By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 28, 2011 - 50 Comments
The Scene.“Kyoto is in the past,” Peter Kent intoned today at an announcement about something else. Not that he was confirming his government’s intention to withdraw from it. But not that he was denying it either. “This isn’t the day,” he explained.
Doing stuff is easy. It’s justifying the doing that’s hard. And so Mr. Kent is not yet ready to say for sure that the government is willing to do something about what it now only implies. The correct day for that is apparently scheduled to be a month from now, just before Christmas. But then someone who knew as much went and told the evening news. Only now Mr. Kent is insisting on pretending that didn’t happen. ”I wonʼt comment on a speculative report,” he said this morning.
He will say that the previous Liberal government’s decision to commit to the protocol was “one of the biggest blunders they made.” And the Prime Minister did once dismiss the whole thing as a “socialist scheme.” And the Conservative platform in 2006 didn’t even mention it. And successive governments have now spent more than a decade successfully ignoring it. And the current government has said it won’t extend past next year its commitment to it. But let it not be said that the government is prepared to actually withdraw from it. At least not yet. At least not that Mr. Kent is willing to say.
Not that the government’s unwillingness to announce a decision stops the opposition from lamenting that decision. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 6:51 PM - 34 Comments
The Scene. “I don’t believe,” the Prime Minister once declared, “that any taxes are good taxes.” Most everything Stephen Harper says is sure to be contested by at least a couple people, but on this point all parties now seem mostly to agree. Even if they do make a great show still of objecting to each other.
“Mr. Speaker,” the NDP’s Libby Davies began this afternoon, not bothering to pause for her colleagues’ applause and talking fast, “the Conservatives’ reckless policy of corporate tax cuts has helped gut our country’s manufacturing sector. The Conservatives do not mind helping profitable oil companies and the big banks just love the handouts that they get, but there has been no benefit for the manufacturing sector, and now we have lost hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Nowhere is this more evident than in Ontario, with even Mr. Hudak saying as much. Will the Prime Minister wake up, see the evidence and cancel his next round of pointless corporate tax giveaways?”
The Prime Minister stood to respond, but a rejoinder had already been tabled moments before by Conservative MP Eve Adams. ”The last thing Canada’s families need now,” she had warned the House, “is the NDP’s massive job-killing tax hikes that would cost jobs and hurt our economy.”
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 1:30 PM - 8 Comments
What better way to build lasting memories than with a group reading of Atlas Shrugged?
Nothing beats the memories we make at summer camp. Leaping into a cold lake. Toasting marshmallows over a bonfire. Being lectured about how socialism erodes the ambition of the individual.
That last bit of good-time summer fun comes courtesy of the Tea Party, whose members in Tampa, Fla., recently organized a camp for children aged eight to 12. They called it Liberty School—and being a camper there answered certain questions (“How does government undermine my free will?”) while raising others (“Why are my parents doing this to me?”).
What could be more thrilling for a kid than to spend a summer’s day putting names to portraits of America’s founding fathers? What nine-year-old boy doesn’t dream of whiling away a sunny afternoon being subjected to a screed about the evils of the Federal Reserve? One assumes the ritual singing of Kumbaya was replaced with a group reading of Atlas Shrugged.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 3, 2011 at 10:49 AM - 3 Comments
The Conservative backbencher pushed her government to reconsider its support of the asbestos industry.
“The myopic policy of supporting the asbestos industry without fail must be viewed rationally and scientifically, and from both viewpoints the current policy our government supports falls well short,” she told Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis on March 25, 2010…
“In my view, this is not a partisan political issue, nor is it an issue where electoral politics should trump human health concerns that are truly at issue with the policy,” she stated.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 10:43 AM - 65 Comments
Welcome to live coverage of this morning’s cabinet shuffle, wherein we find out which backbenchers we have to pretend to take more seriously for the next little while.
There’s been a steady stream of Conservatives arriving at Rideau Hall and the Prime Minister is due shortly. So far we seem only to know for sure that John Baird will be the next Foreign Affairs Minister. Presumably he will be counted on to bluster away opposition criticism of the government’s international endeavours, charm foreign officials and periodically convene breathless news conferences to report the latest breathtaking developments in our make-believe war with Russia. Presumably he’ll do fine. His image problem notwithstanding.
10:45am. Our Andrew Coyne is already deeply disappointed with all of this. Follow his Twitter feed this morning to watch his head explode repeatedly.
10:52am. The Prime Minister has now arrived. The swearing in is to commence in about 20 minutes.
