By Paul Wells - Monday, May 13, 2013 - 0 Comments
Congratulations, National Research Council: Just about the only international coverage for your recent change in approach is this article in Slate tearing you a new one.
“…I was thinking that no one could possibly utter such colossally ignorant statements. But no, I was reading it correctly. These two men—leaders in the Canadian scientific research community—were saying, out loud and clearly, that the only science worth doing is what lines the pocket of business.
This is monumentally backwards thinking….”
I’ve been in Ottawa so long I’m well trained: My first instinct was to check whether the article’s author is a Canadian with a long history of donations to the Liberal party. But no: Phil Plait is one of the more prominent science bloggers in the U.S. He didn’t write this because he’s a Canadian looking for bigger bang outside our borders. He wrote it because he believed it. Continue…
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 Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:05 AM - 0 Comments
Chris Hadfield blasted off into space on Dec. 19. When he was settling into his new digs on the International Space Station, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence was a little over a week into her protest on Victoria Island, and the Idle No More movement that loudly demanded respect for aboriginal rights was in its mainstream infancy. At the time, I wrote that Hadfield and Spence, united by their respective citizenship and maybe not much else, “represent the breadth of the Canadian experience.”
Six months later, Hadfield boasts 800,000 followers on Twitter, a medium he transformed into a photo album from on high, a window into his space-borne laboratory, and a way for the masses to chat with an astronaut. To call him a boon for the Canadian Space Agency, which could use a good-news story as it faces an uncertain future, would be understating the situation somewhat. Hadfield took his country’s space program on his shoulders, made space cool, and returns a bona fide hero. In other words, he nailed it.
Meanwhile, Spence’s community faces evacuation. Attawapiskat is among 10 northern Ontario communities that are in the midst of seasonal flooding, a not unfamiliar fate that sees hundreds of residents moved to places like Thunder Bay, Fort Frances and Cornwall. Spence has faded from the public eye, for better or worse, and her people are back in the news not for their activism—but for the same misery they seem to face, year after year, just for living where they live.
Once again, the breadth of the Canadian experience.
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 macleans.ca - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 5:13 AM - 0 Comments
- What’s happening with the Backbench Spring?
- Why is the opposition looking so upbeat these days?
- Is Canada cracking down on international tax cheats?
John Geddes, Nick Taylor-Vaisey and Aaron Wherry take on the issues of the day. Hear them out, then have your say in the comments below.
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 John Geddes - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 3:20 PM - 0 Comments
Among the many fine things about a classic summer family road trip is the way history often becomes part of the holiday. Pull the car over at that historic plaque. Drag the kids through another museum. Then, ice cream—perfect balance achieved.
So I look forward to tourist season on Parliament Hill. For those of us who work here year-round, it’s good to be reminded every spring by all those happy visitors of the history represented by the old neo-gothic buildings, which never disappoint.
This is the sort of popular connection with Canada’s past that the Conservative government seems eager to foster. There’s much to be said for framing our history in the way Heritage Minister James Moore proposed last year, when he announced that the Canadian Museum of Civilization will be rebranded the Canadian Museum of History, with a revised mandate to “highlight the national achievements and accomplishments that have shaped our country.”
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 Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 11:06 AM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when opposition and government MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. Today, QP runs from 11:15 p.m. until just past 12 p.m. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. Once a week, we’ll feature a guest blogger to sort through the madness. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Read our morning tease to catch up on the issues of the day, and then chime in on Twitter with #QP.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 8:42 AM - 0 Comments
Mark Warawa did rise in the House of Commons yesterday, and he did talk about sex-selective abortion and, just as Aaron Wherry predicted, he did win his simmering showdown with his party whip. In doing so, he took the hard road to succeeding as a backbencher; indeed, the easier route would involve introducing, say, a private member’s bill to strengthen the criminal code that earns the support of the government. The National Post‘s John Ivison called Warawa’s stand a “giant leap for backbench democracy.”
But what happens next? Warawa has now spoken against sex-selective abortion, and Hansard has recorded his remarks for posterity. The spring season seems to have come and gone, as Ottawa’s winter transformed neatly into summer without much in between. What of the Wherry-coined Spring that caught the House’s attention? What do its practitioners do for an encore?
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.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 4:16 PM - 0 Comments
After all the attention NDP Leader Tom Mulcair received during yesterday’s Question Period when he referenced the cult hit Arrested Development, the Liberals must have felt left out. Today, MP Joyce Murray claimed the gimmicky question of the day.
Murray asked Human Resources Minister Diane Finley why the government’s happy to spend millions of dollars on media monitoring of its own MPs when it could, she thinks, better spend the money on student summer jobs.
