Conservative MP Inky Mark’s resignation from Parliament was inevitable in many ways.
He did announce over a year ago he didn’t plan to run again and he has been essentially biding his time ever since waiting for the election that would have ended his Ottawa era. It didn’t come so now he’s stepping down.
His caucus colleagues weren’t aware of his plans to step down now but were not surprised by the decision either. Steven Fletcher, the minister of state for democratic reform and the Conservative MP for Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia said one thing he found interesting about Mark was his tattoos. Fletcher said most often Mark, like others, wore long sleeves to work. But one day Mark came into Fletcher’s office wearing short sleeves.
"Both of his arms are filled with tattoos," said Fletcher.
Fletcher said it gave the mild-mannered maverick MP a different aura.
"He looked pretty tough," said Fletcher. "I’m glad he’s on my side."
However Mark wasn’t really on any one side. He marched to his own beat, stood up for his constituents and what he felt they wanted even if it didn’t coincide with Conservative party policies. It’s a noble calling, one more MPs should do.
Mark told me yesterday he had a choice between being an MP for the people or an MP for the leader. He said he’s never put the leader of whatever party he was in first and "I’m not going to start now." (If you include the time he spent as part of the rebel alliance in 2001-02, he’s represented four different parties in his 13 years as an MP and had five different leaders to contend with.)
But because of it he was a marginalized MP. The party gave him very little to do – since 2008 he has not been named as a full member of any committees. He also seldom debated bills, and he missed almost as many votes as he attended in the last few years.
In the most recent session he rose to his feet just once to table two petitions – one urging the government to expand Canada Post’s services and one backing a private member’s bill to protect hunting, fishing and trapping rights. He delivered a total of 77 words. That is five more than the 72 words he delivered in the House of Commons in 2009, when he tabled a petition pushing for a national memorial for fallen soldiers. He wasn’t called on to debate a single bill.
Most of the MPs on the low end of the numbers pool when it comes to speeches in the House are those who are on the outs with their party or party leader to some extent. Former Liberal leader Stephane Dion spoke only once. Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, known as a bit of a maverick himself, is on the board with four speeches. Former veterans affairs minister Greg Thompson who announced last winter he won’t seek re-election wasn’t called on once in the last session to say anything.
MPs who speak for their ridings first is a novelty. Most often MPs pledge allegiance to the party line first, even though few of them are elected by more than half the voters in their ridings. It’s a bit of a winner take’s all attitude that looks at compromise as a sign of weakness and sees the opposing parties more as enemies than colleagues. A united front as a party isn’t always a bad thing but it shouldn’t be the only thing.