11:04am. CTV reports a 39-member ministry, which equals an all-time high mark. Welcome to the new era of smaller government.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 12:40 PM - 61 Comments
A senior federal official confirmed that the Saskatchewan project is a “test case” that will determine how the government deals with large sports infrastructure projects, including a politically charged proposal from Quebec City. The P3 program is deemed, at this point, to be the most likely source of federal funding for stadiums and hockey arenas.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 4:07 PM - 30 Comments
If the doctrine of ministerial accountability was still recognized by this government, it would be tempting right about now to ask how many members of a minister’s staff have to be implicated in wrongdoing before a minister is held accountable.
In October, Paradis adviser Sebastien Togneri resigned after it was revealed he had meddled in at least three different access-to-information requests while with the Public Works Department. Those incidents are the subject of an investigation by the information commissioner.
But two more policy advisers within Paradis’ office were also involved in dealing with records destined for public release under access-to-information legislation. Documents obtained by The Canadian Press show that Marc Toupin and Jillian Andrews both argued against the release of material on sensitive subjects.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 29, 2010 at 1:56 PM - 11 Comments
In the process of detailing the government’s confused response to last summer’s earthquake, the Citizen’s Tom Spears explains what it takes to issue a news release in this town.
Even though the announcement was 75 words long (not including phone numbers), it needed: Approval in principle from an assistant deputy minister — but still subject to approval of “media lines,” a sort of script outlining the department’s central message; Approval from the office of minister Christian Paradis; Translating the announcement of the conference call; Approving the translation; Approval from the Privy Council Office; Posting the announcement on the Natural Resources website — and immediately pulling it off again, because media lines were not yet approved by the assistant deputy minister; Approving the media lines; Last-minute copy editing, literally. One minute before the call, someone felt the French copy should list the time as 18 h, not 18h00.
Finally, at 6:24 p.m., sending out the conference call invitation on a commercial wire service — 24 minutes after the call began.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 6:03 PM - 49 Comments
The Scene. The Liberal leader opened with two questions about the need to address the looming crisis of pensions in this country. Then he moved on to more relevant matters.
“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “let me raise another issue. In sworn testimony before a House of Commons committee, explosive allegations were made about how the contract was awarded for the renovation of the West Block. For a year now, we have been trying to get to the bottom of this sorry affair, and now there are lurid allegations about the minister and his cashmere coat, and the question I have is, why is the minister still in his job? When will the Prime Minister tell Canadians the truth about this affair?”
Indeed, this morning had brought another vaguely scandalous twist in the hypothetically scandalous story of Christian Paradis. It seemed the Minister of Natural Resources once owned a $5,000 coat, that he had lost this coat at a fundraising cocktail, and that a construction company owner who had obtained a government contract to renovate West Block and who had been at that party was subsequently asked to buy Mr. Paradis a new coat. Crucially, this coat was allegedly made of cashmere—a word that begs for parody.
With Michael Ignatieff’s question awaiting response, the Prime Minister stood here to address an anxious nation. “Mr. Speaker, the facts are very well known in this particular case,” he assured. “Officials have testified there is absolutely no political interference in the contracts. In fact the individual the leader of the Liberal Party is quoting is an individual who lost the contract.”
But what of the coat? What of this profoundly telling outer-garment? Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 1:52 PM - 28 Comments
The primary revelation from today’s committee hearings into the rebuilding of West Block seems to be that the Natural Resources Minister prefers cashmere.
The following day, Mr. Sauvé said, he received a call from one of Mr. Paradis’s aides who asked for an identical cashmere coat to be bought for Mr. Paradis at Holt Renfrew, at a cost of more than $5,000. Mr. Paradis acknowledges that the coat was stolen but denies that he directly or indirectly asked for compensation.
After Tuesday’s testimony, Mr. Paradis’s spokesman said the minister simply asked the Conservative riding association if he could be compensated $400 for the theft. Spokesman Richard Walker said that in addition to losing his coat, Mr. Paradis lost his keys, which forced him to replace a number of locks at his house. “The coat was worth $900,” said spokesman Richard Walker, saying it was bought at a wholesaler in Mr. Paradis’s riding.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 25, 2010 at 6:35 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. To his credit, Christian Paradis did not avoid the House this afternoon. No doubt knowing he would face a new round of questions about the latest in an unfortunate series of circumstances, the former minister of public works and current minister of natural resources took his seat along the front row all the same.
No doubt knowing he would not have to rise to answer a single one of these questions, he surely did so quite comfortably.
“Mr. Speaker, in September 2007, one week before it closed, the request for proposals for renovation of the West Block North Tower was amended and the qualifications needed to bid dramatically downgraded,” Liberal Marcel Proulx said first, reviewing the newest revelation for the benefit of the House. “Experts in the construction industry have said this would have benefited only one bidder, LM Sauvé.”
