By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
The RCMP is apparently reviewing the Senate’s expense troubles and former senator Lowell Murray says the word “crisis” is applicable here. Meanwhile, Postmedia reported yesterday that the Senate’s internal economy committee was seeking a legal opinion on the precise nature of the Constitution’s residency requirement for senators, but that the Senate was not likely to release that legal opinion publicly.
However, the Senate should soon interpret the residency requirement to settle questions that have swirled for months and longer about Duffy but fellow Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin.
Underlying that decision will be a legal opinion about the section of the Constitution dealing with senators’ qualifications. The Senate’s powerful internal economy committee has asked for the legal opinion, but it has not yet arrived at the committee’s table and it’s unlikely the conclusions will ever be made public.
This afternoon, I asked the office of Senator David Tkahuk, chair of the internal economy committee, why that legal opinion wouldn’t be released and have just now been told that the senator has no comment. But NDP MP Charlie Angus has written today to the Senate seeking a legal opinion that Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton apparently referenced and the legal opinion the internal economy has sought.
And now, Senator Patrick Brazeau’s office has released a statement that quibbles with the Senate’s findings against him.
On December 11, 2013, Senator Brazeau met with the sub-committee on Internal Economy to discuss issues pertaining to his primary residence. At that meeting, Senator Brazeau disclosed documentation and facts regarding that, in fact, Maniwaki, Quebec is his primary residence. As requested, Senator Brazeau provided his driver’s license, health card, income tax returns and voting information.
On February 26, 2013 Senator Brazeau met Deloitte auditors at which time additional information was requested. On February 28, 2013 the additional information was hand delivered to Deloitte. On April 15, 2013 Senator Brazeau once again met with the Deloitte auditors to answer any final questions they had.
On April 29, 2013 Senator Brazeau received a copy the draft report prepared by Deloitte. In that report, no conclusions were made regarding Senator Brazeau’s primary residence. Senator Brazeau was, nevertheless, deemed to have met all four primary residence “indicators.” Furthermore, the report states no false claims were made by Senator Brazeau.
Despite meeting Deloitte’s primary residence criteria and co-operating fully and completely, the Senate committee on Internal Economy tabled a report in the Senate Chamber on May 9, in which orders Senator Brazeau to repay the sum of $34,619 in living expenses and $144.97 in travel expenses.
It is unclear how the Committee could have come to this conclusion when there is no clear definition of what, for purposes of their own policy, constitutes a “primary residence.” Deloitte notes that the current Senate policy uses the following terms without any definitions – primary residence, secondary residence, NCR residence and provincial residence. The Deloitte report in no way finds anything untoward regarding the claims and documents filed by Senator Brazeau.
Additionally, Senator Brazeau has fulfilled his obligations in forwarding all relevant documentation requested by the Committee and auditors. It remains unclear if all other sitting Senators meet the primary residency indicators – which Senator Brazeau does — or if they were treated with the same scrutiny, rules, regulations and definitions.
As a result, Senator Brazeau will be seeking greater clarification and will explore all options to have this determination overturned by applying the current policies, rules and regulations pertaining to this matter including calling a public meeting of the Senate Committee on Internal Economy to explain their decision.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 6:41 PM - 0 Comments
And so we return to the existential question of Mike Duffy’s place in this world.
“Even the bogus investigation by his hand-picked cronies in the Senate,” Thomas Mulcair charged, rather audaciously and perhaps imprudently, in the Prime Minister’s direction this afternoon, “found that Mike Duffy does not maintain a primary residence on Prince Edward Island. The Constitution requires that a senator ‘be a resident of the province for which he is appointed.’ The Conservatives now admit, through their own bogus investigation, that Mr. Duffy is not a resident of PEI, yet still say that he is qualified to be a senator from PEI. Why is the Prime Minister allowing this continuous fraud by the Conservatives in the Senate?”
The Prime Minister’s interpretation of the day’s news differed somewhat.
“Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, an independent external auditor was brought in to examine all of these expenses,” Mr. Harper explained. “He looked obviously at the expenses of three particular senators who have had some difficulty.”
Let us from this day forward remember this moment in Senate history as the Great Difficulty. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 22, 2013 at 6:19 PM - 0 Comments
At noon, the House moved to government orders. To present S-7, the Combatting Terrorism Act, stood Candice Bergen, parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety.