Catch the gimmicky part towards the end of the question.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:14 PM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when opposition and government MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3 p.m. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. Once a week, we’ll feature a guest blogger to sort through the madness. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Read our morning tease to catch up on the issues of the day, and then chime in on Twitter with #QP.
Thousands of people have gathered on Parliament Hill to protest abortion as part of the annual National March for Life, but don’t expect that to occupy one second of parliamentarians’ time in the House of Commons. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, fresh off the best pop culture reference of his political career, will again go after the government’s unaccounting for $3.1 billion in anti-terror funding.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:05 PM - 0 Comments
The Auditor General appeared at the Public Accounts committee last week to testify about his latest report. Conservative MP Andrew Saxton asked him directly about the $3.1 billion.
Andrew Saxton: Some people have been claiming that the government lost $3 billion. Is this an accurate portrayal of your report?
Michael Ferguson: What we reported in the chapter on spending on public security and anti-terrorism initiative was that there was $12.9-billion worth of budget allocations to some 35 departments and agencies. When we looked at the reports that agencies made to Treasury Board Secretariat about their spending under these initiatives, it totalled $9.8 billion, so a difference of roughly $3 billion that we tried to get an explanation for why there’s that difference between the budget and the actual, and we were not able to get that explanation. So what we were trying to do was understand what that difference was and where it came from. That’s how I would characterize what that report included.
Andrew Saxton: Thank you. Now, can you please tell me if the reports that were done by the public security and anti-terrorism initiative, or more commonly known as PSAT, if the PSAT reports were for internal government use or for external use?
Michael Ferguson: My understanding is that the reports were given to Treasury Board Secretariat as part of Treasury Board Secretariat’s role in monitoring these initiatives, and we expected that they would then be used as a summary reporting tool to Treasury Board itself. So all of that is internal reporting. There was never a summary report prepared for Treasury Board, however.
Andrew Saxton: During this period of time, did individual departments report their normal planned spending and actual spending to Parliament?
Michael Ferguson: Certainly there’s the normal process whereby departments report their budgets and actuals across all of their activities, and that goes on every year.
Later, Liberal MP Gerry Byrne asked for clarification.
Gerry Byrne: I have a quick question on chapter 8. Could you help clear up some confusion that I think exists in many people’s minds? If the government can’t readily identify specifics of what $3.1 billion was spent on, how can Parliament be confident it was spent properly and within statutory and policy guidelines?
Michael Ferguson: What we were looking for—Again, this was a very large initiative. This was a horizontal initiative. It included a lot of departments. It had specific identified objectives, things that were trying to be achieved. Also there was this mechanism put in place for Treasury Board Secretariat to collect information that could be used for monitoring purposes. We felt that would have been the important information to produce summary level data about what was spent, what was it spent on, and what was achieved. That wasn’t done so there’s no overall summary picture that can go forward to anybody. Now in general, of course, any dollar that goes out of the federal government’s bank account is subject to all of the controls in place in those departments. But that doesn’t mean that it’s captured in a way that it can reported against this type of initiative.
Gerry Byrne: Understood. Thanks. In this context, we had a situation not long ago where there was abuse of parliamentary authority. Parliament had voted and authorized certain expenditures for the Canada Border Infrastructure Fund . We later found out that it was spent on gazeboes, 200 kilometres away from the border. Is there a risk that some of the $3.1 billion may not have necessarily been spent on what Parliament had approved it for?
Michael Ferguson: Certainly the first part of trying to answer that question is to look at what the budget appropriation was, what was spent, and then trying to analyze that difference. The one thing that was occurring in this case was that there was this process for reallocation, and they were tracking when RIA allocations happened. There’s just nothing captured in terms of the total amount of the reallocations. What’s hard to say is how much of that difference was things that we just now spent, how much of it were things that were reallocated and went through the proper process to be reallocated. It’s not possible based on the information we have to answer the question of whether anything was spent on things outside of these initiatives.
Gerry Byrne: Mr. Auditor General, you would suggest to the committee that there is a risk, then?
Michael Ferguson: I guess I would have to say that there would be a risk because there is not enough information to answer the question completely.
For further information there is what Scott Clark and Peter DeVries, two former finance officials, wrote about the Auditor General’s report.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 12:28 PM - 0 Comments
The House is currently debating the NDP’s motion on the $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding. Earl Dreeshen, the first Conservative to speak to the motion, objected on the grounds that the premise of the motion is wrong—that the money is not, as the NDP motion puts it, “missing.”
The Liberals are proposing an amendment that calls for wider reform to the estimates process.
