By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 0 Comments
MPs and Senators celebrated Chinese New Year at the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa….
MPs and Senators celebrated Chinese New Year at the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa. The event was put on by the Chinese New Year Celebration Committee. The Year of the Snake celebration saw Liberal Sen. Mac Harb was dressed as the God of Fortune.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:52 PM - 0 Comments
Monday night’s debate on Mali in the House of Commons began with Bob Dechert, the Conservative parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, describing the proceedings as evidence the government wants to engage Parliament regarding Canada’s response to the ongoing conflict in that country.
There is a tradition of Parliament debating when this country goes to war. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King famously delayed Canada’s entrance into the Second World War until Parliament could decide. The stakes were smaller this time. Canada’s military contribution to the Mali war is limited to the loan of one transport plane to France, and that decision was made by the Prime Minister, without debate in the House.
Nevertheless, here was a chance for Parliament to discuss Canada’s role in a matter Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has called part of “the great struggle of our generation.” You might think, given that description, that Baird would have shown up. He didn’t. Neither did most MPs. Of party leaders, only outgoing Liberal chief Bob Rae and Elizabeth May of the Greens took part. Attendance peaked at fewer than 40 members, and dropped off as the evening wore on.
For much of the night, it was hard to blame those who stayed away. The discussion was hardly inspiring to watch. There were scripted remarks delivered woodenly from sheets of paper. Bob Dechert appeared to be reading talking points from his smart phone. Little substantial discussion took place about the actual war and what Canada’s involvement in it should or should not be.
Opposition parties spent an awful lot of time arguing that Canada has recklessly cut back aid to, and its diplomatic presence in, Africa. This might be worth further discussion, but meanwhile there’s a war on. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says French soldiers have killed “hundreds” of Islamists over the past month. Frozen CIDA funding isn’t the biggest problem Mali has right now. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 10:16 PM - 0 Comments
Mitchel Raphael takes in the Speaker’s second annual celebration of the Scottish bard
Speaker Andrew Scheer hosted his second a Robbie Burns dinner on Wednesday evening on Parliament Hill.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:43 PM - 0 Comments
A tribute dinner was held to honour Conservative Senator Doug Finley at the War…
A tribute dinner was held to honour Conservative Senator Doug Finley at the War Museum. Proceeds went to the Scottish Society of Ottawa.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has dispatched Bob Dechert to deal with Windsor’s hum.
“The Windsor Hum is having a negative effect on the day-to-day lives of Windsor residents,” said Baird. “We are prepared to collaborate with stakeholders and other levels of government to identify the source of the problem so that potential mitigation measures can be designed and implemented.”
The hum mystery is months old. A telephone town hall meeting about the problem in March drew 22,000 participants. The sound has been traced to Zug Island, but the Michigan town that includes Zug Island says it doesn’t have enough money to investigate. NDP MP Brian Masse took the issue to Washington last month.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 6:39 PM - 11 Comments
Unlike most of his recent predecessors, Mr. Harper has never seen fit to name a deputy. He stands alone. And so when he cannot stand or when he chooses not to (at some point he stopped showing up on Mondays), it had typically been the duty of John Baird or Peter Van Loan to stand and mouth the official bromides. Of late though Mr. Harper has chosen to disperse the burden of parliamentary accountability upon no less than five pairs of shoulders: Messrs Baird and Van Loan, Peter MacKay, Jason Kenney and James Moore. Each day the Prime Minister is away, no matter what has been asked or what actually relevant minister might be around to handle the question, it is one of these sturdy men who rises to handle the first questions of the NDP and Liberals.
So today, for instance, it was Mr. Moore’s job to stand and explain the government’s policy on the treatment of water sewage. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 11:32 PM - 3 Comments
Reception at the Fairmont Château Laurier for Taiwan’s 100th National Day: Double Ten Day…
Reception at the Fairmont Château Laurier for Taiwan’s 100th National Day: Double Ten Day – put on by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Ottawa.Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:05 AM - 4 Comments
Harper’s final chapter
For several years Stephen Harper… has been working on a book
Harper’s final chapter
For several years Stephen Harper has been working on a book about hockey. The PM can finally use one of the Conservatives’ favourite catchphrases: “Getting the job done.” Word is the book is written. A publication date has yet to be announced.
