By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 0 Comments
Statistics Canada has released a list of the programs and surveys that will be affected by budget cuts.
Statistics Canada released today a comprehensive list of programs identified for elimination or reduction to meet its savings target announced in Economic Action Plan 2012 of $33.9 million by 2014-15. To meet its commitments, Statistics Canada has focused resources where they are most needed. The savings incurred through these program adjustments represent moderate reductions in the production of statistics in support of policy development, administration and evaluation, while continuing to meet the highest priority needs for public purposes. In some cases, the information will continue to be available in a different format.
The full list is here.
See previously: The quiet cuts
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 4:35 PM - 0 Comments
VIA Rail will layoff approximately nine percent of its workforce and reduce service.
Trip frequencies are being cut on some of big routes, including the Montreal to Halifax line — “The Ocean” — which will be cut to three from six round trips a week.
In the West, “The Canadian” — Via’s only Toronto to Vancouver route — will be reduced to two from three round trips a week in the off-season (October to April). Service during peak season will remain at three trips weekly.
There will also be a number reductions in southwestern Ontario, where GO Transit and other services are available to commuters. London, Aldershot, Kitchener, Niagara Falls and other cities will see reduced Via service.
Another round of “affected notices” have been delivered to public service workers, the majority this time going to workers at the Canada Revenue Agency.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
Federal funding for emergency preparedness teams will be cut.
A federal government cut is expected to hit the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team leading efforts at a collapsed mall in Elliot Lake, Ont. Urban search and rescue units across the country are facing smaller budgets as part of federal efforts to cut costs.
A federal government memo posted to the website of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs in April says Public Safety Canada is going to cut the program that helps fund the search and rescue teams. ”Federal contributions for emergency preparedness projects under [the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program] will end in 2013 as will federal funding provided under JEPP for urban search and rescue and for critical infrastructure initiatives,” Gina Wilson, assistant deputy minister of regional operations at Public Safety Canada, wrote in the memo.
Senator Colin Kenny blasts the Harper government.
If the federal government does find a way to help in Elliot Lake, God bless it. Alternately, God may wish to damn the government for shutting down its contribution to a co-operative federal-provincial-territorial program meant to ensure that Canadians across the country have access to competent, timely assistance at times like this.
The Joint Emergency Preparedness Program was established in 1980 to create infrastructure and provide equipment for front-line emergency workers. The five HUSAR units, located in large cities across the country, are meant to ensure that help gets to communities like Elliot Lake in a hurry. The Canadian Emergency Management College in Ottawa offers invaluable classroom and field training to emergency workers. Federal funding is being withdrawn from all of them.
See previously: The quiet cuts
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 8:49 AM - 0 Comments
“I see the role of a backbench MP to hold the government to account,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m disloyal or that I’m a maverick or that I’m going to vote against the government or cross the floor. It just means that from time to time I feel an obligation to point out to the government that they need to respect the taxpayers’ dollars.”
For reaction, the Canadian Press talks to Conservative MP Rick Dykstra.
Ontario Tory MP Rick Dykstra said he, too, has received an earful about Oda’s spending and cabinet cars. But he said the budget is prompting questions as well and not the kind he’s used to hearing. Ever since he’s been back in his St. Catharines, Ont., riding, Dykstra said he’s received a “boatload” of queries on the marathon voting session in the Commons earlier this month, when MPs voted continuously for almost 24 hours on hundreds of opposition amendments to the budget bill. “It’s very rare when I get constituents actually talking to me about what’s happened in the House of Commons, actually in the House itself,” Dykstra said.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 22, 2012 at 11:41 AM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP John Weston apparently came to the conclusion last week that the government had failed in one particular way on C-38.
“Let me join in the criticism of our own government to say the communication of many parts of this has been poor. That relates to the, I think, the ambitious nature of the bill,” the West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky member said in an interview Tuesday.
Some of his constituents are unpersuaded.
Mr. Weston, please know that every time I read about the details in Bill C-38, I smelled a skunk, even though apparently you were thinking you could sell us more for less, package it in pretty designer paper, add a colourful bow and deceive us.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 3:51 PM - 0 Comments
It will obviously be awhile now before the Procedure and House Affairs committee reconvenes, but Liberal House leader Marc Garneau has tabled the following motion there.