“In closing,” she concluded shortly thereafter, “I would like to express my deepest condolences to all of those who have suffered as a result of the despicable acts that occurred in Boston this last week. The way that the city has come together has been an inspiration for all of us. They have shown the world that fear would not define them and I would hope that Canadians, if such a thing would happen, would do the same thing.”
So let us say that it is not fear, but general awareness of fearsome possibility that guides us now.
“At the same time, I would like to say that it is so important to ensure that Canada has the necessary laws and tools to prevent such a heinous attack,” Ms. Bergen continued. “We want to make sure that we are fully prepared and that we can combat terrorism and possible future terrorist acts, as well as making sure that anyone who has been involved in terrorist acts in Canada is dealt with. We have to ensure that the evildoers are met with the justice that they deserve. Otherwise, we as parliamentarians have failed our most basic duty: To protect Canadians.”
Up first was Charlie Angus, who quibbled with nothing less than the fact that this debate was happening now. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 11:56 AM - 0 Comments
After Question Period yesterday, the Government House Leader rose with the defining point of order of our time.
The approach employed by the NDP not only personalizes debate, but it does so in an offensive and inflammatory fashion. Consider what we might expect to hear if the NDP position became the accepted practice in the chamber. If this kind of name-calling is allowed, it would apply not just to ministers and parliamentary secretaries, of course, but to opposition shadow ministers. For example, the hon. member for Halifax, the NDP’s environment critic, could well be referred to as the NDP spokesperson for creating a crippling carbon tax.
According to the NDP, this would be parliamentary language. I do not believe it is. Instead of the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park described as the NDP finance critic, she could instead be called the NDP spokesperson for bigger government and higher taxes, or perhaps the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay could be the spokesperson for unethical interference with independent electoral boundary commissions or, since he changed his vote on the long gun registry, maybe he could be the spokesperson for betraying rural Canadians.
The complaint goes back to March 8, when the New Democrats made reference to “the minister responsible for butchering employment insurance,” which the Conservatives interpreted as an attempt to suggest that was Diane Finley’s actual title. This presents a fairly tricky parsing for the Speaker, I suspect—certainly less obvious than, say, NDP references to Tony Clement as the “Muskoka Minister.” Parsing parliamentary insults is always fun. For instance, I suspect that if the New Democrats had referred to Ms. Finley as “the minister who has been responsible for the butchering of employment insurance” or “the minister who butchered employment insurance” there probably wouldn’t be grounds for a complaint here.
I’m not sure Pierre Poilievre has apologized for referring to Charlie Angus as the “gerrymanderer-in-chief over there.” But perhaps an apology could be part of some kind of armistice agreement between the government and official opposition.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 9:22 PM - 0 Comments
The legendary country and folk singer has died at the age of 77.
In 1969, he released the Reesor Crossing Tragedy, about the Reesor Siding Strike. Here is a cover of that song by NDP MP Charlie Angus and one of his former bands, Grievous Angels.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 5:53 PM - 0 Comments
Charlie Angus wanted to talk about the possibility that individuals appointed to the Senate to represent specific provinces did not sufficiently reside in those provinces. But Pierre Poilievre wanted to talk about how Mr. Angus had been the subject of a complaint made by the Ontario election boundaries commission.
“The Member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay submitted that the community of interest among farmers and people associated with agriculture in the farming area west and north of the City of Temiskaming Shores flowed north along Highway 11, and that there was no community of interest with people involved in agriculture in the electoral district of Nickel Belt,” the report reads, in reference to Mr. Angus. “The Member also expressed concern about the ability to serve constituents effectively if the communities along Highway 11 from the Town of Smooth Rock Falls to west of the Town of Hearst were included in the electoral district. This was the first hint of what the Commission considers to be inappropriate involvement by a Member of Parliament in the electoral redistribution process.”
Hadn’t the Conservatives, just two weeks ago, defended the involvement of parliamentarians in the boundary-drawing process? Well, yes. But they had also been responding, in part, to questions from Mr. Angus.
So… what exactly? Was Mr. Angus’ intervention somehow worse than the Conservative party’s mounting a public political campaign against the boundary commission? Was he merely guilty of the same offence he accused the Conservatives of committing? Were they both wrong? Did Mr. Angus’ wrong make the Conservatives’ actions somehow right? Did Mr. Angus’ actions somehow excuse whatever was going on in the Senate?
