By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 - 0 Comments
A little more of the back story to this week’s news about Thomas Mulcair and the envelope.
In November 2010, Bloc Quebecois MP Serge Menard, since retired, alleged that, in 1993, he was offered a cash-filled envelope by the mayor of Laval. On November 16, 2010, Mr. Mulcair—nearer the end of a news conference with Pat Martin about Louis Riel—was asked about the controversy.
Two questions for Mr. Mulcair. One, you might have heard of allegations of the mayor of Laval handing out cash in envelopes. Were you ever offered cash in an envelope by the mayor of Laval? Did you ever see cash in envelopes around the mayor of Laval?
Mr. Mulcair responded as follows.
No. And one thing preoccupies me with that is that a person who went on to become justice minister and public security minister, felt that he wouldn’t do anything about it. In my career, the only time anybody ever came up to me with an issue they described had happened to them, that would’ve constituted an offence, I invited the person to go to the police and when they said they weren’t sure if they could do that, I said that I would do it myself and I did. And it had nothing to do, by the way, with Laval city hall. It was an issue involving somebody in the work that I was doing at the time. So I’ll leave it to you to sort out the different versions that are no doubt going to come out today. But all I can say is, as a citizen, I’m worried with regard to our democratic institutions when someone who went on to become justice minister and public security minister says he didn’t seem to have anything he could do about it and in regard to those institutions I think it’s a serious preoccupation for all of us.
As the Canadian Press noted yesterday and the Globe’s Daniel LeBlanc notes in his story, whether Mr. Mulcair saw what was in the envelope that the mayor of Laval alleged brandished during the 1994 meeting—apparently before Mr. Mulcair was elected, for whatever that is worth—is a matter of some debate. But the Conservatives seem to be trying to chide Mr. Mulcair now in a similar fashion to the way Mr. Mulcair chided Mr. Menard in 2010.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM - 0 Comments
According to a Conservative Senate source, Conservative senators will be asking on Tuesday that the internal economy committee’s report on Mike Duffy be referred back to the committee so that the committee can investigate yesterday’s reports about Mr. Duffy’s expense claims during the 2011 election.
The Elections Canada guide for parties explains the rules around “expenses of senators and elected members” thusly.
Where a senator, or a person who is an elected member of the House of Commons or any provincial legislature, campaigns on behalf of a party, the expenses related to that person’s involvement in the campaign are campaign expenses of the party and must be authorized beforehand by a registered agent.
For example, if a minister or other member of Parliament travels from Ottawa to assist in the party’s campaign, the costs of travelling to the district, and the costs of accommodation and transportation within the district, are considered campaign expenses of the party.
However, if the minister’s trip is carried out in conjunction with an official government function, using government‑paid transportation, then the chief agent must allocate a proportionate share of the transportation, and accommodation and any other expenses to the party as an election expense. This allocation should be made on the basis of the proportion of time spent on each activity.
Elections Canada will accept the basis of allocation used by the chief agent, provided that it is reasonable, in the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer, and provided that the auditor agrees that the allocation is reasonable and in keeping with this handbook.
The chief agent or registered agent must pay the expenses of senators and elected members incurred while campaigning for a party because senators and elected members of Parliament are not eligible contributors to a party’s campaign other than as individuals.
The handbook for candidates has similar language.
If a senator, a minister or another candidate campaigns on behalf of the candidate, the expenses related to that person’s involvement in the campaign are election expenses and have to be authorized in advance by the official agent, the candidate or a person authorized in writing by the official agent. Any travel expense has to be reimbursed using campaign funds or accepted as a non-monetary contribution if paid by an eligible contributor.
The Prime Minister’s director of communications spoke with reporters this morning. John Geddes looks at what he had to say.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is scheduled to depart for Peru on Tuesday afternoon and return on Friday evening. He’ll presumably take questions from reporters during the trip to the Pacific Alliance Leaders’ Summit—perhaps on Wednesday—but he’ll be away from the House all next week.
Scott Reid, former director of communications to Paul Martin, says Nigel Wright “will have to go.”
Update 1:06pm. NDP MP Craig Scott has written to the Commissioner of Canada Elections to ask that he investigate Mr. Duffy’s actions during the last campaign. The full letter is here.
In terms of Mike Duffy, audits performed by Deloitte indicate that Senator Duffy was listed as being on Senate business at an “other location” during six days of the month of April, wholly during the writ period. There is also evidence of Senator Duffy campaigning for the Conservative Party of Canada and for various local Conservative candidates throughout the writ period. Some of these local campaigns have stated in their financial reports that they reimbursed the Senator directly for his trip expenses. Given that the Senator claimed taxpayer-funded Senate per diems on several occasions during the month of April, it raises the question of whether Mr. Duffy claimed both expenses on the same days.
This also raises concerns over whether Senator Duffy charged Conservative campaigns for the full cost of his travel, or whether part of these costs were unfairly born by the taxpayer and possibly constitute an unclaimed campaign expense. I note that the Elections Canada Act specifically prohibits the concealment of donations under the “Contributions” section of the act…
Given that Senator Duffy apparently refused to co-operate with the Deloitte auditors and reportedly failed to fully disclose details regarding his whereabouts and activities during the 2011 election campaign, we are asking that you initiate an investigation to determine whether any money was improperly used or concealed by Senator Duffy, the Conservative Party of Canada or any of the local campaigns involved.
