Although unplanned and unexpected, my exile in March turned out to be a refreshing deliverance from a political party and a caucus that had devolved into a “Lord of the Flies” re-enactment, distant from the statement of principles encoded in the Progressive Conservative Party’s constitution.
The Ontario PC Party, after the 2018 general election, soon devolved into a primitive tribe where domination and authority was its sole purpose and objective. Where fealty to a mysterious elevated authority was demanded. Not just domination of the caucus, but of other tribes in the Legislative Assembly, municipal councils, media, police, and advocacy groups.
However, these actions are not the exception to the rule, but with regularity the rule of every governing party, as witnessed with the federal Liberals and the affair Wilson-Raybould, SNC-Lavalin, and the Vice Admiral Norman debacles. Often, the same holds true for all parties, whether in power or seeking to obtain power, with some deviation either in frequency or magnitude.
While I always chafed somewhat under the constraints of partisan politics, it was generally a healthy and robust relationship where we found common ground, even while holding differing opinions on either policy, communications, or strategy. I know this caused some tensions, however, important policies and laws that impact millions of people ought to bring out the best arguments and be debated with passion and vigour.
After the 2018 Ontario general election, as an Ontario PC, we found ourselves in a place where dissent, disagreement, or diversity was evidence of disloyalty and a weakness to the tribe, and resulted in censure, admonishment, and in some cases, exile. It was a real life replication of the “Lord of the Flies.”
Life as an independent member is not only far more civilized, but also more rewarding and productive. My exile has also reawakened my belief that people from different backgrounds, with different perspectives, and different ideologies, can indeed work together effectively, without rancour, discord, or malice.
While there were 11 elected representatives who are without a recognized party in the assembly, they were elected under three party brands, Liberal, Green, and Conservative. All 11 are considered independent members of the house, although only three are not associated with a registered party.
Astonishingly to many, these 11 independent members have found ways to work together to reform the standing orders of the house, share opportunities on standing committees, and share time for debates, statements, and questions. All without any one person or group having authority nor dominance over any others.
As a member of this civilized and respectful independent group, I am free to both criticize and applaud a government policy, bill, or initiative. I have the unfettered liberty to vote in a manner that is consistent with my conscience, and as I believe my constituents expect.
No longer are questions or talking points handed to me along with the instructions to deliver on the party’s behalf; to bolster their narrative and party brand to the detriment of representation. Rather, I am free to examine and evaluate any and all subjects through the lens of a representative of my community.
I no longer have to look over my shoulder when speaking with another elected member, or have people reporting back to an overlord when I speak with a journalist. All these previously seen as indicators or proof points of suspicious, disloyal activity with conspiratorial undertones.
There can be value in being a member of a caucus, so long as it respects democracy and representative government, rather than being a primitive, authoritarian political tribe. However, it is a breath of fresh air being an independent member, when the alternative fails.