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Garth Turner’s been urged to enter MP race

(June 11, 2009) — Garth Turner could be the area’s next Member of Parliament, if some local Liberals get their way.

The high-profile ex-MP, bestselling author and financial guru has been invited by the Dufferin — Caledon Liberal Association to throw his hat in the ring for a federal election, expected later this year. Turner recently moved back into Caledon, where he is restoring the 1855 Cataract Inn.

He said he’s pondering his options, adding he expects to make a decision in the next week or so.

Turner, 60, has a long history with the area, having represented Caledon in the House of Commons for five years during his first term as an MP (from 1988 to 1993). He went on to purchase and operate the Belfountain Store, the Caledon Inn and other hospitality-based businesses in the region.

As MP for Halton in the last Parliament, Turner gained national attention for having stood up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper after being elected as a Conservative in 2006. Turner’s open style, outspoken nature and insistence he worked for voters instead of party bosses earned him Harper’s wrath. In late 2006, he was booted out of the Tory caucus and the next year joined the Liberals.

“While I had no intention of jumping back into the political fray,” Turner said, “we have a crisis on our hands.

Families are under financial stress, small businesses are suffering and unemployment is just out of control. In the last election campaign, Stephen Harper promised there’d be no recession and no deficit, and look at us now.”

He also pointed out that Ottawa recently revealed it will plunge the country into a $50 billion deficit, virtually guaranteeing higher taxes, lower growth and a slower economy for years to come. Turner observed that 15 years of paying off the national debt have just been wiped out.

“Many Conservatives never, ever expected Stephen Harper to be the biggest government spender in history or to embrace debts and deficits,” Turner commented.

“What we need to get out of this is not more bailouts and billions from politicians but things like an income tax cut, family income-splitting and serious help for small and medium businesses. We need jobs, not more government.”

He observed that no one knows for sure when the next election will be, but he doesn’t expect the call will be imminent.

“I would say a summer election is not going to happen,” he remarked, adding no one wants an unnecessary campaign. but he added if the governing Conservatives don’t start showing some results by the fall, then “obviously we’ll need a new approach.”

Who’s bleating now?

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‘Garth Turner thought that, as a Conservartive MP, he should stay in touch with his constituents and serve them as an honest, responsive legislator. What a rube.’

Review of ‘Sheeple’ by Andrew Cohen, Globe and Mail

On Jan. 23, 2006, Garth Turner returned to Parliament as a Conservative. Less than nine months later, he was expelled from the caucus, stripped of his party affiliation, thrown out of his office and forced to sit as an Independent.

The reason, he says, was his blog. He just couldn’t stop writing about Ottawa – about a mean, mercurial prime minister, about his circle of humourless acolytes, about a regime of broken promises and false hopes.

Behold, then, Sheeple, Turner’s tale of his short, sour season as a Conservative in the 39th Parliament. In this minor saga – with the emphasis on minor – the maverick in cowboy boots takes on the party establishment in jackboots. It doesn’t turn out well for Turner.

The catfight in this parliamentary popcorn popper goes on for about a year, ending with his excommunication. At the centre is Garth Turner, fearless reformer and digital democrat. Fundamentally, Turner believes that a politician should remain connected to his constituents when he goes to Ottawa, using all instruments at his disposal. He also believes – naïf that he is – that he should serve them as an honest, responsive legislator.

He learns quickly that this is impossible in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa, where secrecy and loyalty are the rule. Only days after his narrow election, he is in hot water with the Prime Minister’s Office for questioning David Emerson’s surprise appointment to the cabinet.

After all, Emerson had been elected as a Liberal. When the government changed, though, he did too, brazenly joining the Conservatives (who had savaged Belinda Stronach for switching parties in 2005).

Emerson’s defection bothered Turner. It diminished Emerson, who was seen as bright and promising, and stirred such antagonism that Emerson did not dare run again in 2008.

But in Harper’s Ottawa, it was Turner who was pilloried. He was summoned to Harper’s office and directed to the woodshed. He describes a prime minister who was “condescending, belittling and menacing,” and treated him as “a petulant, useless, idiot child.”

Harper didn’t like Turner’s artless frankness. “You’re a journalist, and we all know journalists make bad politicians,” he said. “Politicians know they have to stick to a message. That’s how they are successful. Journalists think they always have to tell the truth.”

This little contretemps comes early in the book and everything thereafter seems anti-climactic, including Turner’s short tenure as a Liberal MP. Turner’s story, like his political career, goes downhill from there.

He feels he has to spill and it has consequences. Ian Brodie, Harper’s chief of staff, warns Turner: “If you want to fuck with us, we will fuck with you. Do you want to sit as an Independent? Then we can arrange that. Count on it.”
His exile becomes highly probable when Turner refuses Brodie’s order to stop writing his blog and giving interviews, and to issue a news release praising Emerson’s appointment. “Are you clear?” he asks.

So this is the world according to Garth. He hadn’t signed up for this. After all, he had been a successful Progressive Conservative MP from 1988 to 1993, one who had (briefly) served in the cabinet and run for the party leadership. He had returned triumphantly to politics in 2006, beating an incumbent Liberal of 13 years.

Moreover, he had been a teacher of Shakespeare, a financial journalist, an author of several books and a successful entrepreneur. Passionate about the Internet, he had hoped to mobilize its power in his political reincarnation.

Yet this cuts no ice in Harper’s Ottawa. After Emerson, Turner was accused of breaking ranks and leaking caucus secrets, of being out for himself rather than the team.

What is most revealing here is what he says about the government’s modus operandi. Few Conservatives come out well in the book beyond the conscientious Michael Chong, who put principle before politics when he resigned from the cabinet over the parliamentary resolution declaring the Québécois “a nation.”