Mr. Scott also cites several other senators whose expenses he would like to see scrutinized.
Update 3:58pm. Via email, a comment from Senator Grant Mitchell, who is referenced in Craig Scott’s letter.
While the paper files are archived and we are getting them asap, all the electronic info my office and the Senate Admin have confirmed that I claimed absolutely nothing for the writ period from the Senate. It was certainly my policy and recollection, confirmed by the data I have right now, that I claimed nothing from the Senate. I even shut down my Senate web site. I am pushing to get the archived files.
It might be that the NDP have checked the election expense reports submitted by campaigns which may have included expenses attributed to my visit to a constituency(s) to campaign(s), for example. This is done so there is clear reporting on that spending is within election limits. I recollect that I got no direct reimbursement from any campaign either.
Update 5:40pm. The NDP’s director of fundraising has just sent out a note, entitled “90,000 reasons to abolish the Senate.”
Enough is enough. It’s time to abolish the Senate. Make a special one-time donation to our Senate campaign today…
Donate to our Senate campaign right now. Your donation of $5, $10 or $50 will help pay for websites, emails and online advertising – all the tools we need to send Stephen Harper and Mike Duffy a message they can’t ignore.
Update 5:55pm. And now Pamela Wallin has left the Conservative caucus.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 9:10 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Marjory LeBreton, leader of the government in the Senate.
“Senator Duffy has informed me that he has resigned from caucus to sit as an independent senator.”
And a statement from Mr. Duffy.
“It is clear the public controversy surrounding me and the repayment of my Senate expenses has become a significant distraction to my caucus colleagues, and to the government. Given that my presence within the Conservative caucus only contributes to that distraction, I have decided to step outside of the caucus and sit as an independent Senator pending resolution of these questions.
“Throughout this entire situation I have sought only to do the right thing. I look forward to all relevant facts being made clear in due course, at which point I am hopeful I will be able to rejoin the Conservative caucus.
“This has been a difficult time for me and my family, and we are going to take some time away from the public. I ask the media to respect our privacy while these questions are resolved through the appropriate processes.”
A government source says “there are a growing number of questions about Mr. Duffy’s conduct that don’t have answers” and that reports that Senator Duffy had taken out a loan—as CTV first reported last night—came as a “complete surprise.”
Update 10:07pm. CTV is now reporting that Mr. Duffy “attempted to influence the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s upcoming decision involving the right-leaning Sun News Network.”
A well-placed source told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that Duffy approached a Conservative insider with connections to the CRTC three weeks ago to discuss Sun Media, which is asking the federal regulator to grant its news channel “mandatory carriage,” or guaranteed placement on basic cable and satellite packages. The move would boost Sun News Network’s profile and revenues.
“You know people at the CRTC,” the insider quoted Duffy as saying. “This is an important decision on Sun Media. They have to play with the team and support Sun Media’s request.”
Update 11:39pm. The Canadian Press reports that Senator Duffy was facing a revolt.
Conservative sources said the vast majority of his Senate colleagues had signed a petition calling for his ouster from caucus and they were prepared to confront Duffy with that petition at a meeting next Tuesday evening.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
In the wake of a report from La Presse about Thomas Mulcair’s statements to police about a meeting with former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, the NDP released a statement from Mr. Mulcair this morning.
In early 2011, I met with the police in order to help in their investigation.
I gave to them my account of a meeting I had with Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt dating back to 1994.
As is indicated, I effectively and immediately ended the meeting with Mr. Vaillancourt.
This matter is currently before the courts and I will therefore avoid further comment.
The Conservatives followed that with a statement from Peter Van Loan.
The Canadian Press summarizes.
A statement from House Leader Peter Van Loan accused Mulcair of remaining silent about corruption for two decades. It also accused him of lying during a 2010 press conference, when he said he had never been offered a bribe during his time in Quebec politics…
It’s unclear whether Mulcair was in fact lying on Nov. 16, 2010, when a journalist asked at an Ottawa press conference whether he had ever been offered cash envelopes by Vaillancourt and he said: “No.” The report in La Presse said Mulcair told police he’d actually left the 1994 meeting without opening, or accepting, a white envelope and did not know for sure that there was cash inside.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 4:04 PM - 0 Comments
“No more Mr. Nice Guy’ – The “positive campaign” as a strategy in the face of relentless attacks does not work, especially when the ballot question winds up being leadership. Everyone remembers the 2012 Obama campaign as positive, but seems to forget that a brutal series of negative ads against Mitt Romney six months earlier paved the way for their positive end-game. Voters (especially women) might tell focus groups ahead of time that they don’t like negative attacks and prefer positive campaign ads, but that feedback is given in isolation from exposure to the other campaign. Once you get into an election period, with the two main campaigns running in parallel, if one campaign is constantly attacking you, turning the other cheek looks wimpy…
“Anger is better than love, and fear works better than hope” – In the chaotic and frenzied info-saturated world electoral campaigns now have to function within, strong negative emotions repeated endlessly cut through the clutter if they’re not answered better with strong communications and marketing. The BC Liberal campaign was able to change the ballot question for enough people from ‘time for a change’ to ‘fear of weak leadership’, while the hopeful kids who wanted ‘change for the better’ did not seem to feel it necessary to vote.
