By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 0 Comments
At 2pm, the Speaker’s parade—a ceremonial photo op, a silly show of hallowed tradition—proceeded down the West corridor of Centre Block toward the House of Commons. Preceded by one marching guard and flanked by three more—To protect the Speaker from what? A sneak attack by the Queen?—strode the sergeant-at-arms, carrying the large golden mace that must be in place for the House to conduct its business, and the Speaker and his clerks in their three-cornered hat and robes. Once the official party was safely inside, the large wooden doors were shut and the official business of the nation began for another day.
Something like a dozen reporters had gathered at the gallery door, anxiously waiting for the House to be called to order. This was something like four times the usual attendance—the larger crowd here in anticipation that one of the duly elected adults sent here to represent the people of this country might stand up in his or her place without having first obtained the permission of the party leader he or she is supposed to support. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 15, 2013 at 6:01 PM - 0 Comments
On the matter of RBC, Thomas Mulcair leaned forward and loudly conveyed his indignation. The Prime Minister stood and accused the New Democrats of hypocrisy, reporting that NDP MPs had previously advocated for temporary foreign worker permits. Mr. Mulcair returned to his feet and sketched a thorough denunciation of the government’s attitude toward the working class. And Mr. Harper stood and ventured that it was the NDP who needed to explain.
Not that much of anyone was here to see any of this.
In the moments before Question Period, the man on the front page of today’s newspapers sat in his new spot along the front row at the far end of the room. Wearing a high white collar, his wavy hair parted to the side, Justin Trudeau resembled somewhat the fellow who played John A. Macdonald in that movie. The press gallery was nearly full to capacity, as was the front row of the Prime Minister’s gallery. On the floor, Joyce Murray stopped by to give Mr. Trudeau a hug. Tony Clement and Randy Hoback and Pat Martin and Nathan Cullen shook his hand. On his way to his new seat, Bob Rae stopped in front of Mr. Trudeau and presented him with a small wooden box, within which was a pen that once belonged to Wilfrid Laurier. Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner stood and, as is his habit on special occasions, read aloud an original poem.
And then everyone waited for the sixth, seventh and eighth questions of the afternoon. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 11:12 AM - 0 Comments
From the interim Liberal leader’s exit interview with Tom Clark on Sunday.
Tom Clark: You and I have been doing interviews for a few years shall we say, yeah, more than a few years. You’re probably one of the most unscripted politicians I know. You don’t use talking points. You don’t use notes. You don’t even prepare for Question Period, it just happens. Talk to me a little bit about what you see in terms of the state of our parliamentary democracy right now, where everything seems to be read from a sheet of paper and there doesn’t seem to be that spontaneous engagement in public policy. What are your thoughts on that?
Bob Rae: I think it’s too bad, I mean yeah, I think you’re right. The only thing I’d say in my own defence is I actually do prepare for Question Period. I think there’s a big difference between being unscripted and unprepared.
Tom Clark: You make it look as if you don’t prepare which is the sign of a great actor.
Bob Rae: Well that’s what you have to do and yes there’s always time and moments for spontaneity but you have to know how to pivot. And I think there’s a whole lot to be said for that as what we look for in parliamentary committees and elsewhere. I also think that the scriptedness of it is really just the tip of the iceberg because it’s all based on the premise of deep control, of an effort to control message but also control response and muzzle people, and you know the ad campaign that you see and all this stuff, it’s all part of the same approach. And I do think it’s a terrible abuse of democracy generally and I think our whole political culture is suffering badly as a result of that. I think it’s very, very unhealthy.
Tom Clark: Give me some historical perspective because you’ve been around an awfully long time in politics; you’ve survived a long time. Was it better 30 years ago? Was it better 40 years ago?
Bob Rae: It was less scripted and it was more spontaneous, and it was more engaging. I mean you know when I first came into Parliament, Mr. Trudeau was the prime minister and I was sitting in the back row of where I’m sitting now. That corner seems to be sort of like my place. And Mr. Trudeau he would occasionally engage. He would get up and say well….sometimes a backbencher asked a question of the prime minister and now Mr. Harper will very, very rarely get up unless he’s got something he really wants to say. But sometimes Trudeau would just get up and just sort of okay buddy, let’s talk about this.