“He is the one who stands in the House and grandstands so regularly, putting himself on the highest moral level,” Mr. Poilievre explained a moment later.” He is the one who has been singled out for breaking the rules. He is the one who should stand and explain that.”
So perhaps Mr. Angus should stand and proclaim his offence a “big victory” and that would be that.
But ultimately Mr. Poilievre’s allegation is just that: hypocrisy. Whatever his actual title as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport or some such, Mr. Poilievre is something like the Minister of State for I-Know-You-Are-But-What-Am-I? And he is very good at his job. Whatever you can accuse his side of doing, he can think of something that your side did that was somewhat similar in nature. Or he can suggest that you—at least if you are the NDP’s Alexandre Boulerice—are a separatist. Presumably the aim is to ensure that everyone is regarded as equally unworthy of your trust. His fellow Conservatives adore his performances. For sure, as song and dance routines go, Mr. Poilievre’s is certainly more entertaining than, say, Julian Fantino’s lo-fi grumble or Rob Nicholson’s perpetual disappointment in the opposition.
But he is still no John Baird—the gleeful master of the glancing gotcha, the wizard of fleeting and tangential advantage. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 22, 2013 at 5:31 PM - 0 Comments
Senator Mike Duffy apparently visited the CBC studio in Charlottetown this afternoon to say he’ll be paying back the living expenses he claimed in regards to his home in Ottawa.
“Everywhere I go, people are talking. Well where do you live? What’s it all about? …,” he said. “It’s become a major distraction. “So my wife and I discussed it, and we decided that in order to turn the page, to put all this behind us, we are going to voluntarily pay back my living expenses related to the house we have in Ottawa.”
Duffy blamed the Senate for having unclear rules and forms. “We are going to pay it back, and until the rules are clear — and they’re not clear now, the forms are not clear, and I hope the Senate will redo the forms to make them clear — I will not claim the housing allowance.”
It might still be asked whether Senator Duffy meets the residency requirement included in the Constitution, as non-specific as that clause is.
Update 5:37pm. A statement from Senator Duffy.
Four years ago, I was given the opportunity to sit in the Senate as a voice for Prince Edward Islanders in Ottawa. I jumped at the chance. I was born here, I was raised here, I own a house here, I pay property taxes here, and most important, my heart is here.
I also started my career here, and took my Island sensibilities along when I was covering politics in Ottawa.
Being a Senator has allowed me to do a lot of good for PEI communities. And there is a lot more to be done.
Recently questions have been raised about my eligibility for the housing allowance provided to MPs and Senators.
The Senate rules on housing allowances aren’t clear, and the forms are confusing. I filled out the Senate forms in good faith and believed I was in compliance with the rules.
Now it turns out I may have been mistaken.
Rather than let this issue drag on, my wife and I have decided that the allowance associated with my house in Ottawa will be repaid.
I want there to be no doubt that I’m serving Islanders first.
Update 5:42pm. A Conservative source tells me, “the government has no doubt whatsoever about Senator Duffy’s qualification to represent PEI in the Senate.”
Update 6:05pm. A statement from Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton.
“We have committed to ensuring that all expenses are appropriate, that the rules governing expenses are appropriate and to report back to the public on these matters. Senator Duffy maintains a residence in Prince Edward Island and has deep ties to the province.”
Update 6:22pm. A statement from NDP MP Charlie Angus.
Mike Duffy now says that he may have made a mistake when claiming tens of thousands of dollars of living expenses in Ottawa. If you break the rules, saying “I’m sorry” just doesn’t cut it. There must be consequences. What discipline will the Senator face?
Mr. Duffy’s track record on this is troubling. He denied any problem and ran away from questions. It seems some Senators will do almost anything to avoid accountability.
If any forms were falsified in order to try and get extra expense money, the Senate should immediately refer the matter to the police.
Senator Duffy has also still not addressed the question of whether he has met the obligations to be a Senator from Prince Edward Island.
Conservatives are now sending out inspectors to the homes of EI recipients. Perhaps what they should be doing is sending out inspectors to the homes of Conservative and Liberal Senators.
While Conservatives continue to defend the entitlements of their Senators, the NDP will continue to stand up for Canadian taxpayers.