And then there are the kids these days…
“The lessons are different for right and left” – Conservative parties received confirmation last night that they are right to stay in their own bubble and mistrust the ‘analysis’ coming from the policy wonks in the media (or, evidently, me). They learned that they can speak to their core supporters, who have very different demographics and values, and ignore everyone else. Ranking the BC ridings by turnout shows the older, wealthier ridings near 60% turnout, and the less-well-off, younger ridings down in the low 40s. The turnout bonus for conservative parties is apparently accelerating, as well, going from a 3- or 4-point gap in the 2011 federal race to a 10-point gap last night in BC. Ten ridings were decided by less than 3.7% of the vote, and while under BC elections law there are six kinds of absentee ballots that won’t be counted until May 27 which could conceivably change the outcome in several of those seats, it was not closeness of the race but turnout that was decisive in explaining last night’s historic upset. If the traditional demographic bases of support for progressive parties do not vote in sufficient numbers, they will become increasingly powerless to effect other changes in their society.
The federal New Democrats and Liberals might have plans that don’t include attracting a large number of young voters, but their respective causes likely become easier to realize if either wins the strong support of those under the age of 30 and, importantly, if that age group votes in significant numbers. Barack Obama narrowly lost the vote to Mitt Romney among voters over the age of 30, but he won 60% of the vote among those under the age of 30. And voters between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 19% of the American electorate in 2012.
I can’t find directly comparable numbers, but Elections Canada has estimated that voters between the ages of 18 and 34 accounted for 20% of the Canadian electorate in the 2011 election. Votes among those 18 to 24 were estimated to be up slightly from 2008, but both the 18-to-24 group and the 25-to-34 group voted at a rate below the national average.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
Liberal MP Denis Coderre announces he’s seeking to be the next mayor of Montreal and with that the race for Bourassa can be begin. And with that might come the first real test of Justin Trudeau’s leadership.
After losing in his first run for the riding in 1993, Mr. Coderre won it six times between 1997 and 2011, but the 40.9% of the vote he received in 2011 was the lowest share a Liberal has ever received in Bourassa.
The New Democrats came within 3,300 votes in that election, but that was with the NDP receiving 43% of the vote in the province and the Liberals taking 14%. The latest monthly polling average put the Liberals at 36% and the New Democrats at 26%, but then there seems to be some belief among New Democrats that Liberal support in Bourassa is tied to Mr. Coderre.
It was, of course, the NDP’s win in a previously safe Liberal riding in Montreal—Outremont in 2007—that gave the NDP a presence in Quebec and rattled the leadership of Stephane Dion. (Fun fact: Before the Liberals nominated Jocelyn Coulon, it was thought that Justin Trudeau might be the Liberal candidate in Outremont.)
Meanwhile, Bloc leader Daniel Paille, still without a seat in the House, has said he won’t run in Bourassa.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:31 AM - 0 Comments
Liberal MP Sean Casey says Mike Duffy should resign and Mr. Casey likely came to that conclusion before he was aware that Mr. Duffy’s Senate expense claims seem to overlap with time he spent campaigning for the Conservatives in the last election.
The full extent of Duffy’s Senate expenses during the writ period remains a mystery — the Conservative government is refusing to reveal the full breakdown of the senator’s claims and his repayment of $90,172.24. But independent auditors at the firm Deloitte listed Duffy as being in Ottawa on Senate business and claiming a daily expense for seven days in April 2011, a month that was dominated by campaigning for the May 2 vote.
All of yesterday’s news is here.
Update 11:21am. On the off chance that the Senate Ethics Officer hadn’t heard about Mr. Duffy’s situation, NDP MP Charlie Angus has written to her to request that she look into the cheque he received from Mr. Wright.
Update 11:33am. The CBC finds more paperwork related to Senator Duffy’s campaigning in 2011.
The Deloitte audit that reviewed the living and travel expense claims for Duffy and senators Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau shows that Duffy was neither in Ottawa or Prince Edward Island but in an “other location” on Senate business on April 27 and 28, 2011 … But an invoice written by Duffy is titled, “Mike Duffy campaigning in the GTA, April 27 & 28, 2011.” It indicates he flew out of Ottawa on April 27, spent the night in a hotel in Toronto on April 28, and flew back to Ottawa on April 29. The invoice is included in Elections Canada campaign expense records for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s campaign. Oliver was elected in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.
An email from a political operations officer for the Conservative Party of Canada, Felix Wong, to Oliver’s campaign manager, John Penner, is also in the expense file. It says the total cost for Duffy’s trip to Toronto was $1,355.56 and “that amount will be divided between the eight ridings that he visited, so each riding will be responsible for $169.45.”
Update 11:49am. Included in CTV’s report last night was the suggestion of some influence over the Senate committee’s investigation. I asked the Prime Minister’s Office if there was a response to that report and here, for the record, is what I was told.
The committee reached its own conclusions based on the independent audits provided by Deloitte.
I also asked the office of Senator David Tkachuk questions about any knowledge he might have had of Mr. Wright’s agreement with Mr. Duffy. Here, for the record, is what I was told by his office.
Senator Tkachuk says that the cheque for reimbursement that we got from Senator Duffy was a personal cheque. We never inquired as to where he got the money for that cheque, nor will we be concerned from where Senators Harb or Brazeau get the money. Our business is to see that taxpayers are reimbursed.