Mr. Rae and I talked at length about Parliament in 2011.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 29, 2013 at 4:36 PM - 0 Comments
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement on the death of former Alberta premier Ralph Klein.
“Alberta and Canada have lost a unique and significant leader. While Ralph’s beliefs about the role of government and fiscal responsibility were once considered radical, it is perhaps his greatest legacy that these ideas are now widely embraced across the political spectrum.
“A broadcast journalist, Ralph was a gifted story teller who earned the public’s trust long before he sought public office. Before entering provincial politics he served as Mayor of Calgary, helping to welcome the world during the 1988 Winter Olympics. Premier of Alberta from 1992 to 2006, Ralph played a crucial role in securing for his province and our entire country, the economic success from which both continue to benefit today.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after Conservative Brian Jean had stood to accuse the New Democrats of advocating for a “job killing carbon tax” and Conservative MP Scott Armstrong had stood to say that “the policy of the NDP is to go south to recruit foreign criminals to come to Canada” and Conservative MP David Wilks had stood and claimed to possess “a long list of attacks on Canadian interests from the NDP” and Conservative MP Robert Sopuck had stood and ventured that the NDP leader “leader rejects sound science and works hard to kill Canadian jobs” and Conservative MP James Bezan stood and said Thomas Mulcair had “attacked Canadian jobs, attacked Canada’s national interests and took up the cause of a convicted cop shooter” and shortly before Justice Minister Rob Nicholson stood and declared that “New Democrats are never on” the side of victims of crime, Stephen Harper stood and declared himself quite disappointed with Mr. Mulcair’s tone.
“Mr. Speaker, Peter Penashue broke… the… law,” Mr. Mulcair had enunciated, now pausing for effect. “If our law and order Prime Minister considers Peter Penashue, a known lawbreaker, to be the best Conservative MP, what does that say about the rest of his caucus?”
In fairness, Mr. Harper had not said that Mr. Penashue was the best member of the Conservative caucus, rather that he was the best MP that the riding of Labrador had ever had. Though perhaps that description too raises questions about how the Prime Minister measures quality.
Regardless, Mr. Harper was now profoundly saddened. “Mr. Speaker, obviously, I disagree with that categorization,” the Prime Minister sighed. “I am sad, but not surprised, to hear that kind of negative campaign from the—”
He could not finish because the New Democrats had burst out laughing.
The Speaker called for order and returned the floor to Mr. Harper.
“Mr. Speaker, in Labrador, Minister Penashue,” the Prime Minister continued, apparently still struggling to come to grips with the reality of Mr. Penashue’s resignation, “will be able to point to a record of respecting his promises, working against the federal long gun registry and for such things as the Trans-Labrador Highway, the Lower Churchill project and obviously for the strong record that he has presented to the people of Labrador.”
So Mr. Penashue might not have rightfully won a seat in the House of Commons, but at least while he had it, some things happened that the people of Labrador might have reason to be happy about.
The House proceeded to other matters, but after Rob Nicholson had declared his concern for the victims of crime, Bob Rae detected a segue back to Mr. Penashue.
“Mr. Speaker, the victims of the latest Conservative crime are the people of Labrador. Those are the victims we need to stand up for,” Mr. Rae ventured. “It is now clear that there was a completely orchestrated-from-central-casting resignation by the minister. Peter Penashue held press conferences. He used government money to hold press conferences. He placed ads. The Conservative Party transferred money to the riding association in Labrador. The entire thing was orchestrated by the Prime Minister of Canada and orchestrated by the Conservative Party of Canada.”
There was not a question here, but the Prime Minister stood anyway.
“Mr. Speaker, the member for Labrador has taken the correct action,” Mr. Harper said. “The people of Labrador will decide.”
But, once more, the Prime Minister was besmirched.
“They will have the difference between that kind of negative, ugly campaign,” he said, drawing laughs from the Liberals, “and, on the other side, a record of positive achievement for the people of Labrador by minister Penashue and, obviously, we will respect the decision of the people of Labrador.”