Nearly every other day of the last month has brought some new curiosity such as this—another clipping to tape to the wall in search of connections. Were it not for Richard Nixon, it might all be the stuff of whispered conversations around the booths at Hy’s. As it is, 38 years after those two-bit burglaries, we sit around the press gallery wondering how properly to attach the suffix “gate” to the situation.
Once more it is difficult to know whether to curse or thank the 37th president of the United States. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 6:58 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. As he made his first intervention, Michael Ignatieff insisted on staring down Stephen Harper’s empty chair. Perhaps it’s to the point now that the Liberal leader sees Mr. Harper’s dismissive mug wherever he looks. Perhaps he simply found the green felt of the House seats a soothing sight to gaze upon.
His question this day had to do with the potential sale of Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Incorporated to BHP Billiton Limited and all of the national, economic and social implications within and around that transaction. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “yesterday when the Prime Minister was asked about the possible sale of Potash Corp he basically shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Australia, America, who cares?’”
In full, the Prime Minister had said, “This is a proposal for an American-controlled company to be taken over by an Australian-controlled company.” Whether Mr. Harper was shrugging at the time, I do not remember. But given that he is given to shrugging reflexively at almost all propositions, it is certainly a distinct possibility. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 6:06 PM - 0 Comments
And indeed, on this—the hallmarks, that is—there can be little debate. There is a lucrative government contract. There is an RCMP investigation. There is an individual, unregistered to lobby the federal government, who received payments from the individual who was awarded the lucrative contract. There is the party fundraiser the contract winner hosted that was attended by the cabinet minister whose department oversees such contracts. There is—or at least was—some kind of departmental probe that may or may not be related to all of this.
That there is as yet little sense of what exactly, if anything, this amounts to only heightens the intrigue—the House rarely as excited as when it hasn’t the faintest idea where it’s headed.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 3:45 PM - 0 Comments
During QP this afternoon, the opposition directed five questions at Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis during QP in regards to his staff’s handling of access to information requests. Government house leader John Baird stood to respond to all five, allowing Mr. Paradis to rest comfortably in his frontbench seat for the duration of the session.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 11:14 AM - 0 Comments
Back in the day, when my friends were preoccupied with their LSAT prep courses and I was buried in the writings of Jacques Derrida, they would mock me, saying, “What’s the point of that pseudo-intellectual crap?”
Well, who’s laughing now?
Sure, my old classmates all made partner years ago, and have long since been salting it away in offshore tax shelters. But which of them can make sense of the situation Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis finds himself in?
Finally, my immersion in advanced literary theory is giving me the upper hand.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 9:15 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Press links two other members of Christian Paradis’ staff to the questionable handling of access to information requests. The Sun meanwhile obtains a five-year-old briefing book prepared for a cabinet minister in the Liberal government of the time, the contents of which suggest something similar might have been happening in that minister’s office at the time.
A “source close to the Harper government” helpfully explains as follows.
“It happens all the time,” said a source close to the Harper government who asked not to be identified. ”The difference with Togneri is that he did it via e-mail instead of calling someone. He left a paper trail,” said the source.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 4, 2010 at 4:40 PM - 0 Comments
Last week, in regards to the matter of Christian Paradis and his wayward aide, the Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters that ministers are “responsible to Parliament,” which is to say that “if Parliament has any questions they can ask him in the House of Commons.”
During QP this afternoon, the opposition posed four questions on the matter. One of these questions was directed towards the Prime Minister and was answered, in Mr. Harper’s absence, by government house leader John Baird. The other three were directed specifically at the minister. They too were answered by Mr. Baird, while Mr. Paradis, who was present, remained seated.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 1, 2010 at 2:53 PM - 0 Comments
In light of revelations that an aide to Christian Paradis meddled in access to information requests, that aide’s subsequent resignation, and Minister Paradis’ refusal (at least so far) to do likewise, it is likely worth turning again to Jay Hill’s announcement in the House last May of the government’s new doctrine of ministerial accountability.
Ours is a system of responsible government because the government must retain the confidence of the House of Commons and because ministers are responsible to the House for everything that is done under their authority. We ministers are answerable to Parliament and to its committees. It is ministers who decide policy and ministers who must defend it before the House and ultimately before the people of Canada … There is a clear case to be made that the accountability of political staff ought to be satisfied through ministers. Ministers ran for office and accepted the role and responsibility of being a minister. Staff did not.
Mr. Hill specifically cited a statement from the Gomery commission report which read, “Ministers need to understand clearly that they are accountable, responsible and answerable for all the actions of their exempt staff.”