Update 1:21pm. The Senate Ethics Officer won’t comment on specific cases, but I asked the office of the Senate Ethics Officer for guidance in interpreting Section 17 of the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code—noted here yesterday and identified by the NDP today in Ms. Angus’ letter to the ethics officer—and it provided the following.
Section 17 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators (the Code) governs gifts or benefits, but only those that relate to a senator’s official functions…
Subsection 17(1) prohibits a senator from receiving any gift or benefit, directly or indirectly, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the senator’s position.
Subsection 17(2) is an exception to this general prohibition about receiving gifts or benefits in the context of a senator’s official duties and functions. This subsection provides that, if the gift or benefit does relate to the senator’s position, but was received by the senator as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol or was received within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany a senator’s position, the senator may accept it.
Under subsection 17(3), only those gifts or benefits that are received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or those that are within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany a senator’s position, are required to be disclosed to the SEO, who then publicly discloses them, and only if the value of any such gift or benefit exceeds $500. These gifts or benefits must be disclosed to the SEO within 30 days of receipt of the gift. As already noted, the SEO will then make this information publicly available.
Whether a particular gift or benefit is acceptable depends upon the particular facts involved. So, by way of example, a gift or benefit from a family member or a friend of a senator could not, in most cases, reasonably be considered to relate to a senator’s official duties and functions and, as such, would fall outside the prohibition in subsection 17(1) of the Code. On the other hand, a gift or benefit that is provided to influence a senator in the performance of his or her duties and functions could reasonably be considered to relate to a senator’s position.
Update 4:09pm. Nigel Wright apparently still has the confidence of the Prime Minister.
Update 5:31pm. And now Senator Patrick Brazeau wants a public hearing into the expenses scandal.
Update 9:36pm. Mike Duffy has resigned from the Conservative caucus.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 2:30 PM - 0 Comments
After I redirected my request—possibly I wasn’t using the best contact point—Canada Border Services Agency has responded to my question about how tariffs are applied to imported iPods. Here is the response in its entirety.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can confirm that MP3 players imported into Canada are generally classified within two tariff items, depending upon their specific features:
- those players that have only audio capabilities are classified in tariff item 8519.81.29 and are subject to a 5% rate of customs duty under the Most-Favoured-Nation (MFN) Tariff, and 0% under 15 other preferential tariff treatments covering Canada’s free trade partners and countries eligible for one of Canada’s three development-oriented tariff preference regimes (General Preferential Tariff; Least Developed Country Tariff; and, Caribbean Commonwealth Countries Tariff).
-Those players that also have video capabilities are classified in tariff item 8521.90.90 and are subject to a 6% rate of customs duty under the MFN Tariff and 0% under the 15 other tariff treatments.
However, since these MP3 players can be connected to a computer for the storage and transfer of data (e.g., music, videos, etc.), they may be imported into Canada duty free under tariff item 9948.00.00, regardless of their origin.
This response does not address the specifics of my question, so I asked again: To qualify under 9948, must sellers of iPods and MP3 players collect “end user certificates” from the final consumer?
In response, I was told to refer to the CBSA’s original response. And that leaves a rather important question unanswered.
In other news, Mike Moffatt recently quibbled with the government’s assertion that lower tariffs amounted to special breaks for Chinese companies.
See previously: A tax on imported blankets, The Commons: Ted Menzies challenges everyone to find a tax increase in the budget, A tax on bicycles, baby carriages and iPods, The Great iPod Tax Crisis of 2013, The iPod tax: The finance department responds, Will the Conservatives repeal the iPod tax?, Breaking news: Your imported hockey helmet will cost less, Letters from Justin and Still trying to explain those tariff increases
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 12:07 PM - 0 Comments
Back in February, Mike Duffy announced that, in order to turn the page, he would be repaying the housing allowance he had claimed as a senator.
Last night, CTV reported that there was some kind of deal between Mr. Duffy and Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff. This morning, CTV reports that Mr. Wright wrote a cheque for the $90,172 in question, apparently as a gift from Mr. Wright to Mr. Duffy. The Canadian Press reports that the Prime Minister was not aware of the gift.
Here is the official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Government believes that taxpayers should not be on the hook for improper expense claims made by Senators.
Mr. Duffy agreed to repay the expenses because it was the right thing to do. However, Mr. Duffy was unable to make a timely repayment.
Mr. Wright therefore wrote a cheque from his personal account for the full amount owing so that Mr. Duffy could repay the outstanding amount.
The independent external audit by Deloitte looking into Senate expenses was completed and the results tabled.
Mr. Duffy has reimbursed taxpayers for his impugned claims. Mr. Harb and Mr. Brazeau should pay taxpayers back immediately.
Update 1:35pm. The NDP wants an “independent investigation” into this entire matter and they allege “unethical behaviour” inside the Prime Minister’s Office, but it’s not yet entirely clear how the Conflict of Interest Act or the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code should be applied in a situation such as this. I’ve asked the Ethics Commissioner and the Senate Ethics Officer for comment.
