Westman political followers were a whir of speculation and spin this week as longtime Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Merv Tweed stepped away from politics for possibilities in the private sector, later that day to be revealed as the new president of Omnitrax out of Winnipeg.
Tweed, the rep for the bluest of blue Brandon-Souris riding, adds to an ever-growing list of MPs, staffers, communications reps — and to nobody’s surprise — senators to leave by defection or defeat from the once-buoyant Conservative Party of Canada in the past year, leaving many to wonder whether the party is in the throes of defeat after being firmly positioned in the jaws of victory.
Although differing in opinions, on a personal note I always enjoyed dealing with the MP for Brandon-Souris. He was a straightforward and friendly representative and from my observations easily showed the skill of a seasoned politician. One of those skills that seasoned politicians develop is the know-how to get out before the "getting" turns a little rough.
Although I did not align politically with where Mr. Tweed came from, he seemed to have the best interests of his riding at heart. No matter the political stripe, I respect his effort and decorum. Our MP was friendly and professional in office and skilfully could have held down the fort for another couple of terms without a significant political challenge.
Brandon-Souris is a good place to be a Conservative federally, it would have seemed. But change can be a scary road for some, and a bumpy exit from office by our MP and others who have trotted out of the tent may be indicative of more uncertainty to come for the Conservatives.
Whether that change is enough to paint a "yellow-dog" riding like Brandon-Souris a different colour remains to be seen, but swing seats seem within equal reach and anyone’s game come the next election.
I don’t mean to single out a particular MP or party as plenty have left mid-term. In our province alone, Tweed follows members like Vic Toews and Inky Mark, who both left politics before the end of their terms to focus on other opportunities.
This type of exodus leaves many to wonder, as was speculated earlier in the year by an Ontario television journalist, TVO’s Steve Paikin, whether the top dog in "Tory-land" would throw in the towel prior to the next leadership convention.
The idea of Stephen Harper stepping aside may seem far-fetched, but there are compelling arguments for that case should you want to fire up the old Interwebs and take a look for them.
Another hint of what may be on the horizon for the party is the fact Tweed’s announcement to leave government came in the same week another member of Harper’s brain trust announced he was headed overseas. Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall has left the Prime Minister’s Office for another opportunity in the U.K., taking the official count of spokespeople to leave the prime minister high and dry to seven. With those types of top job staffers hitting the road, changes to the way MPs’ pensions are delivered and brewing changes on the political horizon show there may be smoke to the fire that is currently smouldering.
So what comes next for Brandon-Souris? Many will begin positioning themselves to take the seat locally as the rep for the Tories, with a handful having groomed that trail for some time now. Realistically, though, as far as elections are concerned, the choice for a candidate may be the more interesting of the two races in Brandon-Souris. It hasn’t officially become a name game for the Conservatives, but there are some who could step up to the plate with a very realistic shot of heading to Ottawa after a byelection.
It will also be interesting to see if some of the big hitters from the House come out to support their local candidate on the campaign trail, as was the case when newly minted Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau swept into Labrador to assist candidate Yvonne Jones take the seat from the Tories in a byelection.
If the big three parties see this seat as a potential win or a threat to lose, prepare to see a little star power pay a visit to the Wheat City to try to shore up what once was a foregone conclusion. And if that is the case, it may be indicative of a power shift that could carry further up the ladder than most would have envisioned here a few short years ago, with the landscape of politics in Canada rewriting itself as a result.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 17, 2013