The form in question is contained within the official Senators’ Travel Policy as Appendix E.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 6:09 PM - 0 Comments
The unofficial public audit of Senator Pamela Wallin’s expense account continues apace.
“Let us put the spending of these tax dollars into perspective,” NDP MP Wayne Marston graciously offered shortly before Question Period, referring to some $300,000 in “other” travel expenses apparently claimed by the Senator over the last few years. “This could have paid for one year of old age security for 57 seniors. It took the combined taxes of 28 hard-working Canadian families to pay for this person’s ‘other’ travel. Think about it. Every single dime in taxes for 28 Canadian families just to cover this senator’s ‘other’ travel.”
There is probably a worthwhile proposal here somewhere to make the Senate entirely dependent on voluntary public pledges.
A minute later, Thomas Mulcair stood and pegged the Senator’s travel expenses at $350,000 over a 27-month period. The NDP leader was displeased, but the Prime Minister was apparently unconcerned.
“Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, the amount spent by the Senator for travel is similar to that of other parliamentarians,” he said.
In fact, Mr. Harper had an example.
“Just to give an example of that, for instance, over the past three years the average amount spent on travel to and from provinces by western members of the New Democratic Party has been $350,000,” the Prime Minister reported, having apparently stayed up late last night to do the math. “These are the costs that parliamentarians incur when they travel back and forth from Ottawa to their provinces. That is what the senator has done. Of course, all senators and members are committed to ensuring these expenses are appropriate.”
Mr. Mulcair was not quite persuaded to drop the subject. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP leader had asked a straightforward question and the Prime Minister had not quite responded with a straightforward answer and so now Thomas Mulcair, the NDP leader forced to gesture demonstratively this day with only his left arm on account of a fall on his right arm this morning, leaned forward and stared down the Prime Minister.
“Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve a straight answer,” he ventured. “Did the Prime Minister know his party was behind these fraudulent calls, yes or no?
The New Democrats applauded their man’s strict advisement of the options.
“The independence of the Canadian Electoral Boundaries Commission is fundamental to our democracy,” Mr. Mulcair continued. “Conservatives paid for fraudulent robocalls using a fake company name to misinform voters and manipulate an important part of our democratic system. Worse yet, Conservative Party officials lied to Canadians to try to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Who will the Prime Minister hold accountable for this fraud?”
Alas, Mr. Harper was unimpressed with Mr. Mulcair’s presentation. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:07 PM - 0 Comments
Picking up where they left off yesterday, Charlie Angus and Peter Van Loan went another round this afternoon.
Charlie Angus. No wonder the Ethics Commissioner is fed up with these guys over here. We have a minister who was found guilty of breaking section 9 of the conflict of interest law, but rather than coming clean the Conservatives have been hiding behind loopholes, they have trolling the letters of opposition members to obscure the fact that he was found guilty. No wonder the Ethics Commissioner wants the power to be able to fine these cabinet ministers. A simple question, will the Conservatives support the Ethics Commissioner in her desire to strengthen the rules or are they going to try to gut the act to cover up for those insiders who are continually breaking the law? It is a simple question.
Peter Van Loan. Mr. Speaker, the other day I read a letter from the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay supporting AVR radio. It might be interesting to note that the president and executive vice-president of AVR actually made donations to the NDP in 2011. This letter, of May 18, 2012, went to the CRTC. He stands here as the ethics czar for the NDP and his main argument is that the NDP should be held to a lower standard of ethics than the Conservative MPs. Perhaps that is what Mary Dawson is talking about.
Here again is the compliance order issued to the Finance Minister after his appeal to the CRTC on behalf of an easy-listening station. The ethics commissioner applied Section 9 of the Act and Annex H of the guide. Section 9 sets out that “no public office holder shall use his or her position as a public office holder to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to further the public office holder’s private interests or those of the public office holder’s relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests.” What’s the definition of a public office holder? Section 2 defines it as follows.