A cake for Clement
During question period, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus has been counting the days that Treasury Board President Tony Clement has refused to answer questions about what Angus calls the G8 “slush fund.” The MP says that on the 150th day, in the first week of November, he will present the cabinet minister with a cake and, he jokes, “maybe it will have a file in it.” Senior Tory cabinet ministers have expressed embarrassment to Capital Diary that Clement has not risen to explain himself (or apologize, if necessary). Foreign Minister John Baird gets up to answer questions on his behalf, although Clement is sitting right next to him. Perhaps there’s a double standard regarding which ministers can answer questions in the House: Defence Minister Peter MacKay recently rose to answer queries about his use of aircrafts. Liberal MP Judy Sgro says that under Jean Chrétien, ministers had to answer their own questions. There was only one exception: if the opposition called for a minister to resign, Chrétien took the question.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, September 26, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 11 Comments
No mere backbencher, the Tory elder played a key role in returning the party to power
Firing him would have been easy. Few people outside of Mississauga, Ont., had heard of Bob Dechert before he rolled the dice on his career by trading amorous emails with a correspondent with the Xinhua news agency, Communist China’s official mouthpiece. Thanks in no small part to the 53-year-old MP’s own giddy prose—“I really like the picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed” fits nicely into a single tweet—the story quickly found legs: by the middle of last week, the reporter, Shi Rong, was on front pages across the country.
Dechert downplayed the exchanges as “flirtatious.” “The friendship remained innocent and simply that—a friendship,” he said on his personal website, which also features a picture of him with his long-time wife, Ruth Clark. But the image of a middle-aged man in the throes of a grade-school crush has stuck, overshadowing Dechert’s little-known status as a party fixer that insiders believe may have spared him relegation to the backbenches. Messages sent from Shi’s inbox—apparently by her angry husband—revealed not only that the married MP had professed his love for the journalist, but that Shi had sought a divorce to pursue her new relationship. “To continue her love affair with this member of Parliament,” the jilted man typed in a message sent to all 240 of his wife’s contacts, “Shi Rong pitilessly asked to end her marriage while stationed overseas.”
For a Conservative government that once talked tough about Beijing’s espionage program, it was more than a bit of domestic unpleasantness. Xinhua is a state-owned news agency whose foreign bureaus have in the past served as less-than-convincing cover for Chinese spies. “It’s an open secret that many of the Chinese reporters stationed overseas actually work for Beijing’s Ministry of State Security,” says Li Ding, deputy editor-in-chief at Chinascope, a Washington-based agency that monitors and analyzes Chinese media. “Westerners think of Xinhua as a news service. In fact, it is a government agency.”
By macleans.ca - Monday, September 19, 2011 at 11:21 AM - 0 Comments
Government investigation concludes security not compromised by amorous emails
An internal government investigation into the Bob Dechert affair has concluded that the Conservative MP did not breach national security when exchanging amorous emails with a correspondent for the Xinhua news agency, which reports directly to the Chinese government. CTV News reported Monday that the RCMP and the CSIS have found no evidence suggesting Dechert’s behaviour has compromised national security. Still, one security official told the broadcaster that Dechert displayed a “colossal lack of judgment,” and that he was “incredibly stupid,” for getting involved with Xinhua reporter Shi Rong. Dechert, MP for Mississuaga-Erindale, is parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. Earlier this month, several emails he sent to Shi were made public. In them, the MP describes Shi as “cute” and expresses his love for her. Dechert later apologized for the “flirtatious” messages, saying his relationship with Shi was nothing more than an “innocent friendship.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 19, 2011 at 8:45 AM - 13 Comments
CSIS officials both exonerate and ridicule Bob Dechert.