Mr. Rae saw another segue.
“Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister wants to see ugly, he and his cabinet colleagues should simply look in the mirror and assess their own conduct—”
The Conservatives groaned their displeasure. The Speaker called for order.
“I do not think we need to make those kinds of personal characterizations,” Speaker Scheer suggested. “It is certainly not adding to the debate today.”
Mr. Rae pleaded innocence. “Mr. Speaker, if looking in the mirror produces unacceptable results,” he offered, “it is hardly the fault of the people who are asking the questions.”
The interim Liberal leader again failed to register a question, but the Prime Minister stood again nonetheless.
“Mr. Speaker, I think the real problem is the positions that the Liberal Party of Canada has on issues that matter to the people of Labrador,” Mr. Harper ventured. “The people of Labrador value the seal hunt; they value investments in their infrastructure and in their Internet; and they certainly value the Lower Churchill hydroelectric electric project.”
The questions about the former minister persisted and it was Pierre Poilievre who took up the cause of defending his honour.
“Mr. Speaker, in anybody’s mind, writing cheques for nearly $50,000 is a clear admission that Conservatives broke just about every law in the book during the Labrador campaign and that they knew they broke them,” Liberal MP Gerry Byrne charged. “With that said, the Prime Minister also knows that sanctions with serious consequences remain inevitable against Mr. Penashue and his party. With absolutely nothing left to lose under those circumstances, a byelection is about to be called to try to dull some of that reality. Does the Prime Minister really feel that holding a byelection could ever trump the rule of law in Canada and that the process of justice might actually be able to be turned off for a byelection?”
Somewhere in this distance, or perhaps only in Mr. Poilievre’s head, a string quartet began to play the national anthem.
“Mr. Speaker, there they go, launching a nasty, negative campaign full of slurs,” he sighed. “Never did a slur create a job. Never did a slur protect a traditional aboriginal way of life that Peter Penashue has fought for.”
The anthem swelled. Watching at home, mothers gathered their children to listen. In office towers, business halted. In the fields, plowing ceased. Tears trickled down the cheeks of grown men.
“Never did a slur help a school child in a remote community have access to the world through high-speed Internet, the way Peter Penashue delivered. Never did a slur protect CFB Goose Bay,” Mr. Poilievre continued. “Slurs do not do that, but Peter Penashue did.”
And lo was the nation stirred and lo did all who heard Mr. Poilievre now rush to Labrador, cheques in hand and the Elections Act in mind, to donate the maximum allowable funds to Mr. Penashue’s re-election campaign.
For sure, Mr. Poilievre was so very right. And thus it is to wonder why so many others waste so much of their and our time with such empty words.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 1:02 PM - 0 Comments
In having his office intervene yesterday with Manulife’s mortgage rate, the Finance Minister managed the neat trick of earning the disagreement of all of Thomas Mulcair (“It’s Banana Republic behaviour”), Bob Rae (“That’s ridiculous”) and, now, Maxime Bernier.
“Me, personally, I would not dictate to businesses what prices to decide,” he says. “It’s the market. It’s supply and demand that decides the prices. It is the case for interest rates, it is the case for other products too.”
In Toronto to pick up some new shoes, the Finance Minister explains himself.
“Our concern, my concern, for a number of years with very low interest rates is to ensure that people can afford their mortgages when interest rates go up,” said Mr. Flaherty Wednesday in Toronto, where he toured a Roots factory and tried on a new pair of shoes as part of a long-standing pre-budget tradition.
“That’s the concern. It’s a concern for the Canadian people that they’re careful and that they don’t assume that very low interest rates like we have now will continue indefinitely, because they won’t. Inevitably, interest rates will go up, so that’s the concern,” he said.
It is probably good that this happened after the Manning conference.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 12:47 PM - 0 Comments
Democrat minority leader Nancy Pelosi pronounced yesterday that “Canadians don’t want the pipeline in their own country” and John Baird is terribly concerned that Thomas Mulcair might be saying bad things about Canada in the presence of Americans.
An NDP source tells me Mr. Mulcair did not tell Ms. Pelosi that Canadians don’t want the pipeline.
