caucus.

Rathgeber said the changes would gut “both the heart and the teeth of this legislation.”

He added, “I am dumbfounded that the government would do this, but it is what it is,” and later said, “… My speculation would be that they don’t want to be in a position to have to defend what they pay their top people.”

These comments from a Conservative MP who clearly believed in the 2006 Conservative accountability plan show just how Stephen Harper is in over his head with accountability measures.

The government argued it is easier to administer accountability measures that look at higher income brackets.

A spokesperson for the Justice Minister said the legislation is intended to effect the heads of crown corporations and those who earn the most off the taxpayers’ dimes.

“Canadians should be able to know the exact salaries of the highest paid officers or employees of these organizations,” Julie Di Mambro said.

Rathgeber wanted the changes to go further. He insisted the salaries would be published by request, would apply to departmental civil servants but not MPs, senators or the PMO or its staff. He justified his restrictive scope stating a wider scope would require an overhaul to Access to Information laws.

“I will be very, very disappointed if the government guts it,” Rathgeber said.

He told the committee Canada had become a “laggard” in transparency and an overhaul in Access to Information laws are long overdue. He also said full disclosure has a deflationary effect on public sector salaries.

While the Conservatives tore his bill apart, Liberal MP Scott Andrews, who also sits on the committee, backed the bill saying, “Anyone making more than a parliamentarian, or a parliamentarian or above, your salary should be disclosed. It’s as simple as that.”

NDP Ethics critic Charlie Angus criticised the Conservative reforms as raising the salary disclosure level “to the point that it’s almost pointless.”

“I think the more long-term problem is damage to the (Conservative) brand,” Rathgeber said. What do you think of the Conservative record on accountability? What do you think of Rathgeber’s decision?

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   Categories: Accountability, Caucus, Integrity, Scandal


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