By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 0 Comments
The Conservative backbencher seems interested in empowering MPs for the purposes of properly scrutinizing how the government spends money.
Mr. Wallace, the Conservative MP who is also vice-chair of the Commons Committee on Government Operations, said he’s personally interested in updating the rules to give MPs a bigger role. As it stands now, he said, the stakes are too high for committees that vote to alter a department’s estimates – or spending – plans.
“A change in an estimate could force an election, so it’s not be taken lightly,” he said. “If you’re going to give us the right to do it, we should have the responsibility to do it – within reason. It just doesn’t exist right now… I think our government, based on my discussions with my colleagues, is open to a discussion on what we can do to improve the system to make Members of Parliament more engaged in the financial operation of government.”
This is not the first time Mr. Wallace has made noises in this regard.
The general failure of Parliament to properly hold the government to account on spending has been well-noted in recent years (see here, here or here). It was, for that matter, a dispute over the government’s willingness to be accountable—in the form of providing information to the House about the costs of legislation—that led to last year’s finding of contempt and vote on non-confidence (see here, here and here).
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 10:44 AM - 2 Comments
When questions were raised this summer about potential legal ramifications to the handling of the G8 Legacy Fund, I emailed Lorne Sossin (a friend of the show) to get his thoughts. After the interim auditor general again mused of the “interesting debate” that could be had, I checked in with Dean Sossin again to see if he had anything more to add.
His responses to both my queries below. Continue…
By Andrew Coyne - Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 1:11 AM - 248 Comments
Day three after the Ruling that Saved Our System of Government, and the Tories have achieved their initial objective: total strategic confusion. Is Stephen Harper now prepared to accept opposition demands that a parliamentary committee be given access to the documents in the Afghan detainees affair? Or is he digging in his heels, as unwilling to compromise as ever?
I don’t know. But a clue to the Prime Minister’s state of mind can be found in his repeated invocation of the government’s “legal obligations.” Responding to questions in the House Wednesday, Harper said, variously:
Mr. Speaker, as I have said, we look forward to both complying with your ruling and with the legal obligations that have been established by statutes passed by this Parliament.
The government has certain obligations that are established under statutes passed by this Parliament. We obviously want to proceed in a way that will respect both of those things, and of course we will be open to any reasonable suggestions to achieve those two objectives.
You have delivered a decision. Obviously, the government seeks to respect that decision. At the same time, it seeks to respect its obligations established by statute and passed by this Parliament.
The government seeks at all times to respect all of its obligations. To the extent that some of those obligations may be in conflict, there are reasonable ways to accommodate that and we are open to reasonable suggestions in that regard.
The government cannot break the law, it cannot order public servants to break the law, nor can it do anything that would unnecessarily jeopardize the safety of Canadian troops.
You can appreciate the Prime Minister’s dilemma. He is obliged to balance two competing claims: on the one hand, to comply with the Speaker’s ruling enjoining him to respect the House’s demand that he produce the documents; and on the other, to comply with his “legal obligations” not to produce them. Don’t you see? The Speaker is asking him to break the law.
What’s a Prime Minister to do? Parliament has passed legislation, notably the Canada Evidence Act, forbidding the government or its employees from disclosing certain documents. And yet here is one of the Houses of that same Parliament, the Commons, backed by its Speaker, demanding that he should disclose those same documents. What could be more reasonable than to seek some way to balance those competing demands?
Except the whole argument’s bogus. No one is asking the Prime Minister to break the law. The conflict of which he complains exists only in his head. This was a key point in the Speaker’s ruling: a law may impose a general prohibition on the release of certain documents, but unless it expressly states that the ban applies to Parliament, it doesn’t. The presumption, that is, is in favour of parliamentary privilege.
I quote from page 20 of the Speaker’s ruling, where he cites House of Commons Procedure and Practice, pp. 978-9:
No statute or practice diminishes the fullness of the power rooted in the House privileges unless there is an explicit legal provision to that effect, or unless the House adopts a specific resolution limiting the power. The House has never set a limit on its power to order the production of papers and records. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 29, 2010 at 5:54 PM - 16 Comments
Asked about the matter in Question Period this afternoon, Diane Finley explains her office’s commitment to transparency and clarity in all things.
Mr. Speaker, the reporter was provided with the information that he requested once the campaign was complete and all the costs were in and accurate. We do strive always to be open and transparent, and we certainly are doing our processes to ensure that Canadians do receive the information they ask for in a timely way and that that information is both accurate and complete. We will be taking a look at this example and taking it into consideration to see how we can improve our processes in the future.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 29, 2010 at 1:37 PM - 7 Comments
Ministerial aide Ryan Sparrow helpfully suggests a new slogan for the next Conservative re-election campaign.
Bureaucrats calculated the value of the advertising campaign and prepared an answer the same day. Before making it public, however, they consulted Mr. Sparrow and other political officials on the proposed response. “The ad appeared on national networks, aboriginal and ethnic networks. The total TV media buy was approx $4,536,000. The Olympics package had a net cost of $1,849,829.00,” the chief of media relations, Patricia Valladao, said in an e-mail to Mr. Sparrow and two other ministerial aides, Michelle Bakos and Ana Curic.
Mr. Sparrow answered by telling the bureaucrats to “amend the response,” to simply say: “One 30-second TV ad was created in support of Canada’s Economic Action Plan. The ad started running the week of January 18th and will end with the Olympics. The ad highlights key government programs available to Canadians who have been affected by the economic downturn: extended EI benefits, retraining opportunities, apprenticeship grants and self employed EI benefits.”
By John Geddes - Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 4:38 PM - 29 Comments
“We’re going to put an end to the culture of entitlement, and replace it with a culture centered on accountability,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper, April 20, 2006.
But who is accountable for what a member of Parliament says in the House of Commons?
UPDATED: This Month in Now Mandatorily Disclosed Lobbying – Who says Stephen Harper isn't approachable?
By kadyomalley - Friday, August 15, 2008 at 4:42 PM - 0 Comments
Not Jayson Myers of the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada, that’s for sure. Why, just last month, he was able to set up a meeting with the Prime Minister himself, along with the then freshly shuffled ministers of International Trade and Public Works to discuss business opportunities with – France? really? – as well as manufacturing competitiveness, industrial benefits in federal procurement and support for Canadian exporters.
By Chris Selley - Monday, May 5, 2008 at 1:16 PM - 1 Comment
Must-reads: Scott Taylor on Andrew Leslie; …Doug Saunders on Afghan corruption; Greg
This is why we can’t have nice debates
The following topics are too contentious for federal politicians to risk talking about, pundits allege: free speech, immigration and productivity. And in the case of the Tories, pretty much everything else too.
Rex Murphy, writing in The Globe and Mail, is amazed that the Tories would be willing to “to declare Bill C-10, dealing with tax-credits that support the making of Canadian films, a matter of confidence,” but not even utter a peep about the “noxious blot on the central dynamic” of Canadian democracy that our various human rights commissions have become. But C-10 is about all sorts of other things too, of course—many of them, we suspect the government would argue, far more important than whether David Cronenberg’s Crash would have received funding under the new regulations. (We suspect a crushing majority of Canadians would agree it shouldn’t have, incidentally, but never mind the rubes.) The Harperites aren’t touching the human rights commissions, we suspect, because talking about them makes Canadians go crazy.
We can’t have a debate about the declining fortunes of immigrants to Canada “because political actors are afraid of alienating ethnic groups,” Jeffrey Simpson writes in the Globe. (We’d suggest it’s more basic: talking about immigration makes Canadians go crazy.) Continue…