(a) a minister of the Crown, a minister of state or a parliamentary secretary;
(b) a member of ministerial staff;
(c) a ministerial adviser;
(d) a Governor in Council appointee, other than the following persons, namely,
(i) a lieutenant governor,
(ii) officers and staff of the Senate, House of Commons and Library of Parliament,
(iii) a person appointed or employed under the Public Service Employment Act who is a head of mission within the meaning of subsection 13(1) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act,
(iv) a judge who receives a salary under the Judges Act,
(v) a military judge within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the National Defence Act, and
(vi) an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, not including the Commissioner;
(d.1) a ministerial appointee whose appointment is approved by the Governor in Council; and
(e) a full-time ministerial appointee designated by the appropriate minister of the Crown as a public office holder.
You’ll note that the Finance Minister is a minister of the Crown and that nowhere in the definition is a member of parliament identified as a public office holder.
Annex H of the Prime Minister’s guide explains that “Ministers must not intervene, or appear to intervene, with tribunals on any matter requiring a decision in their quasi-judicial capacity, except as permitted by statute.”
On those grounds, the ethics commissioner found that Mr. Flaherty had erred. Mr. Flaherty explained that his mistake was including his ministerial title under his name at the bottom of the letter, but, in scolding two parliamentary secretaries, the ethics commissioner later clarified that the actual use of the title wasn’t important. In other words, a minister or parliamentary secretary couldn’t pretend he or she was writing as only a member of parliament if they were otherwise a minister or parliamentary secretary.
Mr. Van Loan responses on Monday—see here and here—suggested Mr. Flaherty and the government were merely operating previously with a different interpretation of the Conflict of Interest Act (although there would still be the matter of the government’s own accountability guide). But beginning with his second response on Tuesday and continuing yesterday and today, the Government House Leader seems to be expressing confusion about the standard applied by the commissioner.
Or perhaps Mr. Van Loan means to suggest that the Act, which his government introduced, is illogical. In that regard, if the Harper government would like now to change the rules so that all MPs are banned from such writing letters to the tribunals like the CRTC, there is certainly a case to be made for such a change.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 4:48 PM - 0 Comments
The newest Conservative MP demonstrated her keen sense of satire with a statement to the House before Question Period this afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, everyone has heard the old saying, “don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk”. Unfortunately, I do not think the New Democrats truly understand the meaning of this statement. In fact, yesterday, you, Mr. Speaker, had to put the NDP member for Timmins—James Bay back in his place for using unparliamentary language while the NDP ironically tabled a motion to improve House decorum.
Better yet, this motion refers to instances of extreme misrepresentation of facts or position in the House. Canadians are rightly worried about the New Democrats’ misrepresentation of facts and positions. After all, the NDP is the party that has a $21 billion carbon tax in its policy documents in black and white and yet its members spent the fall denying it here in the House. We will continue to expose the NDP’s $21 billion carbon tax that would raise the price of everything.
Here again is a rough guide to the carbon tax farce.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 10:58 AM - 0 Comments
While the Prime Minister’s Office and Ned Franks explain the reasons for not involving the Governor General in a meeting between the Prime Minister and First Nations leaders, Charlie Angus seems to try to articulate a compromise.
But NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose Northern Ontario riding includes Ms. Spence’s Attawapiskat community, said the Prime Minister should allow the Governor-General to open any future meeting in order to build trust and “dial down the rhetoric.” “I’m concerned about the symbolism if [Ms. Spence] got sick or something happened — I think it would really throw everything off track,” he said. “If [Mr. Harper] sends some message of goodwill, we could ratchet this down a lot.”
This sounds like a proposal to have the Governor General do what he did a year ago at the Crown-First Nations gathering.
There are a couple ways to question this proposal. The first is the practical: Would this be enough to satisfy Theresa Spence and those who are following her lead on this demand that the Governor General be involved? If the answer is no, this proposal is moot.
But even if this would be sufficient to appease Ms. Spence, there is the philosophical question: Is any compromise worth making when it is based on a very problematic understanding of how our democracy works? Is it worth finding a compromise at the risk of perpetuating—or seeming to give into—a very problematic understanding of how our democracy works?
I think I generally lean towards upholding the principles of our democracy and refusing demands that seem to be based on a very problematic understanding our how our democracy works, but if having David Johnston stand up and say a few words (presuming he then takes his leave and goes back to Rideau Hall) would be enough to get past this odd stand-off, I’m somewhat tempted to say go for it and be done with it. (Alternatively, you refuse a compromise, stick with the principled view and assume that this point of dispute will ultimately pass. I suppose this calculation involves judging Ms. Spence’s present and future health and the likelihood she’ll give up her protest or otherwise be fine.)
