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The delicate craft of caucus management

7 11 80

During the 1981 bitter battle over the Charter of Rights an NDP MP was accused of leaking a confidential set of amendments to a Liberal colleague on the committee, wrestling with daily comma by comma confrontations. He narrowly escaped expulsion from a divided caucus.

When Brian Mulroney polled in the low teens, he regularly had breakfast with one of his malcontents at 24 Sussex Dr., then shared his limo with the star-dazzled member to the caucus meeting. Two seasoned full time advisers served as his caucus managers. He had no serious caucus rebellions in nine years.

By contrast, Stephen Harper’s approach to caucus management was closer to that of an army drill sergeant than a silky-smooth statesman. He suffered caucus defections, some of which might have been avoided if better intelligence gathering and stroking had been applied. Most famously, he lost Belinda Stronach in a hugely humiliating floor crossing.

Jean Chretien’s approach was a blend of active stroking by a series of capable lieutenants and heavy boots for the openly defiant. When John Nunziata voted against the government’s own GST tax legislation, he........

© Toronto Star