The issue at the time was whether political staff should be testifying for their actions at parliamentary committees. And the question that lingered then was what will now be asked is both simple and difficult: What does this mean? What is to be done, if staff are not to be held so accountable and ministers are to accept full responsibility, with a minister whose staff is found to have transgressed? Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:47 PM - 0 Comments
Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis says the federal government might still fund an arena in Quebec City.
“We’ve always left the door open, saying that we would evaluate any project that would be submitted,” Paradis told reporters at a global energy conference. ”But one thing is clear: if the project is only about a hockey team or a professional sports team, this is a private matter. It would have to generate tangible benefits for broader things than having only professional sports.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 7:45 PM - 160 Comments
Stephen Harper stood this afternoon before a room of past and present cabinet ministers, current and former members of parliament, power-brokers, diplomats, hangers-on and swells—the size of the crowd woefully overwhelming Parliament’s air conditioning system on a truly sweltering day in the capital—and toasted the career of Jean Chrétien, the man who once seemed to epitomize everything Mr. Harper campaigned to change, everything that was wrong with this place, everything that brought Mr. Harper to office four and a half years ago.
Mr. Harper spoke of a “great Parliamentarian” and a “great leader” and his “long and successful service to Canada.” “For this passion and dedication, Jean Chrétien deserves our admiration and our thanks,” Mr. Harper said. “And he deserves to look back on his record of service to our country with pride and satisfaction.”
And then Mr. Harper said this. “Partisan differences are a healthy and necessary part of our political culture and process. But on an occasion such as this, we remember that they are transcended by a deep, enduring consensus, a shared understanding that our freedom rests also on the limitations imposed on those partisan differences by our constitutional traditions and the rule of law.”
Perhaps it was just the heat, but these words seemed heavy. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 8:38 PM - 39 Comments
Five months after a federal court ruling on so-called in-and-out campaign financing, it turns out an unpublicized portion of the judgment imperils the political careers of three cabinet ministers. And the commissioner of elections has apparently referred the matter to the office of the public prosecutor to consider criminal charges.
… in a little-noticed detail, he also found that one of the two candidates should have paid — but did not — an equal share of the full market value of regional advertising buys. Rather, the amount charged appeared to have been “purely arbitrary,” based on what the candidate could afford without exceeding his spending limit.
In documents supporting its motion to stay Martineau’s ruling, Elections Canada applies the equal share dictum to all 65 candidates involved in the regional media buys. The agency finds up to 10 of them would have exceeded their spending limits, including Cannon by $7,618, Verner by $13,304, Paradis by $10,188 and Bernier by $20,138.
In its appeal, the party suggests Martineau’s ruling violates freedom of speech guarantees in the Charter of Rights because it “effectively limits a candidate’s ability to run ads if other ridings in the same (regional advertising) pool are unable to contribute to the same level financially.”
The full federal court ruling in its entirety is here. This particularly issue would seem to be raised at paragraph 235.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 12:42 PM - 4 Comments
Our Jonathon Gatehouse reviews the present state of our access to information laws in the latest issue of the magazine. Over the weekend, the Citizen’s David Pugliese did likewise at some length. So dire is our present situation, apparently, that government staffers struggle to speak publicly in complete sentences, and only then with a government lawyer at their side.
Sebastien Togneri had previously told a House of Commons committee that he made a “mistake” in ordering that a 137-page document — already cleared by non-partisan civil servants and government lawyers — be “unreleased.” Under further questioning before the committee on Tuesday, the senior aide to Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis repeatedly consulted his lawyer when asked how frequently this type of practice occurred.
“Uh, in my, my . . . yes it’s the only time I, uh . . . This was, you know, a mistake I made,” Togneri said.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 10 Comments
Heritage Minister James Moore hosted Ottawa’s premiere of Gunless, starring Paul Gross, at the…
Heritage Minister James Moore hosted Ottawa’s premiere of Gunless, starring Paul Gross, at the Museum of Civilization. Below (left to right): Laureen Harper, Heritage Minister James Moore and Paul Gross.
Laureen Harper offers Justin Trudeau some Twizzlers.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 1:39 PM - 27 Comments
Conservatives in Simcoe-Grey are concerned the party is attempting to bigfoot them. One potential replacement candidate says she’s not a candidate. Meanwhile, two cabinet ministers are politely refusing to appear before the government operations committee to discuss their knowledge of Mr. Jaffer’s behaviour.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 12:54 PM - 13 Comments
An elderly government official, speaking anonymously, asserts the necessity of transparent governance.
According to a senior government official, Giorno’s memo warned that the access to information process “should be followed and respected by all. “It applies to everybody across government, including political staff,” the official said.
And he said that subject to access to information rules, residents have a right “to be given access to any record under the control of a government institution.” “Access to information is the public’s right,” the official said.