“; and that in order to avoid losing funds in the future, the House request that the government take all actions necessary to transition to Program based appropriations according to the timeline provided to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.”
Liberal MP John McCallum explains.
“The Liberal Party agrees that it is essential for Parliament to track down the $3.1 billion lost by this Conservative government, but equally, we must fix the way Ottawa spends money to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. That is why we are proposing to amend today’s NDP motion so that it not only provides a chance to look backwards, but also a solution going forward.
Currently when Parliamentarians vote on appropriations they are forced to approve huge blocks of money, allowing the funds to be shuffled around behind closed doors. Unfortunately this system can result in funds going missing. If instead we voted to approve funding directly by program, money would be tied to those programs and thus be nearly impossible to lose track of.
Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page called for this system because it puts spending decisions back in the hands of Parliament; and in fact, Minister Clement has already examined this proposal in response to a recommendation by the House of Commons Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. It is now simply a matter of having the will to implement it.
Canadians elected us to be effective managers of the public purse. We hope that all MPs will agree and support our amendment and the entire motion.”
Tony Clement is apparently reluctant to commit to that can kind of accounting, on account of the cost—$70 million—to transition to such a system.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 11:57 AM - 0 Comments
Munir Sheikh, the former chief statistician, explains the mess that is the National Household Survey.
The more important issue of replacing the census with the NHS is the potential for producing a downward spiral in the quality of social and household data over time … Statistics Canada collects a considerable amount of social and economic data using a range of surveys. These raw data are affected by response biases. Statistics Canada used to “adjust” these raw survey data by using the long-form census as an anchor. For example, if a population group’s survey response rate is low, Statistics Canada would use the group’s census weight to generate aggregate wage information.
A census used to be done every five years to ensure that the anchor provided appropriate, up-to-date information in order to adjust data from other surveys. We are now in a funny upside-down world: We’re using the old census data to fix the survey results when the objective was to find a new anchor to fix survey results because the old anchor was out of date.
I asked Statistics Canada for an accounting of the cost of the 2011 short-form census and NHS as compared to the short-form census and long-form census in 2006. Here is the explanation that was provided.
The total budget for 2006 Census was $567M and for the 2011 Census and NHS, it was $660M which included supplementary funding of $30M. Supplementary funding of $30 million was allocated to cover the costs associated with increased questionnaire production and mail-out for both the Census and the National Household Survey and increased field follow-up. $22 million of the supplementary funding was spent. Statistics Canada returned $8 million to Treasury Board, so $652 million was spent.
If you adjust for inflation, the amount spent in 2006 is equal to about $623 million in 2011. By that measure, the 2011 census and NHS cost $29 million more. If you’d rather use the acknowledged supplementary funding, the 2011 census and NHS cost $22 million more.
Either way, it would seem to have cost more money to produce less reliable data.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 10:46 AM - 0 Comments
Conservative backbenchers might wonder why their names are included in the government’s media monitoring—the Privy Council Office says it’s merely about searching widely—but they could also ask whether $23 million over two years to monitor public media reports is a reasonable and defensible use of public funds.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 9:12 AM - 0 Comments
The Backbench Spring, as Aaron Wherry coined it, continues. Mark Warawa, the Conservative MP who occasionally carries the banner for caucus colleagues who hope to exercise more independence in the House of Commons, hopes to rise today to speak about sex-selective abortion. Wherry suggests Langley, B.C.’s man in Parliament cannot lose, and so the Spring continues.
But there’s more to this energy in the backbenches than any ongoing opposition to the crack of the party’s whip. At the same time as some Conservatives are standing up for themselves, a select few of their caucus mates are making headlines with their very own legislation. Week after week, the government proclaims its support for various Conservative private member’s bills intended to strengthen the criminal code. Most recently, David Sweet’s Bill C-479—which would give victims greater access to parole hearings—has earned the government’s support. Last month, Manitoba MP James Bezan introduced Bill C-478, legislation that would make parole eligibility much more difficult for some violent offenders—and the government supports that, too.
(The opposition has all kids of problems with this approach: namely, that private member’s legislation undergoes a much less thorough review, and arguably is more susceptible to court challenges down the road.)
None of this is being done in secret. In fact, the government is showing off its support for the backbench’s law-and-order agenda. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters all about the government’s empowerment of its caucus. “We’re giving our upper benchers, our backbenchers a real say in parliament,” he said. “They’re accomplishing what their constituents have sent them here to do.”
So the government’s all about empowering the backbenches, except when it’s not about empowering the backbenches. Protip to Conservative MPs who want to stand up for your constituents: find a way to amend the criminal code.