Harper's leadership is becoming increasingly shaky in the wake of the Senate Expenses scandal. Rick Mercer's Rant this week hit the nail on the head as far as Harper's denials in the House of Commons are concerned:
"Either he is psychotic or he was in on it"
Perhaps more interesting is that some of Harper's backbencher's are starting to talk openly about curtailing the PM's powers.
One of the solutions they have embraced – the cause of their shackles – is the removal of the leader’s power to veto individual candidates. Because it is difficult to win an election as an independent, Harper and the other party leaders have enormous power over their MPs, since no one can run under their party’s banner without their approval.
Chong is expected to table a private members’ bill that would give veto power over a candidate to the riding association executive rather than the party leader or his designate, sources said. Chong’s riding association of Wellington–Halton Hills put forward a similar resolution at the Conservative convention in Calgary earlier this month. That resolution would have prevented the national party from appointing candidates — unless the electoral district association (EDA) failed to do so.I'm not sure that legislation of this nature is actually going to stand up to scrutiny. Such matters are largely a function of the party's constitution rather than an issue that is driven by legislation. I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea, but I wonder if it would be deemed an unreasonable constraint on the ability of an association to make its operating rules as it sees fit. (Notably, similar motions have been defeated at CPC policy conventions)
However, it isn't the actual proposal that is of interest here, so much as it is a matter of understanding that Harper's back-benchers are starting to balk at the shackles that the Harper PMO has imposed on them.
The longstanding tradition in British parliamentary democracy by which the government is accountable to the House and the leader is accountable to the caucus is not the case in Ottawa “where everybody is accountable to the Prime Minister’s Office,” Rathgeber said.If others in the CPC back benches are starting to see this same issue, then it is possible that someone in that group may yet rise to become Harper's Dalton Camp.
This may be premature - it comes on the heels of a bruising couple of weeks for Harper and his allies on the Senate Scandal, so we may just be seeing a few taking advantage of opportunity to gain a little media exposure.
My personal estimate is that it will be at least twelve months before the forces within the party that are opposed to Harper to one degree or another can gain sufficient momentum to openly challenge him.