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 21, 2012 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
Charlie Angus writes about Attawapiskat and Theresa Spence.
The question is what role will the Prime Minister play this time around? People often describe him as a “brilliant tactician,” but tactics aren’t enough to run a country. From a tactical point of view, he will no doubt assume that Christmas is the worst time to mount a protest because the public’s attention is being diverted to home and family. He might also think that a winter hunger strike will sap the energy of the Chief quickly and bad weather will dampen public support rallies.
Yes, this is all true. But what Mr. Harper needs to understand is that he isn’t the one holding the cards.
Hunger strikes are very volatile and potentially divisive actions. They stem from desperation and a belief that all other attempts to negotiate in good faith have been exhausted.
Jim Denis champions the cause.
The fundamental issue is the nation-to-nation treaty relationship with Indigenous peoples that Canadian governments repeatedly flout by passing legislation without free, prior and informed consent.
Harper and the Governor-General (as Crown representative) must meet with Chief Spence and other First Nations leaders, to not only discuss this relationship but take concrete action to repair it.
And the CBC talks to Shawn Atleo.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 12:21 PM - 0 Comments
Yesterday leaders attending the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting took their their battle…
Yesterday leaders attending the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting took their their battle to the Hill. They protested against the budget bill being voted on that night and then had a spontaneous face-to-face meeting with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver after they were led into the House of Commons foyer by NDP MP Charlie Angus. Northern Ontario MP Angus said he asked Oliver to meet some of the chiefs and the minister obliged. Some chiefs tried to force their way into the House but were met by security.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 9:50 PM - 0 Comments
A photo gallery by Mitchel Raphael
MPs and Hill staff gathered at the Government Conference Centre for the annual All-Party Party — an opportunity for MPs to thank those who sweep their floors and carry their binders.
By John Geddes, Paul Wells, Jonathon Gatehouse, Julie Smyth, Aaron Wherry and Michael Petrou - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Maclean’s 2012 power list
Ask around about the attributes of influence in the federal government during Stephen Harper’s rule. The answers will vary widely depending on who’s doing the talking, but certain elements will pop up with intriguing regularity. Just about everyone, for instance, agrees that power these days tilts westward. And, sure enough, the top three on our list—the Prime Minister himself, inevitably, followed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the governor of the Bank of Canada—all hail from Alberta.
Yet Harper had little to do with the rise of Beverley McLachlin and Mark Carney. So is this top-of-the-list cluster of Albertans mere happenstance, or a true sign of a pattern of power? One thing it isn’t, we promise, is a contrivance. Maclean’s writers and editors compiled this admittedly subjective list based on our own combined experience covering Ottawa’s most important people, tested against the sage insights of political strategists, veterans of the public service and lobbyists who make it their business to size up the city’s elite.
What makes one partisan or public servant, public figure or private power broker seem to matter more than another can be mysterious. In some cases, managerial style lifted a figure into our sights, like McLachlin’s subtle touch with the nine egos on the top court, or the way top bureaucrat Wayne Wouters boosts the morale of a public service whose pinnacle he commands. Often power flows in well-worn channels, as through the offices of the finance or foreign minister. Sometimes, though, someone cracks the institutional edifice, and influence streams in unexpectedly. Look at what Kevin Page has done as the first parliamentary budget officer. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. It is not necessarily Peter Penashue’s fault that he is the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister. And it is not necessarily Mr. Penashue’s fault that the existence of the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister is something of a mystery. But so long as Mr. Penashue is the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister it is for him to justify that existence.
Indeed, to accept the job is to take on something of an existential crisis. To be the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister is to consider why we have an Intergovernmental Affairs Minister. It has been this way for some years. And it is something Stephane Dion—a former Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, but one who had an identifiable job description—began to ponder a year ago.
“Mr. Speaker, is there a Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in this Conservative government?” he asked last December.
“Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, if this government even has such a minister,” he sighed last March.
Mr. Penashue might’ve had only to contend with Mr. Dion’s fussiness were it not for the questions about the accounting practices of his election campaign. Such questions have now led to those larger questions. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 5:59 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Of all the festive games to be played on Halloween, shaming committee chairs is somewhat less messy than leaving a bag of flaming dog poop on a neighbour’s doorstep, but decidedly less fun than bobbing for apples. Alas, under the stodgy rules of parliamentary decorum, it was the best the NDP could offer this afternoon.
