What a fantastic summer so far. First, I had the honour of being re-elected by the citizens of Prince George-Peace River as their Member of Parliament. And last week, I was honoured to be chosen by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper as Chief Opposition Whip in the House of Commons.
So what exactly is a party Whip? In a nutshell, a Whip has two roles. One proactive and one reactive. On the proactive side, it will be my job to build morale and assist the Conservative caucus and staff function as a united team. By establishing a sense of camaraderie, our caucus will be more focussed and better prepared to represent their constituents in Ottawa.
The job will require a tremendous amount of interaction with my caucus colleagues and will be a challenge considering the expanded caucus of 99. Fortunately, it?s a job I?ve already done twice before under difficult and complex circumstances.
From February until August of 2000, I was the Whip when the Reform Party of Canada evolved into the Canadian Alliance, which included an emotional referendum. Then in September of 2001, after being expelled from the Canadian Alliance for speaking out, I was appointed Whip of the short-lived parliamentary coalition between seven of my fellow former CA colleagues and the Progressive Conservative caucus.
Once again, I will face the challenging dynamics of helping the party leader pull together two political cultures into one effective and cohesive unit in the House of Commons. Having had the opportunity to get to know both caucuses as their Whip, I understand the core of the current merged party and how to best work with many of them.
Then there?s the reactive portion of the job that most people usually think of when they hear the term Whip: discipline. I?ll be required to address circumstances where a member has acted contrary to the party, and to ensure that they attend votes and perform their House and committee duties. However, I firmly believe that discipline will rarely be required if I do my job well and focus on proactive ways to keep the entire caucus feeling as though they?re part of a strong team.
It will be an exciting time for the House Leaders and Whips on both sides. Each day will require a careful strategy to determine when we will take a firm stand on an issue and where we will negotiate. At a time when Canadians are not prepared to accept another early election, the very longevity of this minority government will depend upon those negotiations.
As someone who is going to be heavily involved in those negotiations behind the scenes, working diligently to try to make this Parliament as productive and positive as possible for the betterment of all Canadians, I don?t see any reason why it can?t last longer than the average minority government of 14 to 18 months. A lot will depend upon Paul Martin and whether he sets a conciliatory, consensus building tone and addresses the democratic deficit by announcing free votes on everything except budgetary legislation.