In the simplest sense Don Martin is right -- Garth's outspoken attitude is the trouble, but Martin's suggesting that the trouble is with the Conservatives rather than with Garth. He seems to think they're making a pre-emptive strike and removing Garth before Rona Ambrose's environmental message is released, so that whatever Garth says to hammer that message will seem like sour grapes rather than the brave voice of reasoned thought, speaking out against the Harper-power structure.
That might be true if Garth could be taken seriously, but from the very first caucus meeting Turner has proved himself to be a buffoon. I wrote a post back in February -- St. Garth -- Patron Saint of the Petulant and Self-Righteous. You' ll find the actual blog posts from the days following tend to destroy his 'caucus confidentiality' credibility straight from the get-go. Where Don Martin seems to think the party is worried about Turner leaking or reacting to policy secrets, these first few posts show him betraying the more personal aspects of the meetings --and it's that sort of gossipy, ill-considered, prattling which most of his caucus must find obnoxious and unacceptable.
Take this example from February:
This was the day after Cabinet was announcements. Garth says he can't divulge caucus business, and then goes on to give two examples of conflict within caucus. The man can't be trusted. How free will caucus members feel to express themselves with Garth present, knowing that he's posted about concerns they spoke of privately?
February 7, 2006 -- We had national caucus this morning. I cannot tell you what was said (well I could, but I won't), because caucus only really works when people know it's private (. . .) I knew there would be MPs in there pissed at not having made cabinet, and showing it in their body language (and there were). . . . I knew that my coming back here after being away for 13 years, walking in to a party once again in power might irritate others who toiled for years in opposition (and that happened, too.)
I don't follow Turner's blog because I find it such a swaggering mass of self-aggrandizing pap, but his blog post after the recent Montreal shooting were so bizarrely insensitive and derisive that I read it. Garth used the tragedy to question the priorities of his rural caucus-mates and suggested that they put the rights of duck hunters ahead of the safety of the community:
And we won’t get near the problem if some of my hats-and-horses colleagues continue to lament over farmers and duck hunters who want to blow holes in birds and animals for the simple joy of it.This puerile simplification of two serious issues is precisely what makes Garth a detriment to the party -- not because he disagrees with come of his colleagues on the merits of gun-control, but because he expressed his disagreement using insulting and provokative language intended to portray a segment of our society as consumed with violent blood-lust.
Turner remains unrepentant. In a post which seeks to explain his perception of the divisions between rural and urban Canadians, instead of trying to make amends or smooth things over, he seeks to amplify his US vs THEM version of citizenship and party membership:
The brand of Conservativism that I have called hats-and-horses is based on three elements, it seems: (a) Rural values, agrarian experience and rugged individualism, (b) A well-defined moral code based on deeply-held core religious beliefs and, (c) the indomitable and self-possessed spirit of the West, as once embodied by the Reform Party. The marriage of these themes defines the new Conservative Party, and the sheer strength of them was enough to swamp the influence of the other legacy party, Progressive Conservative. The reality, depth and strength of this was not entirely clear until that blessed day when the new Conservative Party won government. (. . .) My refusal to play the role requested of me will, I am sure, lead to my political demise. But each day I am an MP will be spent answering to the voters and taxpayers first, and my political master second. (...) And this brings me back to the hats-and-horses (them) versus the “infa-red” (actually, that should be ‘infra-red’), which is me. More sparks.
To the HAH gang my message is simple: You need politicians like me to remind you that lots of the country’s voters do not shoot ducks, criticize gays, till the land, avoid Toronto or go to church. But they’re still good and decent people, raising families the best they can, often in changing environments rife with challenges, and building Canada. They need champions, too, and not just ones with red ties and blouses.
With the possibility of an election in the next eight to ten months, the Conservatives don't need a self-proclaimed analyst to apportion traits and characteristics to this group and that. Turner is an isolating bigot at a time when unity is important -- not unanimity -- but at least public politeness. Turner has a poor opinion of many fellow party members and he wears this contempt like a mantle and then writes as though the rural constituency of this country and the party has somehow offended him and needs to be put back in its place.
Garth Turner isn't worth the trouble. Rather than holding his own government to account, Turner's specialty was alienating people -- no wonder his caucus-mates wanted him out -- his outspokenness was never meant to influence change or facilitate communication -- it was meant to inflame emotions and inflate his ego. One negative person can blight the confidence and enthusiasm of an entire group -- Garth Turner seems like the kind of guy who could suck the life out of a room just by walking in. No one needs that.