Do Canadians want Keystone XL to go through? In November, Abacus found 53% in favour and 47% against. In January, Nanos found that 45.2% had a favourable impression, while 41.7% of respondents had an unfavourable impression.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Conservative party is seeking donations in response to the NDP’s stance on Keystone.
“Instead of supporting this pro-Canada project, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair traveled to Washington and did what the NDP always do when travelling abroad–attack Canadian jobs,” reads the letter, written by the Conservative Party’s director of fundraising. “Will you chip in $5 or whatever you can afford and stand against Mulcair’s NDP?,” the letter said.
And Bob Rae believes Keystone XL is in the national interest.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 3:36 PM - 0 Comments
Peter Penashue is now neither the intergovernmental affairs minister, nor the MP for Labrador. According to a statement from Mr. Penashue, he has resigned both posts and will now run in a by-election.
Due to mistakes that were made by an inexperienced volunteer in filing the Elections Canada return from the last campaign, I appointed a new Official Agent to work with Elections Canada to make any needed amendments to my campaign return.
During the examination we became aware that there were ineligible donations accepted by the former Official Agent.
Although I was unaware of the inaccuracies in the return, I believe I must be accountable to the people who elected me and therefore I am stepping down as the Member of Parliament for Labrador and will seek re-election through a by-election. I will also be stepping down as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.
My record as Member of Parliament for Labrador and Minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government over the past two years is one that I am very proud of.
I have worked to secure federal support for the development of Muskrat Falls, which will lead to $1.9 billion for our economy and thousands of jobs for Labrador. I have also worked with government and private industry to increase internet speed in Labrador, and delivered federal funding to pave the Trans-Labrador Highway.
There is much more to do for the people of Labrador, including protecting our way of life. We have scrapped the long-gun registry despite the efforts of the NDP and Liberals to keep it, and now we must continue to fight to defend the seal hunt against the NDP and Liberal parliamentarians who want to ban it. I will also continue to lead the defence of the polar bear hunt, something that is very important to Labradorians.
In the by-election I will be asking the people of Labrador to re-elect me so that I can continue to deliver for Labrador.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 6:20 PM - 0 Comments
With his second question, Thomas Mulcair rounded on the Finance Minister.
“Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister announces changes to mortgage rules and then reverses them. The Finance Minister announces changes to skilled training programs and then reverses them, all without warning, all without consultation, all at great cost,” Mr. Mulcair declared. “It is no wonder that senior public servants from the Finance Minister’s own office are now calling his actions ‘a disgrace and an insult to Parliament.’ ”
The NDP leader had slipped two ways here. First, the two senior public servants in this case—Scott Clark and Peter DeVries—are formerly of the finance department and neither ever worked under the authority of Jim Flaherty. Second, the specific “disgrace” and “insult” to Parliament referred to was the practice of omnibus legislation.
The Prime Minister might remember feeling somewhat likewise about omnibus bills, but he stood here to resolutely defend his Finance Minister. “Canada is very lucky to have the most successful finance minister in the world,” Mr. Harper proclaimed. “That has been recognized by experts in this field around the world and is backed by the performance of the Canadian economy. In spite of the tremendous difficulties that continue to exist, the global uncertainty, the Canadian economy has managed to created 900,000 net new jobs since the end of the recession and that is due, in no small measure, to the good efforts of the Minister of Finance.”
Mr. Mulcair persisted, returning to the matter of Mr. Flaherty’s letter to the CRTC. Mr. Harper persisted in defending his minister. Somehow or another this culminated in John Duncan, the former aboriginal affairs minister who was recently dispatched after an errant letter to the tax court, receiving a standing ovation from the Conservatives.
When Bob Rae stood to ask his first question, he returned the House to this matter of the former public servants and their quibbles with the government’s general approach to budgetary matters. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 5:43 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Robert Goguen had apparently been up late last night, carefully reviewing the main estimates and he was keen this afternoon to rise shortly before Question Period and report back to the House with what he’d found. “Yesterday, in main estimates, there were significant reductions in the cost of prisons due to the influx of new prisoners not materializing,” the government backbencher celebrated, dismissing opposition concerns about prison spending in the process.