“That the Committee begin a study into what reasonable limits should be placed on the consideration of Omnibus legislation in recognition of Parliament’s fundamental purpose to provide appropriate oversight of the Government; and that the committee report its findings, including specific recommendations for legislative measures or changes to the Standing Orders, to the House no later than Dec.10, 2012.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 3:49 PM - 0 Comments
Thus while the bill itself is flawed in nearly every substantive particular, the process by which it has been pushed through — and the conventions that it thereby undermines — continues a standing assault on Parliament, a contempt for the institution, and indeed should be viewed as an affront to all Canadians.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 5:28 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Impatient to spoil the surprise, Thomas Mulcair wondered aloud if the government side might confirm now that they’ll be presenting another omnibus budget bill in the fall. In a rare nod to full disclosure, John Baird stood and promised as much.
“Every year, as long as I have been in this place and in the Legislature of Ontario, the Minister of Finance presents a budget in the winter and the spring, then presents a budget bill in the spring and another budget bill in the fall,” Mr. Baird recalled. “That will be no different this year.”
In 2009, the two budget bills were a combined 712 pages. In 2010, the government managed 1,056 pages of budget implementation. Last year, it was 716 pages. If such recent precedent is any gauge, and keeping in mind that C-38 covered 452 pages, the fall’s bill should be something like a mere 376 pages.
Mr. Mulcair now had several questions. ”Mr. Speaker, the Conservative’s plan this spring was to ram their Trojan Horse budget bill through Parliament without anyone noticing what was actually in it. They hid their proposals, but even Conservative MPs could tell us, Canadians are taking notice. Bringing in another omnibus bill, another ominous bill, to change Canada in ways they never talked about during the election is simply wrong,” he declared. “Why will they not allow MPs to study their proposals properly? Canadians are calling for it, we are certainly calling for it and even Conservative MPs are calling for it. Why will they not show some respect for Parliament? What else will they try to hide this time?”
The New Democrats stood to applaud. Mr. Baird stood and enthused. “Mr. Speaker, this government is very proud of its economic agenda. We are very proud of Budget 2012 and the clear map it sets out for long-term economic prosperity,” he proclaimed, drawing applause from the government side. “We had a significant amount of debate on Bill C-38, probably more than any other bill since I have been a member of this place. That debate is now concluded. Now we will refocus and do even more to create jobs, more to create more opportunity, so that every Canadian who is looking for a job, can have a job.”
Alas, Mr. Mulcair next declared that the “culture of concealment” was widespread—from omnibus budget bills to the access to information system to the refusal to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with the information he has requested. At this, Mr. Baird paused long enough from the tabling of platitudes to make a vague, but direct, complaint about Kevin Page. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 12:21 PM - 0 Comments
No Conservative MP showed up this morning to take Elizabeth May’s C-38 quiz. Although apparently Independent MP Bruce Hyer took the test and scored five out of five.
Ms. May’s office has now posted the three quizes she prepared, with the correct answers included.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 10:47 AM - 0 Comments
Mr. Speaker, there seems to be some denial on that side of the House about the implications of Bill C-38. Last Thursday, on a local radio station, the member for Nanaimo—Alberni lamented the closure of the Ucluelet communications centre and the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. However, Instead of taking responsibility, the member blamed “bureaucrats in Ottawa” for these closures. Ironically, he made these remarks less than 12 hours after he voted on the Trojan Horse budget bill, the very bill shutting down these stations.
When government MPs cut services in Ottawa, they should at least have the courage of their conviction to defend them at home. However, Bill C-38 represents more than just cuts to Coast Guard services, cuts to OAS and cuts to health care. It represents the erosion of the once strong and independent voices of Conservative MPs. As we approach the end of the session, I am hopeful more Conservative MPs find their riding voice and speak out against these cuts. Maybe one day, with some practice, they will be able to use that voice in Ottawa.
Last night, Mr. Lunney issued a statement explaining his position.
In recent weeks, I have met with responsible authorities in Ottawa and written suggesting more workable solutions. I trust the public uproar has helped underscore my concerns and I remain hopeful that a more promising solution can be embraced for coastal BC.
Update 12:28pm. The office of Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield writes to say the coast guard changes are not part of C-38. I am trying to ascertain the correct origin of the changes and will report back when that is clarified.
