Friday, April 12, 2019

Jane Philpott, say hello to Chubby Power

Yesterday as the Speaker of the House of Commons told ex-cabinet minister Jane Philpott she has no parliamentary redress against Justin Trudeau's dictat removing her from the Liberal caucus -- Speaker's probably right, actually -- I happened to be looking into the memoirs of Chubby Power (long story).

Power was a deep-dyed Liberal from the Quebec City suburb of Sillery, where Irish Catholics and French Catholics mixed together, so that Ryans and Kellys spoke French at home and Langloises and Drouins spoke English. He turned down a pro hockey career to go to Laval University law school a million years before Brian Mulroney did, and came back from the Western Front with medals, some shrapnel in him, and a permanent antipathy to military brass. Power won his father's old seat in Parliament in the nasty conscription election of 1917.

In 1944 he resigned from Mackenzie King's cabinet because, loyal to his First World War roots, he opposed conscription. From the backbenches he did things like stand up for civil liberties during the 1950s anti-Communist purges, but his account of the years post-1944 is mostly about all the petty things his lifelong Liberal allies did to humiliate and punish him. (E.g., on the thirtieth anniversary of his election to Parliament, an elaborately planned government strategy undermined the normal congratulations given to a long-serving MP.)

Subservience to the boss is not a recent innovation in Canadian politics.

On the other hand, Power was able to remain in the House and the caucus through several more parliaments. He even contested the Liberal leadership when King retired (fresh humiliation, he got about three votes), and St-Laurent eventually posted him to the Senate.

His memoir -- ironically? defiantly? -- is called A Party Politician.  In many ways, it's like reading about another planet; in others, it's kinda familiar.
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