Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber

What’s up with Brent Rathgeber? Specifically, is he a maverick, or is he just doing the maverick shtick?

Mr. Rathgeber, as is well known to readers of this blog, is the Member of Parliament for Edmonton-St. Albert, and he is surely Parliament’s best-read blogger. As such, this makes him the country’s senior “Blogging Tory,” or, at least the only one with seat in the House of Commons. Of course, it also makes him my representative in the government of Canada, whether I like it or not.

Earlier today, Mr. Rathgeber posted an item on his blog that does something, well, something Conservative MPs just don’t do.

He criticized one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet members. But that’s not such a big deal, because the minister in question was the unfortunate Bev Oda, she of the $16 glass of orange juice and the notorious hotel upgrade. As everyone in Canada seems to be quite confident, Ms. Oda is going to get the old skideroo as soon as the prime minister next reshuffles his cabinet, an event widely believed to be soon.

More interestingly, Mr. Rathgeber (very mildly) criticized the rest of Mr. Harper’s cabinet, of which Mr. Rathgeber is likely never to be a member owing to the surfeit of Conservative MPs from this corner of Canada, for their collective $600,000 limo drivers’ overtime bill. (Well, they’ve got to wait for you, for heaven’s sake!)

The mainstream media made a bigger thing out of this than the mild criticism in the blog would seem to warrant. “A Western Canadian Conservative MP went public Tuesday to blast the ‘egregious’ waste of tax dollars by Harper government cabinet ministers, saying ministers were showing an attraction to ‘opulence’ and ‘extravagance’ that is alien to the values of ordinary Canadians,” panted a drivellist for the Vancouver Sun.

Still, Prime Minister Harper is notoriously thin-skinned about this kind of thing, and that presumably would be especially so if, as in this case, his MP appeared to have found inspiration in an old NDP press release.

Which leave the fundamental question about this story unanswered: Is Mr. Rathgeber, hitherto best known for his opinion the CBC should be run as a charity, really out there in maverick territory, is he safely within the corral helping one of the prime minister’s public relations schemes to unfold?

He did write, it cannot be denied: “Surely, as government preaches fiscal discipline such extravagance must be eliminated.”

The auguries are mixed. The fact the post there at all suggests it has the OK from on high. Plus, after all, someone has to make the case for sending Ms. Oda back to the back of the backbenches.

On the other hand, the fact Mr. Rathgeber unexpectedly failed to put in an appearance at an Edmonton studio for a segment on his blog post on journalist Don Martin’s CTV show Power Play suggests someone told him to zip his lips, and quickly.

Personally, I lean toward the idea Mr. Rathgeber’s slip was no slip at all, and had the approval from the highest levels. Maybe we’ll know tomorrow – if the post is still there and Mr. Rathgeber is still in the Conservative caucus.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...