Mr. Goguen was being modest. At last report there were actually more individuals in prison than ever before. Which would seem to render those “significant reductions” all the more impressive. (Although the increasing violence in prisons might make it more difficult to feel good about frugality.)
This good news might’ve ruled the day were it not for those on the opposition side who’d also taken some time to review the estimates themselves. They were decidedly less enthused than Mr. Goguen.
“Mr. Speaker, at the same time that we continue to read in the estimates with respect to the cuts that are being made in front line programs, in foreign aid programs, in foreign affairs budgets, we now see that the CIC is increasing its advertising budget by $4 million, the Department of Finance is increasing its advertising budget by nearly $7 million, and the Department of Natural Resources is increasing its advertising budget by $4.5 million compared to the main estimates of last year,” interim Liberal leader Bob Rae reported, reading from a white piece of paper.
Now Mr. Rae wagged his finger in the Prime Minister’s general direction. “I would like to ask the Prime Minister how he can justify again this double standard where front line services are being cut but propaganda is being increased?”
Oddly, Mr. Harper begged to differ almost entirely. “Mr. Speaker,” the Prime Minister corrected, “those front line services are not being cut.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 11:42 AM - 0 Comments
From the archives of the Canadian Parliamentary Review, an essay written by the 35-year-old leader of the Ontario NDP, at the time two years removed from fours in the House of Commons as an NDP MP.
Our parliamentary institutions were clearly modelled in 1867 on those of Britain at that time. Surely it is hardly a radical suggestion to say that the Canada of 1984 is profoundly different from the British unitary state of 1867. Canada’s Senate was not seen at that time as in any sense representative of the federal principle. Rather it was intended, as was the nineteenth and early twentieth century House of Lords, as a kind of property brake on the democratic principles emerging in the House of Commons. The House of Lords, and hence in conception the Senate. existed to keep the democrats (I say “democrats” and not necessarily “New Democrats”) from getting carried away. That, in concise terms is the basis of the cliché about the Senate as a source of sober second thought and the concern consistently expressed in this last century. not confined to Canada, that second chambers were necessary to protect business and commercial interests from the Workings of popular government.
In its conception and in its operations, the Senate is neither regionally representative in the sense that we understand it today, nor is it democratic. In tact the Canadian Senate is an undemocratic institution working at the heart of democratic government. That fact, combined with the history of the Senate as nothing more or less than a tool of patronage in the hands of the party in power, has led our party to the conviction that the Senate should be abolished.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 11:22 PM - 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 Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 5:09 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MPs Maurice Vellacott, Leon Benoit and Wladyslaw Lizon have written to the RCMP to request that some abortions be investigated as homicides.
In their letter, the MPs wrote that between 2000 and 2009 there were 491 abortions performed on Canadian women who were pregnant for longer than 19 weeks. They contend that at this stage of gestation, the abortions involved live babies. “These are vulnerable, innocent children that homicide has been perpetrated on,” Vellacott said Thursday from Ottawa. “The individuals who have perpetrated the breach of the Criminal Code should be charged and brought to justice.”
The NDP’s Megan Leslie led Question Period this afternoon and challenged the Prime Minister on this.
Megan Leslie. Mr. Speaker, just days after the 25th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision and just days after we heard the Minister for Status of Women acknowledge that Canadians do not want the abortion debate reopened, we see another attempt by the Conservative backbench to do just that. These Conservatives are trying to get the RCMP to investigate abortions as murders. Will the government make it clear that this question was settled 25 years ago? Will the Prime Minister make it clear that he and his government understand that abortion is not murder?
Stephen Harper. Mr. Speaker, I think all members of the House, whether they agree with it or not, understand that abortion is legal in Canada. This government, myself included, have made it very clear that the government does not intend to change the law in this regard.
After QP, Bob Rae offered his particular concern.