The New Democrats have been occupying themselves these days with attempting to convince various committees to take up study of C-45, the government’s latest budget bill. The Conservatives, soon after tabling the bill in the House, had said that they would allow the bill to be studied at 10 committees. The Conservatives vowed they would move a motion at the finance committee to do just that. But the New Democrats were apparently keen to see those studies commence post haste and so have been proposing motions hither and yon. Each of those efforts seems to have been stymied. And so now the New Democrats get to claim great umbrage.
“Mr. Speaker, this is simple,” Megan Leslie explained this afternoon. “A motion was proposed, we went in camera, and the motion never came out again.”
Ms. Leslie wondered if the chair of the environment committee—Conservative MP Mark Warawa—might stand and confirm that he was going to be scheduling hearings on C-45. To respond though stood Transport Minister Denis Lebel, who assured Ms. Leslie of the validity of the budget’s changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 5:24 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. And so the House returned to the drama, intrigue and tragedy of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Oh if only the Marquess of Lorne—John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll and fourth governor general of Canada—had known what he had wrought when he signed into law “an Act respecting Bridges over the navigable waters, constructed under the authority of Provincial Acts” on May 17, 1882. One wonders if he would have hesitated to put his signature on the bill if he’d known that one day its reform would be used to mercilessly mock the president of the Treasury Board.
“Mr. Speaker, members opposite must be getting dizzy from all the spin around their talking points on the Navigable Waters Protection Act,” the NDP’s Megan Leslie sighed this afternoon. “First, they claimed that the changes had nothing to do with environment. They were just reducing red tape for cottagers. However, even Conservatives knew that this law actually did have a role in environmental protection, although they did try to deny it by rewriting websites, and history.”
It is to the Macdonald government’s eternal shame that it did not enact a proper FAQ when it passed the act in 1882. So much of this month’s confusion might’ve been avoided.
“Yesterday, the finance minister changed his tune again and he said that these changes were actually about austerity,” Ms. Leslie claimed, feigning confusion. “So, what is the real answer here? Why is the government gutting environmental protection from the bill?”
Transport Minister Denis Lebel stood and, in his deliberate English, lamented for the great blight that the old bill had become over the last 130 years. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 1:36 PM - 0 Comments
An interesting exchange from the very end of yesterday’s debate on the budget.
Charlie Angus. Mr. Speaker, I had a great deal of respect for Jim Prentice. There was a man who stood up in the House and did not misinform people. He was a man one could say would never lie. Jim Prentice in 2009 stood up as part of the throne speech and said that the government would put a price on carbon. The present Minister of Foreign Affairs went to Montreal and said that the government would open a carbon trading institute in Montreal and “put a price on carbon”. Either they were making that up, they were lying or they thought the Canadian people were stupid, but that was the policy the government ran on: that it would put a price on carbon. I see the bobbleheads who are now repeating this misinformation, the lie about the so-called carbon tax, when the government had told the Canadian people that it was putting a price on carbon I would like to ask that hon. member, what happened to the commitment made by Jim Prentice, an honourable man in the House? Was that just cynicism on the government’s part or was he making it up?
Joy Smith. Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, the Prime Minister would never tax the public in any way, shape or form to that end. The fact of the matter is that I have never before been called a “bobblehead” and I take exception to that kind of analogy. I have had nine years of university. I have raised six children. I do not consider myself a bobblehead. I consider myself an intellectual person who works hard to raise the standard of everything I do, and I am saying great kudos to the government and our Prime Minister, who has protected this whole country from financial ruin when a lot of other countries have experienced economic downturns.
Dan Harris. Mr. Speaker, following up on the point that my colleague raised, Mr. Prentice made his comments in response to the Speech from the Throne. The Speech from the Throne actually did say that the government would put a price on carbon, and that price was $65 a tonne. If we take the total output, that would actually mean a $45 billion tax on carbon, which is more than double what the entire Conservative caucus is saying we are pitching. How do we square that circle?
