Don Martin: Give pity to some Conservative MPs
The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill is framed by the iron gates in Ottawa, Ont., on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:08PM EDT
OTTAWA - Spare some pity for about 130 Conservative MPs elected two weeks ago.
They're about to live four years of quiet desperation or heavily-scripted obscurity in the new Stephen Harper majority government.
Unless they've performed with sufficient distinction in cabinet to retain their place or possess desirable gender or geographical advantages, their future is a Commons seat in the third or fourth row, off to the side out of camera range.
After Wednesday's cabinet swearing-in, meaningful life for the ones who were not summoned to Rideau Hall will be worse than it was before the election.
Unlike those breathless clashes under minority uncertainty, parliamentary committees will soon become sleepy rubberstamping rituals.
Critical votes where the government's survival demanded every MP in their seat will cease to exist.
And every angry huff from the opposition parties in Question Period will be rebuffed with a dismissive puff from the government front bench.
So it's cabinet or bust for any Conservative MP who wants to have an impact on policy or aims to raise their public profile.
It's different for the giddy invasion of the new Dippers. There should be plenty of excitement with new critic jobs to share and gobs of research money to spend digging up dirt to throw at the government.
But the face of the Harper government will be reduced to three dozen ministers as the somebodies.
The rest of the Conservative caucus will, as Pierre Trudeau so caustically observed, be nobodies 50 metres off Parliament Hill.
More than ever under majority rule, the MPs who actually have influence are a very small minority.