Well, I believe the Prime Minister when he says he does not intend to do that. But it’s obvious that there are a lot of members of his caucus who want to do that. I think there’s also a question about—there’s a difference between Joe Public writing a letter to the Commissioner of the RCMP and the Commissioner of the RCMP receiving such a letter. I don’t think the application of the criminal law in Canada should be subject to political pressure of any kind whatsoever from any source whatsoever and I regret the fact that members are doing this because I think it creates a sense that somehow this determination is a political determination. It’s been a common understanding of the law in Canada that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is not a criminal act and that is the law of Canada so I think it’s important that we all start from that premise.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:55 PM - 0 Comments
Just before Question Period this afternoon, Costas Menegakis, the Conservative MP for Richmond Hill, stood in his spot along the back row of the government side and lamented for the NDP’s quibbles with a piece of government legislation.
“The NDP has proven once again that they will always put the interests of criminals first,” he reported, his words thus committed to the official record where they will remain in his name for eternity.
Was this uncivil?
A few spots after Mr. Mengakis, it was Ted Opitz’s turn. “Yesterday my NDP colleague from Scarborough Southwest said that his party will offer practical solutions,” explained the Conservative MP who had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court for the honour to stand in this place and say these words. “What he fails to mention is that the NDP solution is a new $21 billion job-killing carbon tax.”
This is mostly ridiculous, but is it uncivil?
Question Period then began. Soon enough, Bob Rae was on his feet, speaking loudly and wagging his finger at the Prime Minister.
“Mr. Speaker, it is clear after the Minister of Finance’s attack on the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Mr. Kevin Page, that it is the Prime Minister’s intention to turn the taxpayers’ watchdog into his personal lapdog. That is the plan that the government has,” he declared. “Why is the government having to fire Marty Cheliak, Pat Stogran, Linda Keen, Peter Tinsley, Paul Kennedy, Adrian Measner, Munir Sheikh, Steve Sullivan and Remy Beauregard? Why is the name of Kevin Page being added to this list of people who are being thrown out of the bus because they had an independent opinion about something?”
Was that uncivil? Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 11:14 AM - 0 Comments
With the House now back in session, here again is the Interactive Commons, our visual representation of Question Period.
During the fall sitting, the Prime Minister, understandably, responded to the most questions. Diane Finley, whose responsibilities include Old Age Security and Employment Insurance, ranked second, again understandably. Third though was Pierre Poilievre: a Conservative MP who does not have a cabinet seat. Mr. Poilievre has become the government’s designated spokesman on all matters of general discomfort: robocalls, ethics, the campaign of Peter Penashue and so forth.
Thomas Mulcair leads in questions asked, but Bob Rae, despite asking 24 fewer questions, has somehow spoken 30 more words. Overall the word leader is Ms. Finley.
By John Geddes - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
When it comes to assessing the performance of political leaders, there’s often a good deal of talk about how well they succeed at setting the agenda. But since the agenda rarely conforms for long to anyone’s manipulations, what matters more is how well they adjust to the unexpected.
Stephen Harper didn’t plan for aboriginal affairs to emerge as the dominant federal issue at the start of 2013. But when the House resumes sitting on Jan. 28, he’ll have to cope anyway with a first order of business imposed largely by Idle No More and Theresa Spence.
The Prime Minister will try, judging from his own public statements and comments made by his officials and cabinet ministers, to pull this unwieldy set of issues, foisted on him by shopping-mall drum circles and a fasting chief, into the safer confines of his own, preferred economic agenda.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 25, 2013 at 1:16 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberals decided to stage their own Question Period on Twitter this morning, tweeting questions at government ministers (who, so far, have failed to respond). You can follow the proceedings through the Liberal party’s Twitter account or my list of MPs on Twitter. Though the exercise probably served the Liberal side’s purpose—bringing attention to their concerns about government policy—it turns out that 140 characters doesn’t leave a lot of space for subtlety. Bob Rae’s two questions on government spending and the Parliamentary Budget Officer—here and here—were probably the sharpest.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
Danny Metatawabin, spokesman for the most influential woman in the country, took centre stage in her absence. Chief Theresa Spence was said to be under observation in a local hospital. Her protest—”hunger strike?” “fast?” “liquids-only diet?”—was now concluded, but she would not be here to mark the occasion.