Update 2:33pm. The ethics commissioner’s office corrects me: the Conflict of Interest Act doesn’t apply to Mike Duffy. As a Senator, he is covered by the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. Mr. Wright is covered, as a public office holder, by the Act, but there’s no indication that he received a gift here. Otherwise, I’m told “Commissioner Dawson is reviewing this matter in order to determine how the other provisions of the Act might apply, and is following up with Mr. Wright.”
Senator Duffy has not yet commented, but CTV’s Robert Fife’s has referred to “financial problems” and concerns that, because of health issues, Mr. Duffy’s wife might left with a debt to pay. The Canadian Press adds similar context.
A government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Wright and Duffy are friends and that Wright offered the money as a gift rather than a loan. Duffy had been experiencing financial difficulties, the source said.
Update 4:59pm. A statement from Senator David Tkachuk, chair of the Senate’s internal economy committee.
There have been inquiries in the press recently about untoward influence on the Senate Committee on Internal Economy’s conduct of its work involving Senator Mike Duffy’s living expense claims. The Steering Committee of Internal Economy referred Senator Duffy to independent auditors. This was supported by leadership on both sides, the point being that in the interest of propriety the issue should be dealt with at arm’s length. We on the committee conducted ourselves appropriately throughout this whole process. We made available to Deloitte all documents in the hands of our Finance Directorate pertaining to Senator Duffy’s expense claims for the entire period of the audit. We had no control – nor did we wish to have control – over what Deloitte would conclude.
The Star has reviewed some of the concerns raised about the Senate’s investigation.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reviews Senator Duffy’s role as a Conservative fundraiser.
Update 5:32pm. The Sun seems to have the only comment, such as it is, from Senator Duffy today.
The former television host wouldn’t comment Wednesday. “I can’t talk and I’m not talking,” he said when reached by phone.
Update 5:57pm. John Geddes considers Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy and the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. Here is what Section 17 of the Code states.
Prohibition: gifts and other benefits
17. (1) Neither a Senator, nor a family member, shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the Senator’s position.
(2) A Senator, and a family member, may, however, accept gifts or other benefits received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany the Senator’s position.
Statement: gift or other benefit
(3) If a gift or other benefit that is accepted under subsection (2) by a Senator or his or her family members exceeds $500 in value, or if the total value of all such gifts or benefits received from one source in a 12-month period exceeds $500, the Senator shall, within 30 days after the gift or benefit is received or after that total value is exceeded, as the case may be, file with the Senate Ethics Officer a statement disclosing the nature and value of the gifts or other benefits, their source and the circumstances under which they were given.
Update 6:20pm. Kady O’Malley offers her thoughts on Section 17 and whether Mr. Wright’s gift constitutes a violation of the Code.
Update 8:33pm. Global adds some context on the relationship between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy.
An official speaking on background said Wright and Duffy go back to the 1980s during the Brian Mulroney days.
The Globe notes that Mr. Wright worked in Mr. Mulroney’s PMO.
What this amounts to seems, to me, to depend on whether Mr. Wright’s cheque was inappropriate or merely odd. That’s at least the question I’m still trying to sort out.
Update 11:19pm. CTV has now posted the latest report from Robert Fife—click on the video—including Senator Duffy’s denial last night that Mr. Wright was involved and Conservative sources who say Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright were not close friends.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
Actually, Forum Research’s last poll in Labrador was fairly reflective of the final vote—and Conservatives could point to that as evidence of Mr. Trudeau driving voters away, but then the 20-point drop they claimed on Monday night becomes a nine-point drop (from 57% in early April to 48% on by-election night).
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
The RCMP is apparently reviewing the Senate’s expense troubles and former senator Lowell Murray says the word “crisis” is applicable here. Meanwhile, Postmedia reported yesterday that the Senate’s internal economy committee was seeking a legal opinion on the precise nature of the Constitution’s residency requirement for senators, but that the Senate was not likely to release that legal opinion publicly.
However, the Senate should soon interpret the residency requirement to settle questions that have swirled for months and longer about Duffy but fellow Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin.
Underlying that decision will be a legal opinion about the section of the Constitution dealing with senators’ qualifications. The Senate’s powerful internal economy committee has asked for the legal opinion, but it has not yet arrived at the committee’s table and it’s unlikely the conclusions will ever be made public.
This afternoon, I asked the office of Senator David Tkahuk, chair of the internal economy committee, why that legal opinion wouldn’t be released and have just now been told that the senator has no comment. But NDP MP Charlie Angus has written today to the Senate seeking a legal opinion that Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton apparently referenced and the legal opinion the internal economy has sought.
And now, Senator Patrick Brazeau’s office has released a statement that quibbles with the Senate’s findings against him.
On December 11, 2013, Senator Brazeau met with the sub-committee on Internal Economy to discuss issues pertaining to his primary residence. At that meeting, Senator Brazeau disclosed documentation and facts regarding that, in fact, Maniwaki, Quebec is his primary residence. As requested, Senator Brazeau provided his driver’s license, health card, income tax returns and voting information.
On February 26, 2013 Senator Brazeau met Deloitte auditors at which time additional information was requested. On February 28, 2013 the additional information was hand delivered to Deloitte. On April 15, 2013 Senator Brazeau once again met with the Deloitte auditors to answer any final questions they had.