Senior CSIS and RCMP officers confirmed to CTV that the Chinese news agency functions as an intelligence arm of China. Officials say Rong was on their radar, but the Chinese news agency is involved in a different type of espionage than spying on political figures…
One senior security officer told CTV News that Dechert displayed a “colossal lack of judgment. He was incredibly stupid to get involved with her.” The official said Dechert should “have known better.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
Kate is pregnant (or not), Diamond is engaged (again), and Manning gets a new uniform (of sorts)
Peyton Manning played his first professional football game in 1998. Over the next 13 years, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback didn’t miss a single start, suiting up for 227 consecutive kickoffs. But that gridiron streak—and his team’s hope for a Super Bowl berth—were tackled last week when Manning underwent a second round of neck surgery that is certain to keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the season. (For those fans who won’t recognize him without a jersey, he’ll be the guy wearing a cervical collar.) Who will replace Manning on the line of scrimmage? One name being bandied about is Brett Favre, the legendary quarterback who holds the record for consecutive starts (297). Favre, of course, says he is happily retired. But we’ve heard that before. Twice.
On the ropes
When Arturo “Thunder” Gatti was found dead in a Brazilian vacation home two years ago, local police concluded that the Montreal boxer had committed suicide. But a recent re-examination of the evidence—and some stunning courtroom testimony—have pointed the finger at someone else: Gatti’s widow, Amanda Rodrigues. In a report now being reviewed by the original investigators, a team of U.S. experts says the boxer’s body contained severe head wounds consistent with a beating, and that the official finding (that Gatti hung himself with a purse strap) is “pure, unadulterated fiction.” Meanwhile, during a court battle over Gatti’s $6-million estate, one friend testified that Rodrigues was an abusive wife who threatened her husband, sucker-punched him on numerous occasions, and forced him to rewrite his will just three weeks before his death.
If Bob Dechert was smiling on the evening of April 19, 2010, as he stood to vote in the House of Commons, he was apparently not simply delighting in the democratic process. “If you have time, watch on TV or on your computer . . . and I will smile at you,” he wrote to Shi Rong, a journalist with China’s Xinhua News Agency. The parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs was forced to acknowledge that note and a series of other “flirtatious” emails after his missives were distributed around Ottawa last week. Dechert’s official biography describes him as a married man and he says his relationship with Shi was “innocent,” but security analysts fret that his correspondence with a member of China’s state-run news service raises concerns about national security and espionage. The Prime Minister’s Office says it has no information to indicate Dechert did anything inappropriate.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 1:09 PM - 1 Comment
Sender advises Shi Rong to move on from relationship with older man
A recently translated email from the inbox of Shi Rong, the Xinhua news agency reporter who exchanged messages with Conservative MP Bob Dechert, includes references to a relationship with an older man that had taken a turn for the worse. In the email with the subject line “Old Fox,” the sender advises Shi to forget the “sad tales” about how an older man kept her waiting. “Sweep him into the dust bin, he is not good enough for you,” reads the email dated June 26, 2010. Dechert’s name is never mentioned in the email, which is among the more than 240 that were released to the media last week from Shi’s inbox. There were several amorous messages from Dechert, however, who is parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Affairs minister. Dechert, who is married, maintains he has a friendly and “innocent” relationship with Shi. He has also apologized for sending “flirtatious” emails to Rong. The opposition NDP has called for Dechert’s resignation, saying that his relationship with the Xinhua reporter is problematic because the news agency has close ties with the Chinese government. Many analysts and counter-intelligence agencies consider Xinhua to be a de facto intelligence gathering organization of the Communist Party of China.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 10:32 AM - 12 Comments
Shi Rong’s emails suggest something more than a friendship with Bob Dechert. Wesley Wark sees a cautionary message and J. Michael Cole says some Chinese correspondents are selected by the Ministry of State Security, but Mark Bourrie says there’s not much to worry about. Paul Dewar thinks Mr. Dechert should offer his resignation, but Joe Comartin isn’t calling for Mr. Dechert to be removed from the committee vetting potential Supreme Court appointees.
Comartin said he was surprised by Dechert’s “lack of judgment,” which he said was out of character. But he said the panel that is vetting the candidates for the high court vacancies is bound by “a rigid process,” one that Dechert should have no problem following.
