The Huffington Post Canada | Posted: 04/23/2014
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May doesn't mince words.
And she's clearly no fan of the concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office.
The British Columbia MP made waves by using some colourful language at a Nanaimo town hall last week to describe the government staffers behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
According to Metro's Luke Simcoe, May called the PMO a "$10-million-a-year partisan operation filled with ruthless, cutthroat psychopaths."
May later explained to Metro that the comment was made in jest but did not back down from what she sees as an attitude in the PMO that puts the interest of the party in charge ahead of Canadians.
"The staff at the PMO have no allegiance to anything other than getting the Conservative Party re-elected. And they feel entitled to tear strips off bureaucrats at all levels of the system," she said. "It completely offends the principles of parliamentary democracy."
Of course, this is not the first time May has opened up about problems she sees with the PMO.
Last May, the MP had a memorable exchange in question period with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird shortly after she called the PMO an "invention," a "partisan fortress" and the least accountable place funded by taxpayers.
"About $10 million a year disappears into the PMO with zero accountability," May said. "The guys in short pants who run around bullying MPs, muzzling scientists and harassing civil servants report to one boss. Is it not time to have accountability out of the PMO?"
Baird thought her remark smacked of sexism and rose on a point of order.
"Mr. Speaker, I have to rise and respond to the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands," Baird said. “She made comments with respect to young boys in short pants. We have a lot of young, talented women also working in the Prime Minister's Office. And I would ask her to withdraw her sexist comments."
But May didn't miss a beat.
"I accept that there are, then, also women employed for the purpose of harassing scientists, bullying MPs, and muzzling civil servants," she said.
About a week after that exchange, Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber quit the Conservative caucus to sit as an Independent in part because of what he saw as the undue influence of unelected, unaccountable government staffers.
Rathgeber told reporters he didn't appreciate staffers in Harper's office who are half his age pressuring caucus to adhere to talking points and vote like "trained seals."
"When you have a PMO that tightly scripts its backbenches like this one attempts to do, MPs don't represent their constituents in Ottawa, they represent the government to their constituents," he said.
Rathegeber also said at the time that the PMO has too much power because there isn't enough separation between the legislature and executive.
In November, Senator Mike Duffy gave two passionate, dramatic speeches in the Senate defending his role in the expense scandal.
Though Duffy would eventually find himself suspended from the upper chamber, he told colleagues that the infamous, $90,000 cheque he received from former Harper chief of staff Nigel Wright was all part of a "nefarious scheme" cooked up by the PMO.
"This monstrous fraud was the PMO's creation from start to finish," he said.
At one point, Duffy appealed to his fellow senators to stand up to the government staffers pulling the levers of power behind the scenes.
"Today you have an opportunity to stand strong and use your power to restrain the unaccountable power of the PMO," he said. "That's what this Senate is about, sober second thought, not taking dictation from kids in short pants down the hall."
The RCMP confirmed last week that its investigation into Wright and the $90,000 payment has been dropped.