Update 3:55pm. Minister Ashfield’s office clarifies that the cuts are part of the spending review laid out in Budget 2012, but the cuts themselves are not included in the budget bill.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 8:19 AM - 0 Comments
This bill warranted a lot more thorough examination so we could tell our constituents “mission accomplished”. We certainly would not have agreed with the policies, but we would have had the chance to express our opinions on this. I would have liked to dissect this so-called budget bill quite a bit further, but unfortunately, I am out of time.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 8:01 PM - 0 Comments
Despite—indeed, because of—Wayne Easter’s statement that no Nazi salute was made during last week’s C-38 votes, Joe Oliver rose after QP today to press the case, alleging that Mr. Easter and Liberal MP Hedy Fry engaged in inappropriate gesturing. Mr. Easter again asserted innocence, but Conservative MP Chris Warkentin suggested he should apologize anyway. After an intervention by Bob Rae, the Speaker said he would review the video footage. (Ms. Fry responds via Twitter.)
Below, the transcript of today’s discussion. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 5:47 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Page 11 of the Conservative Party of Canada’s campaign platform for the general election of 2006 contains no less than 11 individual promises. Three of those appear under the heading “Ensure truth in budgeting with a Parliamentary Budget Authority.”
“A Conservative government will,” the Conservative party promised, “create an independent Parliamentary Budget Authority to provide objective analysis directly to Parliament about the state of the nation’s finances and trends in the national economy; require government departments and agencies to provide accurate, timely information to the Parliamentary Budget Authority to ensure it has the information it needs to provide accurate analyses to Parliament; ensure that government fiscal forecasts are updated quarterly and that they provide complete data for both revenue and spending forecasts.”
It was on such vows that the Conservatives first formed government six years ago. And it was on this general idea that Thomas Mulcair rose with some concern this afternoon.
“Mr. Speaker, once again the Conservatives are trying to hide the truth about their Trojan Horse budget,” he reported. “The Parliamentary Budget Officer has told the Prime Minister’s Office that they are breaking the law by refusing to hand over information to Parliament. Now the PBO’s legal counsel, among the most respected in Canada have told the Prime Minister the same thing, saying, ‘The 64 departments that have not yet provided the requested information are not acting in compliance with the act.’ This is the Prime Minister’s own Accountability Act that we are talking about,” Mr. Mulcair clarified. “Why is the Prime Minister breaking his government’s own accountability law?”
The leader of the opposition stressed the word “own.”
In the Prime Minister’s absence, it was John Baird’s duty to stand and dance around the general concept of irony. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 3:55 PM - 0 Comments
The Green MP is inviting to take part in a C-38 quiz tomorrow morning.
On Tuesday morning, June 19, from 10 am –12 pm, Room 263-S in Centre Block will become an examination room. Any Conservative MP willing to demonstrate his or her knowledge of the content of Bill C-38 will be given a short written quiz. A clean copy of the bill will be available to them for reference.
Any MP who receives a passing grade will have a tree planted in the location of his or her choice. “This is an open-book, multiple-choice quiz,” explained May. “I do not expect MPs to have memorized the bill, but, if they are not familiar with the legislation, they will find it difficult to achieve a good score.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 1:22 PM - 0 Comments
The House is proceeding with debate at third reading for C-38 today, the New Democrats have thrown a reasoned amendment at the bill.
That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: this House declines to give third reading to Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, because this House:
a) does not know the full implications of the budget cuts given that the government has kept the details of the $5.2 billion in spending cuts from the Parliamentary Budget Officer whose lawyer Joseph Magnet says the government is violating the Federal Accountability Act law and should turn the information over to the Parliamentary Budget Officer;
b) is concerned with the impact of the changes in the Bill on Canadian society such as: i. making it more difficult for Canadians to access Employment Insurance when they need it and forcing them to accept jobs at 70% of what they previously earned or lose their EI; ii. raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement from 65 to 67 years and thus driving thousands of Canadians into poverty while downloading spending to the provinces; iii. cutting back the federal health transfers to the provinces from 2017 on, which will result in a loss of $31 billion to the health care system; and iv. gutting the federal environmental assessment regime and weakening fish habitat protection which will adversely affect Canada’s environmental sustainability for generations to come; and
c) is opposed to the removal of critical oversight powers of the Auditor General over a dozen agencies and the systematic concentration of powers in the hands of Government ministers over agencies such as the National Energy Board which weakens Canadian’s confidence in the work of parliament, decreases transparency and erodes fundamental democratic institutions by systematically eroding institutional checks and balances to the government’s ideological driven agenda.
This apparently won’t do anything to delay a final vote on C-38—likely to occur tonight—but it does at least get the official opposition’s complaints on the record one last time.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 12:01 PM - 0 Comments
Elizabeth May talks to the West Block about last week’s votes.