On April 29, 2013 Senator Brazeau received a copy the draft report prepared by Deloitte. In that report, no conclusions were made regarding Senator Brazeau’s primary residence. Senator Brazeau was, nevertheless, deemed to have met all four primary residence “indicators.” Furthermore, the report states no false claims were made by Senator Brazeau.
Despite meeting Deloitte’s primary residence criteria and co-operating fully and completely, the Senate committee on Internal Economy tabled a report in the Senate Chamber on May 9, in which orders Senator Brazeau to repay the sum of $34,619 in living expenses and $144.97 in travel expenses.
It is unclear how the Committee could have come to this conclusion when there is no clear definition of what, for purposes of their own policy, constitutes a “primary residence.” Deloitte notes that the current Senate policy uses the following terms without any definitions – primary residence, secondary residence, NCR residence and provincial residence. The Deloitte report in no way finds anything untoward regarding the claims and documents filed by Senator Brazeau.
Additionally, Senator Brazeau has fulfilled his obligations in forwarding all relevant documentation requested by the Committee and auditors. It remains unclear if all other sitting Senators meet the primary residency indicators – which Senator Brazeau does — or if they were treated with the same scrutiny, rules, regulations and definitions.
As a result, Senator Brazeau will be seeking greater clarification and will explore all options to have this determination overturned by applying the current policies, rules and regulations pertaining to this matter including calling a public meeting of the Senate Committee on Internal Economy to explain their decision.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 10:51 AM - 0 Comments
John Ivison says Tony Clement was shocked to learn that the $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding couldn’t be tracked and Ivison suggests part of the solution is reforming the estimates process. The Hill Times considers the same possibility.
The thought that estimates reform might be linked to the missing $3.1 billion occurred to me when the Auditor General released his report, so I asked Scott Clark and Peter DeVries if there was such a link to be made. In response, they suggested there was not.
The information on what happened to the $3.1 billion will not be resolved by any of the proposed changes to the Estimates process. Since all monies must be approved by Treasury Board and then Parliament, the records are there as to what happened to the $3.1 billion. However, to find out would be very time consuming given the number of years under review. If it lapsed, the info should be there. If it was reprofiled, TB would have to approve it. If it was reallocated to other programs, TB would have to approve it.
After John’s column yesterday, I double-checked with Scott and Peter. Was moving to a program-based estimates system a solution to problems such as $3.1 billion?
Not necessarily. TBS and departments would still need to keep track of all of the transactions as to whether they lapsed, were reprofied or directed to another vote or program. Details on programs would require more info. There is no reason why the $3.1 b can’t be accounted for except for slopply paper work. The same could happen under a program system.
Whatever the applicability of estimates reform to the question of the $3.1 billion, the estimates process needs to be reform. And $70 million seems a relatively small price to pay to ensue Parliament can better scrutinize government spending. As no less than the Finance Minister was recently moved to declare, “Canadians are entitled to know what their government is up to.” And $70 million is considerably less than the Harper government has already spent on “economic action plan” ads.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:24 PM - 0 Comments
With 84 of 91 polls reporting, Liberal Yvonne Jones leads Peter Penashue 51.2% o 28.5%. Turnout is already at 53.5%, slightly above the 2011 election.
All things considered, the Liberals should have won here: a traditionally Liberal riding and a Conservative incumbent forced to resign amid election-spending unpleasantness. But the Liberals gain a new voice and the Conservatives suffer another bit of bad news. The real test for Justin Trudeau will come if, as expected, Denis Coderre resigns and a by-election in Bourassa is called. That would put in play a Montreal riding where the New Democrats finished a strong second in 2011.
Update 10:59pm. A statement from the Conservative party, celebrating a victory in Labrador.
As we know, majority governments do not usually win by-elections.
In fact, Liberals have won the riding of Labrador in every election in history except for two, so we are not surprised with these results.
What is surprising is the collapse of the Liberal support during this by-election. When this by-election was called the Liberals had a 43-point lead in the polls. Since electing Justin Trudeau as leader and having him personally campaign there, they have dropped 20 points in Labrador. That’s a significant drop in only a few weeks. Labradorians were able to see firsthand how Justin Trudeau is in over his head.
I’m not sure how the Conservatives can claim the Liberals dropped 20 points in the riding. The final count gives Yvonne Jones 48.2% of vote, which is about 15 points off what Abacus gave her a month ago.
In terms of actual votes, Mr. Penashue lost 334 votes between election day in 2011 and today, this despite Stephen Harper’s assessment that Mr. Penashue was “the best member of Parliament Labrador has ever had.” Yvonne Jones, conversely, received 1,637 more votes than Todd Russell did in 2011.
Total turnout increased by 1,315 votes.
One possible explanation for tonight’s vote: a decent number of Liberal voters who stayed home in 2011 came back to the party tonight.
Update 11:58pm. Of course, given their previous comments on this by-election, Stephen Harper and Pierre Poilievre will be terribly disappointed in the Conservative party’s response.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 2:28 PM - 0 Comments
Canada’s oil sands are already subject to provincial regulations that are driving investment in new environmental research and bringing emissions down through technological innovation. Alberta has regulations that require large oil sands operators to either reduce emissions or contribute money toward innovative research to improve the environmental performance of the industry.
Indeed, the Alberta government has a “Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund” that prices carbon emissions at $15 per tonne. And Peter Kent recently seemed to suggest that this wasn’t a completely terrible thing.