There had been some delay in starting and there was some confusion about the seating arrangement, but now everyone had found a place at the table at the front of the National Press Theatre—Mr. Metatawabin, Manitoba elder Raymond Robinson, Saskatchewan Regional Chief Perry Bellegarde and Native Women’s Association of Canada president Michelle Audette, NDP MP Romeo Saganash and interim Liberal leader Bob Rae. Mr. Metatawabin was asked to speak first. He paused for a few seconds before beginning.
He offered a few words in his own language, acknowledged the Creator and Chief White Duck of the traditional Algonquin territory. “This is sage,” he said, holding up a bowl that he had placed in front of him. “But I’m not going to light it. It’s against fire regulations.” He smiled. “But it was a gesture … we had hoped to do a cleansing ceremony because I know media has been on our backs for the last six weeks now. And I know you mean well and I know at times the full story doesn’t get out there, to the Canadian public or even on the international stage. But what we have accomplished has gone international.”
He wore a brown leather vest and in his left hand he held an eagle feather.
“It is not only about Theresa Spence, it is not only about Raymond. And I’m passionate for protecting my treaty rights as well, but it wasn’t only for me. It was for the entire indigenous nations as well your future. Our future together. We must walk in harmony together. We must work together,” he said. “That was one of the messages that we always brought forth, since day one. All that we wanted was for the Prime Minister of Canada to invite the Governor General to meet with First Nations leadership. That’s all that we wanted.”
Merely that the elected head of government, the titular head of state and the elected representatives of some 600 communities meet for the purposes of beginning to fix the problems that have compounded over some 500 years of history. That’s all. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 1:11 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Bob Rae on today’s declaration.
“I am encouraged that Chief Theresa Spence has decided to end her hunger strike. Chief Spence and those who have joined her fast have helped bring about substantial change, but their cause – however just – should not endanger their lives or their health. Liberals join with Canadians across the country who are deeply committed to carrying on the fight for justice, dignity and reconciliation, and we salute Chief Spence’s courage.
The commitments we are making flow logically from the work of the Charlottetown and Kelowna Accords, numerous Supreme Court of Canada decisions, and our commitments as a country made when we signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They represent the strongly held values of the Liberal Party of Canada.
On behalf of our Parliamentary Caucus, I would like to express our party’s continued resolve to work inside and outside Parliament – on a nation-to-nation basis – to address the gross inequalities facing First Nations, from the disparity in education outcomes and poor health to the lack of clean running water and safe housing.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 9:16 AM - 0 Comments
Amid mixed polling, questions about her health and a report that she was facing an ultimatum, Theresa Spence will be honoured this morning in downtown Ottawa by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and then proceed to a news conference at 11am.
The Liberals have announced that Bob Rae will be at that news conference.
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo will have a news conference in Vancouver at 3:30pm EST.
Update 10:44am. A statement from Chief Spence.
January 24, 2013, Victoria Island, traditional territory of the Algonquian Peoples…Chief Theresa Spence and Raymond Robinson have officially ended their hunger strikes today. This announcement comes after a signed declaration of commitment on behalf of Treaty Chiefs, the Assembly First Nations (AFN), the Native Women Association of Canada (NWAC), the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberal Party of Canada in implementing the thirteen point action plan.
Chief Spence and Mr. Robinson began their hunger strike over six weeks ago to invoke change by petitioning Canada and the Crown to meet with First Nations leaders on a Nation to Nation basis on Treaty Rights and Implementation.
“We end our hunger strikes with signed commitments from elected First Nations leaders and opposition parties to urgently carry forward our action plan which ensure that our Treaty Rights are recognized, honoured and fully implemented. Furthermore, we are still calling for an immediate meeting with the Crown, Federal and Provincial governments in order to renew and reset this volatile relationship. Indigenous Peoples have lived well below the poverty line in a country that considered one of the wealthiest in the world. We are no longer idle and precedence has been established over this past six weeks. There’s no going back, our voices have be heard and now I ask for your involvement to move our agenda forward,” stated Chief Theresa Spence.