One of the more hypocritical is Helena Guergis, who was ready to issue a news release supporting an anti-floor-crossing bill until Harper appointed Emerson to the cabinet and made her Emerson’s parliamentary secretary. There was no press release. Now Guergis sits in the cabinet, nodding like a trained seal whenever the Prime Minister clears his throat.

Turner didn’t play the game and paid for it. While he denies he broke caucus confidentiality, he was obviously chafing there. He says it was all about his blog, that there is little place for dissent among private members and that democracy is in trouble on Parliament Hill.

Sheeple, his neologism for sheep and people, is windy, redundant and gratuitously profane in places. It reproduces news stories and treats Turner’s entries on his website as if they were ancient texts. Then again, this is written by a self-described “unusual renaissance man” of such implied import that you might mistake him for John Turner or Ted Turner.

The book needed an editor. It has no acknowledgments, suggesting that Turner didn’t have one. He allows that he was so torn over writing Sheeple that early on he threw his manuscript into the lake before recovering it; sometimes you wonder why he bothered.

Still, Turner deserves our thanks. He went to Ottawa, he spoke his mind, he struck a blow for democracy. His mission is sometimes self-aggrandizing and its impact is sometimes overstated, but his motives were honourable and his independence was admirable. We need agents provocateurs like him.

No wonder Stephen Harper cheered last October when he heard that the troublesome Garth Turner had lost his seat.

Andrew Cohen is a professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University, a journalist and most recently author of the Extraordinary Canadians biography, Lester B. Pearson.

Readers write:

Dear Garth,
And I call you by your first name with all the respect of Sir or Mr. Turner. It just seems to me that you are the most down to earth and the most approachable of any high profile Canadian-a rarity indeed where power seems to vault so many above the every day Canadian.

I am reading Sheeple and I am so in awe of your courage, your principles and….your ability to write. Your book is so engaging. It seems like you’ve grabbed a cup of coffee from my kitchen and sat down to tell me your story like an old friend. I’m amazed with this book and everything you were up against with the Harper Government: the scariest of political parties I have ever witnessed. They have retained the title of Conservative but they are nothing like the true former Conservative Party and Red Tory Conservatives should rise up against this usage. For Harper to use it is insult on a founding party of this country.

You are a man of many talents, indeed. I am about half way through this great book and just had to contact you to tell you how much I am enjoying it. I’m going out tomorrow and I’m buying copies for my son, his fiance and my daughter. They need their own copy to keep at hand, if in a moment of weakness they are approached by any Reformer/Alliance graduates of the Frank Luntz School of Deception and Manipulation.

I hope you continue to share your great gift. I’m, also, saddened to think we’ve lost such a great representative of the people. Is there a chance you might one day consider reentering politics? If not, at least we have your blog and your writings that will continue to be the voice that keeps everyone on the Hill honest. I must admit that I haven’t been a great follower of your Blog or any blog for that matter-there’s a wall up for me and technology. However, I am now a big fan and will be checking in to see what you have to say.

All the best,
Claudia
Halifax, NS

Mr Turner,
I have finally finished reading your book Sheeple: Caucus Confidential In Stephen Harper’s Ottawa. I thought that I would take the time to write you and give you a few of my opinions on the book.

I first heard you speak about your book on News 95.7 with Tom Young. I was blown away by the passion if your voice when you spoke of the current political landscape in our country. I felt an immense sadness overtake me when you said that you were finished with federal politics. Any man with your passion is the kind of man we need in parliment

I agree with you that our government should be more transparent. As a country, we have a right to know what goes on inside those walls. The age of digital democracy is truly upon us. Until our government learns to accept that, our country will remain divided. I am tired of all the bickering amongst our politicians. They have embraced their roles as politicians and forgotten why MOST of them got into politics; to represent the people and change our contry for the better.

I truly wish that you would not hang up your hat just yet. I feel that you have a lot left to offer to help our country reach it’s potential. I have faith that you could help bring out all of the disillusioned voters such as myself and get us involved in our “democracy” once again. Perhaps we could even bring our country back to being a true democracy.

I also wish that I had taken an interest in politics before you had given up. Perhaps it would have prompted me to put forth the effort to make our country a better place. However, I would still love to begin that effort now. I would be honored if you could give me any tips on how to get involved with my community, province and country. I would love to play a part in speeding up the inevitable and bring our political parties back to what they should be; Representatives of the People!

Thank you Garth, you have made me realize that not all politicians will check their morals at the door. Maybe their is a hope for this country yet.

Best Regards in all that you do,
Gabe

Dear Garth,
I have missed your blog these past months but appreciated reading Sheeple.
I’ve watched the news tonight of Lisa Raitt’s outing as an opportunist, cold bitch and perfect fit in Harper;s world.
On my desk is a picture of my sister and her daughter taken a few years ago. They are beautiful.
Today my sister is racked with cancer and hairless. My niece smiles less. We all worry.
You see, her cancer is a recurring case of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
There’s nothing sexy about it.
That witch replaced a fine , wise, empathetic, and, above all, trustworthy MP, Garth Turner.
King Harper and the minimen have no clothes now. Everyone knows you were telling the truth.
Say you’ll come back to politics.
Love, Eve
Ontario
Sheeple Guy Lauzon is Ottawa’s representative here, for now.

Whither democracy?

michaelenright

Are we on the road to a presiential-style government, yet without the ability to vote for the prez? Or can Canadian democracy renew? Will we ever again have MPs who work for the people, not parties?

Two-time MP and best-selling author Garth Turner, whose latest book is “Sheeple: Caucus Confidential in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa”, joins Green Party leader Elizabeth May and veteran Toronto Star political columnist Jim Travers for a discussion on what comes next for voters. To listen to the CBC “Sunday Edition” broadcast, click here.

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