Amid reports that Alberta might be prepared to increase that price, Erica Alini explained the province’s system last month.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 12:14 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberal leader invites your questions.
Michael Ignatieff tried something like this in the fall of 2010—see here and here for examples. I don’t recall whether Mr. Ignatieff actively solicited questions as Mr. Trudeau is doing now, but (as Susan Delacourt notes as well), during its earliest days in the House, the Reform party had phone and fax lines through which constituents could submit questions that would be asked in the House (note the Speaker’s concern about that gambit).
During the last election, the Liberals promised that, if elected, they would create a “People’s Question Period,” during which the Prime Minister and various cabinet ministers would take questions from the public.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:52 AM - 0 Comments
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:29 AM - 0 Comments
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty arguing that Parliament needs a fully independent and better-funded parliamentary budget officer?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty saying that the government will spend the necessary funds to implement full estimates reform?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty expressing regret for the lack of disclosure that resulted in the government being found in contempt of Parliament two years ago?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty agreeing that government backbenchers need to be more independent so that they can properly hold the government to account?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty pledging that comprehensive access to information reform will be a priority over the next two years?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty explaining that the government will comply with the interim parliamentary budget officer’s request?
Nope. That’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty explaining why the Harper government spends money on ads like this.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 1:16 PM - 0 Comments
Doug Finley, the Conservative campaign manager and senator and husband of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, has passed away at the age of 66.
Here is the statement from Ms. Finley.
“Doug fought a hard and very public battle with cancer. His death is a loss to our family, our friends – and to the entire country. Although further details will soon be announced, I do ask that our family have some privacy as we prepare to formally bid farewell to a great man.”
And here is the statement from the Prime Minister.
“It was with great sadness that Laureen and I learned of the death of Senator Doug Finley. Our Government has lost a trusted adviser and strategist. Canada has lost a fine public servant. I have lost a dear and valued friend.
“Senator Finley came to Canada as an immigrant and in a long and remarkable career he helped build a better country. In the business world, he rose to prominence in several important enterprises, notably Rolls-Royce Canada. He also expressed the love he felt for his adopted country through his work in the democratic process. Here his skills, style and passion were legend.
“When he learned he had cancer, Senator Finley faced this vicious opponent like the fighter he was. He continued to participate in Senate debates almost to the end, and shared information about his diagnosis and treatment with the public.
“A great Canadian has been taken from us, before his time. Laureen and I join with so many men and women from across the political spectrum, in extending our condolences to Doug’s wife Diane, his daughter Siobhan, and all their family. You are in our thoughts and prayers.”
John Geddes spoke with Mr. Finley in February 2011 about the Conservative party’s hopes for a majority. Laura Stone spoke with Mr. Finley last November about politics and death. Kady O’Malley notes that he gave his last speech in the Senate on Wednesday.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 4:22 PM - 0 Comments
On Wednesday, Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott was the only Conservative MP to support NDP MP Libby Davies’ bill to implement a sodium reduction strategy. Mr. Vellacott even sent out a news release to advise that he was the “sole Conservative MP to vote across party lines” on the bill.
Ms. Davies’ bill set to implement the recommendations of the expert panel that Tony Clement convened in 2007, but that Leona Aglukkaq declined to pursue in 2010. The panel was subsequently disbanded and the Harper government later declined to partner with the provinces on a reduction strategy.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 3:28 PM - 0 Comments
Postmedia reports “more than 10,000.” The Globe says the RCMP said it was between 10,000 and 12,000. The Catholic Register says Mark Warawa said that organizers said it was more than 20,000. Lifesite says organizers said it was likely near 25,000 because last year’s count was 19,500 and this year’s crowd was bigger. But, according to the Toronto Sun’s report at the time, the RCMP pegged the 2012 crowd at 10,000.
Crowd estimates—especially when there aren’t at least some chairs to count—are dicey and this can all get a bit silly, but it’s still possible, using the lower estimate of the RCMP, that there were more people on the Hill this year than in recent years.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
The prepared text of the NDP leader’s speech to the Economic Club of Canada comes in at 3,397 words. Nineteen of those words are “together.” Here are all of the sentences containing the word.
And thank you to the Economic Club of Canada for this opportunity to talk about how, together, we can build a brighter future for this city and for of all our cities…
Then all of us, business and labour, local, provincial and federal governments, Torontonians from Scarborough to Etobicoke, will have to work together. Because when we work together, when we dream together and when we act together, there’s no stopping this city…
We’ll have to work hard and we’ll have to work together. But together, we can build a future for Toronto, a future for all Canadian cities that will create opportunity and prosperity not just for a few of us but for each and every one of us. A city as great and as complex as Toronto only works when it all works together. That means business, labour and government working together. It means every level of government working together…
The NDP will take action on day one, and together, we will get the job done…
And another area where it is key for all levels of government to work together—especially through the CMHC…
By working together, this extraordinary city can continue to thrive … Together, we can take this city to new heights. Together, we can build a brighter, greener future. And, together, we can put cities and communities like Toronto back at the heart of our national agenda. There’s no clearer case of either the necessity or the opportunity for us to work together than the Toronto Portlands.
To work together and build together.
There were seven uses of “together” in Mr. Mulcair’s speech to the NDP convention last month. Make of this what you will.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 12:43 PM - 0 Comments
The last three weeks for the Natural Resources Minister have been fun.