“I personally want to thank and acknowledge all our supporters this past six weeks for their prayers, encouragement and genuine support during our hunger strikes. Both Raymond and I have taken with us a deep spiritual experience which has lite a fire that will assist us in implementing our vision where First Nation Peoples have equality and can forge their own destiny,” stated Chief Spence.
The thirteen point declaration includes eight points that the AFN presented during their meeting with Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. The plan highlights a new framework to ensure that Treaty and non-Treaty Rights are recognized and implemented. A commitment towards resource revenue sharing and a comprehensive review and meaningful consultation on Bill C-38 and C-45 to ensure it is consistent with section 35 of the Constitution Act. The plan also states that ALL current or future federal legislation has Free, Prior and Informed Consent of First Nation Peoples.
“Canada has legal obligations as Treaty partners to protect our constitutionally recognized rights. Our Indigenous ancestors promised peaceful co-existence and that spirit and intent remains today. Canada cannot afford to fail and needs to abide by conditions of Treaty. As we seen this past month there is consequences to inaction and our Peoples will never be silenced or go back to status quo…it’s a new day and our Peoples spirits have been awakened,” concluded Chief Spence.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 9:31 AM - 0 Comments
Three separate reports this morning that Chief Theresa Spence’s protest could be nearing an end.
The Canadian Press reports that negotiations involving interim Liberal leader Bob Rae are taking place to find a resolution.
Members of the delegation, along with Spence and a couple of her closest confidantes, are working the phone lines to craft a declaration of the chief’s concerns that would be signed by supporters. They also hope to design a ceremony to mark what her protest has accomplished. And they want to define a process that will allow Spence a recovery.
The Globe reports that Ms. Spence wants a pledge from Shawn Atleo, Thomas Mulcair and Mr. Rae.
Ms. Spence has indicated she will resume eating solid foods after the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, and opposition leaders Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats and Bob Rae of the Liberals agree to press the Harper government to move on an eight-point action plan crafted by the AFN, the sources said. She also wants a commitment from the opposition leaders to continue fighting omnibus budget legislation that has prompted country-wide protests under the Idle No More movement and which many native people say will negatively affect their communities because it reduces federal environmental oversight.
And APTN reports that a letter from Attawapiskat band councillors will end the protest.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Mr. Clarke’s bill has the stated support of the government and passed at second reading on December 5 with the vote split along party lines. Here is APTN’s overview of the bill’s changes and the opposition’s concerns about reforming the Indian Act via a private member’s bill. Mr. Clarke launched the first hour of debate on the bill on October 18. The second hour of debate was held on November 28.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Agenda convenes a panel.
Adam Goldenberg looks forward.
But none of it will come to pass if Idle No More loses its coherence, or if it becomes an unwieldy dog’s breakfast of protest and pageantry that alienates the very Canadians who should be its audience. The movement’s first task should be to resist the easy analogies of ordinary politics — of “stakeholder relations” — by making its case not to the Conservatives, but to the people who put them in office.
We will know when it succeeds. When no Canadian is able to shrug off as unreasonable a demand from an aboriginal leader to meet with the government officials who advise and represent the Crown — namely, the prime minister and the Governor General — and not with some lesser minister in their stead; when First Nations no longer need to hire professional lobbyists in Ottawa to make their case to the government of Canada; and when the federal government recognizes, once and for all, that aboriginal peoples are partners in Confederation, not just stakeholders in politics, then Idle No More will have made an important and lasting contribution to the way we understand and govern our country.
Bob Rae considers the concerns.
It is a universal in life that people want recognition and respect. The deeper meaning of last year’s summit, and the Prime Minister’s eloquent apology in the House of Commons, is that there is a hunger for this respect, and appreciation when it is offered and followed with effective action. The Prime Minister faces a deep challenge. Many in his party are opposed to the recognition and constitutional protection that Aboriginal people have achieved, and to its implications. At the same time, the old bromides of assimilation and “let’s concentrate on education and the economy” completely ignore the aspirations for self-government, autonomy, and a real transfer of power and resources that have the deepest roots in today’s aboriginal politics. Mr. Harper’s apology in the House of Commons, and the summit he called last year, have simply not been followed by effective action.