Joy Smith. Mr. Speaker, how I square that circle is that we are living in the year 2012 and the Prime Minister has never, ever said anything about putting a tax on carbon. It is the NDP carbon tax that would raise groceries. It is the NDP carbon tax that would increase gas prices. That is—
Royal Galipeau. Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I both ran in 2008 against a carbon tax. The party that ran on the carbon tax was relegated to a reduced caucus in the opposition. They are now stuck in the third corner. It is true that we talked about carbon trading with the United States. The United States would not trade. We cannot trade with ourselves, so that is the end of it.
The problem for Mr. Galipeau and Ms. Smith is that their party and government now consider “carbon trading” to be the same thing as a carbon tax. And while Mr. Harper didn’t talk about putting a tax on carbon, he did talk about putting a price on carbon. And so far as the Conservative party and the Harper government are now concerned, a price on carbon is a tax on carbon.
(There could be a discussion to be had about whether cap-and-trade should be pursued in Canada if the United States is not willing to do likewise—something Mr. Galipeau seems to suggest—but it’s a discussion that has been rendered moot by the Harper government’s primary arguments that putting a price on carbon is a carbon tax and a carbon tax is a terrible thing.)
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 11:04 AM - 0 Comments
Elizabeth May’s fear factor
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May… is gearing up
Elizabeth May’s fear factor
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May is gearing up for the three by-elections (yet to be called) that she hopes could double her caucus of one. She feels the Greens have a chance in Calgary Centre, the riding formerly represented by Conservative Lee Richardson, who resigned to work for Alberta Premier Alison Redford, and in Victoria, which became vacant after NDP MP and deputy Speaker Denise Savoie stepped down for health reasons. One of the advantages of the Victoria riding for May is that it borders her own riding, and she won’t have to get on a plane to help with the campaign. Flying can be a problem for May. “I’m too afraid of flying to sleep,” she says. When she takes the red-eye from B.C. to Ottawa she is pretty much up for 24 hours—a skill, she notes, that has its perks: “That’s why I’m so good at voting all night.”
Tankers not tank tops
Over the summer, NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie, the party’s environment critic, was raising awareness about environmental issues surrounding the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. While in British Columbia, her fellow NDP MP Nathan Cullen introduced her to Greer Kaiser, a local activist originally from Nova Scotia, the province that Leslie represents. Leslie connected Kaiser with local Halifax environment groups (the Atlantic chapter of Sierra Club Canada, the Ecology Action Centre and the Atlantic Canada Sustainable Energy Coalition) and the duo brought their pipeline-awareness message to a barbeque called “Tankers vs. Tank Tops.” Participants were asked to wear creative tops for the cause. Leslie had a multicoloured tank top and then put on a T-shirt, given to her by the organizers, that said, “No pipeline. No tankers. No problem.” Liberal MP Geoff Regan attended the event but did not wear a tank top.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 11:53 AM - 0 Comments
The square in front of Toronto’s city hall was packed for Dear Jack, a tribute to the late NDP leader
The square in front of Toronto’s city hall was packed for Dear Jack, a tribute to mark the one-year anniversary of NDP leader Jack Layton’s death.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 6, 2012 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Liberal MP Scott Andrews has formally requested that the ethics committee be recalled to hear from Dean Del Mastro.
“Mr. Del Mastro says he wants a process put in place by which he can clear his name,” said Mr. Andrews. “By proposing this meeting, the Liberal Party is providing Mr. Del Mastro the opportunity, with full Parliamentary immunity, to respond to these very serious allegations. This is a process that he has been asking for and we hope that he will put his money where his mouth is, agree to appear and provide the documents that he claims will exonerate him.”
As Kady O’Malley notes, Mr. Andrews needs three more members of the committee to second his request before the committee can be recalled, but it appears unlikely that the NDP will support Mr. Andrews. Charle Angus tells me he is happy to talk with Mr. Andrews about this proposal, but he is not sure how effective and appropriate a committee hearing would be—would it, for instance, draw enough witnesses to explore the charges involved?—and he is concerned about providing Mr. Del Mastro with a platform to speak with immunity.
If this is about a gong show then count me out. I want to know that we’re getting a serious investigation of what happened there and it’s done fairly. And I also don’t see the point of giving a forum to allow someone who is under investigation by Elections Canada, or potentially by the Director of Public Prosecutions, to walk in, say what they want to say in a majority-controlled Conservative committee and then walk out with immunity.