Vs. James Hansen, April 24.
A leading climate change activist and former NASA scientist is “crying wolf” with his “exaggerated” comments about the effects of oilsands development on the environment, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver charged Wednesday … ”It does not advance the debate when people make exaggerated comments that are not rooted in the facts. And he should know that,” Oliver said to reporters, following a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Vs. James Hansen, April 24.
I couldn’t help myself: I asked Oliver what he thought of Hansen’s willingness to chain himself to the White House fence to protest the pipeline. He couldn’t help himself either. Given the dirty oil in California, he replied, “he should be chaining himself to a mannequin in Rodeo Drive.”
Vs. Al Gore, May 6.
Oliver told CTV’s Power Play Monday that Gore’s remarks were “over the top,” but he doesn’t think the prominent Democrat’s criticism will have an impact on Keystone’s approval in the U.S … “I think that what is happening here is that, as the decision approaches, some of the more strident voices in opposition to the development of hydrocarbons are out there with their exaggerated, over the top comments,” Oliver said in a phone interview from Europe, where he’s lobbying against proposed legislation that would require a reduction in the greenhouse gas intensity of vehicle fuels.
Vs. the European Union, May 9.
Canada’s Natural Resources Minister is raising the prospect of a trade fight with the European Union over its proposal to label oil-sands crude as dirty even as both sides try to seal a major deal to liberalize two-way … “This fuel-quality directive is discriminatory towards Canadian oil and not supported by scientific facts,” Mr. Oliver said.
Vs. some concerned scientists, May 9.
He also took a swipe at a group of scientists who have sent him an open letter raising concerns about the environmental impact of pushing ahead with pipelines and other oil projects. Mr. Oliver said every major resource project has been opposed by some groups. “The position of these scientists is unfortunately unrealistic in the real world because what they want to do is to see a diminution of the use of hydrocarbons and they look upon the oil sands as a symbol, as an example of that,” he said adding that the global demand for energy will increase by 33 per cent over the next 25 years. “Even under the most optimistic scenarios for renewables, hydrocarbons, fossil fuels, will represent at least 63 per cent of the source of energy by the year 2035. So we have to be realistic. The world needs energy.”
Vs. Marc Jaccard, May 10.
“I wouldn’t characterize it as desperate,” Oliver said of the recent barrage of federal emissaries travelling the globe to talk up Canada’s oilsands in the face of projects like the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Rather, he said, it’s oilsands opponents who are starting to sound panicky. “It’s pretty clear that opponents are getting desperate, hence the shrillness of their arguments, the hyperbole and the exaggeration that we’re hearing from some sources.” …
At the same time, Mark Jaccard, one of Canada’s leading energy economists, is about to take a European tour of his own — to denounce the federal government’s penchant for pipelines at a time when they have no solid plan to reduce emissions from the oilsands. Jaccard’s arguments only serve to undermine Canadian and global prosperity, Oliver said, because they would result in a shortage of affordable energy. “I think there are some people who really have a vision of the world which isn’t realistic,” he said. “They would like to see the world powered by alternative energy. I think that would be great if it could be achieved, but it can’t be entirely, or even to a majority extent.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 6:41 PM - 0 Comments
And so we return to the existential question of Mike Duffy’s place in this world.
“Even the bogus investigation by his hand-picked cronies in the Senate,” Thomas Mulcair charged, rather audaciously and perhaps imprudently, in the Prime Minister’s direction this afternoon, “found that Mike Duffy does not maintain a primary residence on Prince Edward Island. The Constitution requires that a senator ‘be a resident of the province for which he is appointed.’ The Conservatives now admit, through their own bogus investigation, that Mr. Duffy is not a resident of PEI, yet still say that he is qualified to be a senator from PEI. Why is the Prime Minister allowing this continuous fraud by the Conservatives in the Senate?”
The Prime Minister’s interpretation of the day’s news differed somewhat.
“Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, an independent external auditor was brought in to examine all of these expenses,” Mr. Harper explained. “He looked obviously at the expenses of three particular senators who have had some difficulty.”
Let us from this day forward remember this moment in Senate history as the Great Difficulty. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 4:24 PM - 0 Comments
As promised, the Conservative MP stood before Question Period and delivered a statement about female gendercide.
Mr. Speaker, twenty thousand Canadians from all walks of life gathered here today in front of the Parliament Buildings. They are asking Canadian leaders to end discrimination against women and girls occurring through global gendercide. Female gendercide is the systematic killing of women and girls just because they are girls.
The UN says that over 200 million girls are missing in the world right now because of female gendercide. The Canadian Medical Association revealed that this barbaric form of discrimination is occurring in Canada. The statement “It’s a girl” should not be a death sentence. Gendercide is the ultimate form of discrimination against women and girls. A huge thanks goes to the thousands across Canada standing up against all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. I also want to thank Lucky Gill with Global Girl Power.
It’s not clear whether Mr. Warawa was on the government whip’s list of those scheduled to make a statement. I didn’t see any other Conservative MP stand on the right side of the House, but conceivably one of the Conservatives seated to the immediate left of the Speaker could have been standing.
Update 10:09pm. A tweet from Mr. Warawa suggests he wasn’t on the whip’s list.