Tom Clark: Deal with the points that the government makes about this though. They’re saying first of all the Opposition parties would have voted against all these bills even if they had been separated out. They said that it was a colossal waste of time, that the last 24 hours, 36 hours changed nothing. The bill passed, everything becomes law. So they said, it’s expensive, it cost $120,000 a day to keep Parliament sitting and so you wasted time and money and changed nothing.
Elizabeth May: Well why do we bother with elections really when you think about it. All that time and money spent. You know, how about just shutting down Parliament and saying to Stephen Harper, okay well now that you’re elected we know how everything is going to go because you’ve got the most seats so we’ll go home. We’ve lost the threat of what democracy is about in Westminster Parliamentary tradition. Too many people think we elect a prime minister. We don’t. We elect 308, soon to be 338 Members of Parliament and each one of us has a responsibility to do our job and the idea that it’s a time waster to try and fix legislation, I promise you, if we’d accepted my amendments, Canada would have saved tens of millions dollars because the kind of…the poison pills, just like a warehouse of poison pills in that bill; you’re never going to get through all of them in advance but we could have fixed things. That was the goal.
Inevitability was part of the argument Lisa Raitt tried to make (see the 7:25pm entry) on Thursday evening and Ms. May is probably right to follow that logic to its inevitable absurdity. If the only vote that matters is the one on election day, why bother at all with a Parliament? Why bother with MPs?
Oddly, the inevitability argument actually compels government MPs, even more than opposition MPs, to justify their existences.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
As foreshadowed in my letter, I sought legal advice on the issue. Attached is an opinion outlining reasons why the information that was requested falls within the power of direct request; the information is financial or economic data, in the possession of department heads, necessary for discharging the PBO’s mandate, and not subject to any of the statutory exemptions listed. As such, the information should have been provided as requested, and both your department and the other departments that have not complied are in violation of their legal obligations under the Act.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Wayne Easter says no such gesture was made during last week’s C-38 votes.
In speaking with The Guardian, Easter said he pointed at Harper because the prime minister was bowing like he was an emperor. ”Why don’t you go over and shine his shoes and why don’t you salute him,” Easter said he shouted to the Conservatives.
Joe Oliver’s original complaint and the resulting discussion are here.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 15, 2012 at 3:22 PM - 0 Comments
Eleven hours and 53 minutes after the last vote was counted, Megan Leslie stood and attempted a summation.
“Mr. Speaker, within 24 hours, the Conservatives voted to revoke the Environmental Assessment Act, to end the protection of fish habitats and sabotage the National Energy Board,” she reported this morning.
“Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” protested various Conservatives.
“The NDP proudly opposed these measures,” Ms. Leslie declared. “Do the Conservatives realize that our laws and our economy will be weakened by Bill C-38?”
“Quite the contrary,” responded Jason Kenney. “The facts are clear. This government has the best record in terms of job creation in the G7. We have the best fiscal position in the G7. We have the best economic growth rates in the G7.”
The Conservatives present applauded the Immigration Minister’s boasts.
“The NDP policies are to increase taxes, the deficit spending and sending billions of taxpayer dollars to European banks,” Mr. Kenney continued, wagging his finger.
“This party is against the development of our natural resources,” the minister continued, jabbing the air in front of him. “This is why Canadians have confidence in the economic record of this government.”
Ms. Leslie was apparently read for this. “Mr. Speaker,” she shot back, “if the minister is so proud of these changes why did he not run on them?” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 15, 2012 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
Conversations with Conservative caucus members conducted on condition they would not be quoted suggest MPs are hearing complaints from Tory voters in their ridings about the government’s bundling several measures into a budget bill that have nothing directly to do with the nation’s finances … Meanwhile, grassroots Conservatives at the riding association level have written letters expressing their own scorn.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 12:37 PM - 0 Comments
As noted in our live coverage, Speaker Scheer ruled last night on Nathan Cullen’s question of privilege. Below, the text of that ruling. In short, I’d say it might have been a different matter if a parliamentary committee had issued an order for documents related to the information sought by Mr. Cullen. In that case, the Speaker might have been able to rule as Speaker Milliken did last year in regards to a demand for documents (the ruling that ultimately led to a finding of contempt against the Harper government). Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
Welcome to live coverage of tonight’s C-38 votes. It was expected that voting would begin around 5:30pm, but some procedural fussing about by the Liberals seems to have delayed those votes by a few hours. Stay tuned throughout the evening (and morning?) as we follow the parliamentary festivities.