“It’s pretty clear what we have to take into account,” said Comartin. “The judgements that you make are within those parameters.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 11:38 AM - 1 Comment
Bob Dechert insists relationship with Xinhua reporter is “innocent”
Conservative MP Bob Dechert, who acts as parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, apologized on Friday for sending “flirtatious” emails to Shi Rong, a Toronto-based correspondent for China’s state-run news agency. In a statement, Dechert insisted his relationship with the Chinese journalists is an “innocent” friendship. Dechert’s amorous messages to Shi were made public when more than 240 emails were released to journalists, and members the political and business establishment. In his statement, Dechert said Shi’s email was hacked as a result of an “ongoing domestic dispute.” Speaking with the Globe and Mail, Shi added that it was her husband who had made the messages public. Dechert, the MP for Mississuaga-Erindale, says he met Shi when conducting Chinese-language media interviews. China’s Xinhua news agency, for which Shi works, has been likened to an intelligence agency for the Chinese government. The media organization reports directly to the country’s ruling Communist Party. Last year, CSIS director Richard Fadden made public his concern that the Chinese intelligence officials were influencing some senior members governments in Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 11 Comments
It is too soon to tell whether Dechert was indeed the target of a “honey trap” by Shi, and we’ll leave it to Canada’s intelligence officials to go to the bottom of this. But one thing is certain: Baird’s reference to the whole affair as “ridiculous,” and his refusal to fire Dechert over the matter, is both premature and ultimately naïve.
Stephen Harper’s government can choose to put its head in the sand and pretend that its new-found friend in Asia does not represent a security risk, but this won’t change the fact that China was, and remains, a threat. And with opportunities for contact increasing as Ottawa further opens up to China, so will the potential for recruitment by Chinese spies. Beijing’s denials notwithstanding, there is little doubt that it possesses both the means and intent to do so.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 5:20 PM - 7 Comments
Glen McGregor translates one email and posts video of Bob Dechert’s promised smile for the cameras. John Baird brushes it all off and says Mr. Dechert will keep his job, while security officials seemingly gave the Conservative MP a pass.
“The renewal of background checks on members of the ministry and parliamentary secretaries has been finalized,” says the note, signed by Wayne Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council. “In 2008, the Prime Minister requested that security background checks on Ministers, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries, and their spouses or partners, be renewed every two years while the appointee occupies a position as Minister, Minister of State or Parliamentary Secretary.”
Further details in the note are censored. But Dechert retained his position as parliamentary secretary immediately after the March security check – and became parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the cabinet shuffle soon after the May 2 election campaign.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 6:14 PM - 28 Comments
(This post last updated at 7:31pm)
According to the CBC, Conservative MP Bob Dechert, the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, will soon acknowledge that he sent flirtatious emails to a reporter with the Chinese state news agency. Earlier the Ottawa Citizen reported on the existence of said emails.
E-mails circulated in Ottawa on Friday contain messages apparently between Chinese journalist Shi Rong of the Xinhua News Agency and Mississauga–Erindale MP Bob Dechert, who serves as parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. One message that appears to have been sent from Dechert’s Parliament Hill account reads: “You are so beautiful. I really like that picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed. That look is so cute. I love it when you do that. Now, I miss you even more.”
More from the Globe.
6:16pm. A statement from Mr. Dechert’s office has now been issued. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:54 PM - 75 Comments
A survey of recent government prioritizing.
Jim Flaherty, December 7. Mr. Speaker, Canada’s economic recovery remains our government’s number one priority.
Leona Aglukkaq, December 7. Mr. Speaker, we continue to make health care a priority.
Stephen Harper, December 7. Mr. Speaker, the priorities of this government, beyond national defence and criminal justice, are pretty obvious. It is preserving jobs; it is making sure Canadian families do not pay taxes that are too high; and it is making sure that we fully fund transfers for health and education to the provinces…
Stephen Harper, December 7. That is why, as this government has looked at its budgetary priorities, maintaining the growth of those transfers for our health care system has been the number one priority of this government.