4:43pm. If you’re only now tuning in, you just missed a fascinating series of points of order, during which Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux twice asked the Speaker to clarify the rules of the House (Speaker Devolin invited Mr. Lamoureux to read the standing orders) and Bob Rae objected to the Defence Minister’s earlier use of the word “mendaciousness” (Peter MacKay duly stood and withdrew the remark). The House is now at the time reserved each day for the presenting of petitions and will soon move to the final period of report stage debate on C-38.
4:51pm. The New Democrats held a photo op this afternoon to demonstrate how they were preparing for tonight’s votes. Mostly this seems to have involved Nathan Cullen removing his jacket and writing “C-38″ on a giant white pad of paper.
5:04pm. The Liberals have chosen now to discuss Mr. Cullen’s point of privilege. And now there is some discussion between the Speaker, Elizabeth May and Denis Coderre about how long one can speak when responding to a question of privilege.
5:15pm. With Mr. Lamoureux still responding to Mr. Cullen’s point of privilege, Conservative MP Bob Zimmer rises on a point of order to question Mr. Lamoureux’s point of privilege. The Speaker stands and reads the rules pertaining to questions of privilege, specifically that such interventions should be “brief and concise” and that the Speaker has the right to “terminate” the discussion. Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti rises on a point of order to object to Mr. Zimmer’s point of order. Mr. Lamoureux attempts a point of order to respond to Mr. Zimmer, but the Speaker suggests he carry on with his point of privilege, but then Mr. Coderre rises on a point of order to complain about the Speaker’s desire to move things along. The Speaker asserts his impartiality and attempts to straighten this all out, but Mr. Coderre rises on another point of order to clarify his respect for the Speaker, but also to express his desire that Mr. Lamoureux be allowed to give a full response to Mr. Cullen’s point of privilege. Mr. Pacetti rises on a point of order to add his concern that Mr. Lamoureux be allowed to speak fully. The Speaker says he was merely reminding everyone of the rules and gives Mr. Lamoureux five minutes to finish and, finally, we’re now back to Mr. Lamoruex’s point of privilege.
5:30pm. The Speaker stands and calls an end to Mr. Lamoureux’s remarks and attempts to move to the last hour of report stage debate on C-38, but now Mauril Belanger is up on a separate point of privilege.
5:32pm. The Speaker cuts off Mr. Belanger to move to deferred votes on two opposition motions and one private member’s bill. MPs have 30 minutes to report to the chamber.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:59 AM - 0 Comments
On its way out of town—clause 183 of the budget bill eliminates it—the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy releases one last report.
The report shows that Canada is making significant progress toward its 2020 target but will not get there with only existing and proposed climate policy measures by all governments. More precisely, the NRT found that:
-Combining all existing and proposed federal, provincial and territorial climate policies and actions would lead to a reduction of 104 Mt CO2e in 2020, which represents almost 50% of the required emission reductions to meet Canada’s target of 607 Mt CO2e in 2020 – but an emissions gap of 117 Mt CO2e remains.
-Provincial policies are driving the largest portion of emission reductions to date – 75% of all emission reductions by 2020 – although the federal portion should rise to approximately a third by 2030.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 10:24 AM - 0 Comments
While the Conservatives fume about IMF assistance for Europe—three more members’ statements were devoted to lamenting for it all yesterday afternoon—the IMF also features in the budget bill. Clause 375 amends the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act so that the Minister of Finance “may provide for payment out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the International Monetary Fund in the manner and at the times provided for by the Agreement set out in Schedule I of a sum or sums of money, not exceeding in the whole an amount equivalent to the subscriptions required from or permitted to be made by Canada, namely, eleven billion, twenty-three million, nine hundred thousand Special Drawing Rights.”
What does that mean? As part of the quota reform agreed to by the G20 ministers in October 2010, Canada’s exposure to the IMF will increase by slightly more than $1 billion. Here is the finance department’s explanation.
This is a commitment made by all IMF countries at the November 2010 G20 Seoul Summit of historic quota and governance reform. This will enhance the IMF’s capacity to provide support to the global economy, increasing the voice and representation of emerging market and developing countries. This predates and is unrelated to the current debate about the adequacy of IMF resources in the context of the European crisis.
How this is accounted for is explained here.
“Funds provided to the IMF do not affect Canada’s net debt measure as they constitute financial assets of the Government. Canada earns interest on these claims at the SDR interest rate when they are drawn to fund lending programs. IMF claims are booked as a part of the official international reserves of the Government of Canada. The preferred creditor status of the IMF, in addition to other financial safeguards, permits Canada to classify claims as official international reserves.”
Yesterday, Shelly Glover specifically mocked the suggestion, from Bob Rae, that IMF funding would be booked as an asset.