Peter Kent, December 6. I must emphasize that the safety of Canadians and all people travelling on Canadian roadways remains our first priority.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 12:32 PM - 0 Comments
The Conservative backbencher who, in December 2008, warned of possible “treason and sedition” now frets that new evildoers might use our very own Parliamentary democracy against us, infiltrating our minds with their words.
Bob Dechert, a Conservative MP, said he is concerned anarchists or other demonstrators could use Commons hearings to build sympathy. “They want to have the media attention to talk about how they were handled by the police and perhaps try to get out the message they didn’t get out during the protest because of the silly things – and actual very criminal things – they did to try to disrupt those summits.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 7:30 PM - 17 Comments
The Scene. Bob Rae was lingering near the microphones after Question Period, taking questions on Ruby Dhalla’s nanny troubles, when he decided to venture an analogy
“I’ve said many times that politics is more like hockey than it’s like ballet,” he mused. “If you perceive a weakness, then it’s no surprise to anyone that people would try to take partisan advantage of that.”
The government side has taken a few opportunities these past two days to raise the matter of Ruby Dhalla in the House. On each occasion, a backbencher was sent up solemn-faced and seemingly on the verge of tears to read into the record details of the various allegations and ask that a minister rise to explain in further detail how precisely abhorrent the whole thing is. Today, both Helena Guergis, minister of state for the status of women, and Jason Kenney, the immigration minister, were given the chance and carried out their duties with obvious concern.
“Having been at this business for nearly 30 years, I’m not surprised by anything that I’ve seen or heard in the House of Commons the last couple of days,” Rae continued. “I think the point has to be made though that we don’t do public show trials in Canada and we don’t try and hang people on the floor of the House of Commons.”
Indeed, Canada did away with public hanging shortly after it became a country. Thus, we were left with hockey and politics to satisfy our need of bloody spectacle. And so Question Period still serves some purpose. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:12 AM - 21 Comments
Stephen Harper, Dec. 1. “I would certainly not want to find myself governing this economy today in a situation that required me to follow socialist economics and to be at the behest of a veto of the separatists.”
James Moore, heckling Gilles Duceppe, Dec. 1. “Traitor!”
Stephen Harper, Dec. 2. “The Canadian people made a choice to elect the Conservative Party to govern, without the support of the separatists.”
Dean Del Mastro, heckling Jack Layton, Dec. 3. “Jack, you’re a traitor.”
Stephen Harper, Dec. 3. “The Liberal Party leader proposes to help the economy by signing a pact with the Quebec sovereignists to govern the country. This is not a plan to improve the economy; it is a plan to destroy this country, which is why he should withdraw his proposal.”
Canadian Press, tonight. “The Harper government has sketched out a road map that would see it avoid an election in this recession year and survive to bask in the glory of the 2010 Olympic Games … The Tories need to stave off defeat in confidence votes until then and are considering ways to secure support from the NDP and Bloc Quebecois on a case-by-case basis … The Bloc will table its own list of economic demands Thursday, and they have been pushing for EI changes as well as a tax-harmonization deal for Quebec … One senior Conservative said there will be plenty of ways for the parties to work together. ‘We’re hopeful they’d want to work with us. … Maybe cooler heads will prevail,’ he said.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 1:49 PM - 20 Comments
Some further clarification on what the Bloc got for its hypothetical support of a hypothetical coalition government—or, rather, what Marlene Jennings says they didn’t get.
The Bloc Québécois were prepared to keep a Liberal-led coalition government alive for two years, if the coalition allowed Bill 101 to apply to federally regulated companies in Quebec. But Marlene Jennings, left, the veteran Liberal MP in charge of negotiating the coalition deal for the Liberals, said “no way” to the Bloc…
Another coup, she said, was that the Bloc agreed, in writing, to take sovereignty off its agenda for the 18-month period, which was deemed long enough to see if the economic stimulus program the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc proposed was working.
That last bit might be more interpretative than literal (unless she’s referring to an agreement beyond this).