By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Ted Opitz attempts to sum up Nigel Wright’s resignation.
Nigel Wright is a patriot. A man with honour. If he made a mistake, it was a gentleman’s mistake. One made with the truest of intentions.
Wright gone but still not wrong? See today’s resignation statements – no acceptance of wrongdoing … Harper’s statement does nothing to condemn the $90,000 secret payment – the spin is still Wright as gallant knight … The claim is Harper knew nothing abt the Wright-Duffy secret deal, yet #PMSH has so far retroactively endorsed it by not once condemning it.
Mr. Wright’s statement explains that he’s stepping down because of the “controversy.” He regrets the “impact.” That sounds a lot like part of Mr. Duffy’s explanation for voluntarily—via Mr. Wright’s largesse—paying back his housing allowance. Mr. Duffy didn’t want to be a distraction. Mr. Duffy “filled out the forms in good faith,” but “rather than let this issue drag on” he and his wife had decided that the allowance would be repaid. Mr. Wright “intended solely to secure the repayment of funds,” which he “considered to be in the public interest,” but “in light of the controversy” he was resigning.
Mr. Duffy at least allowed that he “may have been mistaken.” And Mr. Opitz at least allows for the possibility that Mr. Wright also may have made a mistake, even if only of the gentlemanly variety.
So do Conservatives believe Mr. Wright did something wrong? Does the Prime Minister believe his chief of staff did anything wrong? And, if so, how do they think he erred? Merely in being too generous a man and too selfless a public servant?
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM - 0 Comments
According to a Conservative Senate source, Conservative senators will be asking on Tuesday that the internal economy committee’s report on Mike Duffy be referred back to the committee so that the committee can investigate yesterday’s reports about Mr. Duffy’s expense claims during the 2011 election.
The Elections Canada guide for parties explains the rules around “expenses of senators and elected members” thusly.
Where a senator, or a person who is an elected member of the House of Commons or any provincial legislature, campaigns on behalf of a party, the expenses related to that person’s involvement in the campaign are campaign expenses of the party and must be authorized beforehand by a registered agent.
For example, if a minister or other member of Parliament travels from Ottawa to assist in the party’s campaign, the costs of travelling to the district, and the costs of accommodation and transportation within the district, are considered campaign expenses of the party.
However, if the minister’s trip is carried out in conjunction with an official government function, using government‑paid transportation, then the chief agent must allocate a proportionate share of the transportation, and accommodation and any other expenses to the party as an election expense. This allocation should be made on the basis of the proportion of time spent on each activity.
Elections Canada will accept the basis of allocation used by the chief agent, provided that it is reasonable, in the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer, and provided that the auditor agrees that the allocation is reasonable and in keeping with this handbook.
The chief agent or registered agent must pay the expenses of senators and elected members incurred while campaigning for a party because senators and elected members of Parliament are not eligible contributors to a party’s campaign other than as individuals.
The handbook for candidates has similar language.
If a senator, a minister or another candidate campaigns on behalf of the candidate, the expenses related to that person’s involvement in the campaign are election expenses and have to be authorized in advance by the official agent, the candidate or a person authorized in writing by the official agent. Any travel expense has to be reimbursed using campaign funds or accepted as a non-monetary contribution if paid by an eligible contributor.
The Prime Minister’s director of communications spoke with reporters this morning. John Geddes looks at what he had to say.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is scheduled to depart for Peru on Tuesday afternoon and return on Friday evening. He’ll presumably take questions from reporters during the trip to the Pacific Alliance Leaders’ Summit—perhaps on Wednesday—but he’ll be away from the House all next week.
Scott Reid, former director of communications to Paul Martin, says Nigel Wright “will have to go.”
Update 1:06pm. NDP MP Craig Scott has written to the Commissioner of Canada Elections to ask that he investigate Mr. Duffy’s actions during the last campaign. The full letter is here.
In terms of Mike Duffy, audits performed by Deloitte indicate that Senator Duffy was listed as being on Senate business at an “other location” during six days of the month of April, wholly during the writ period. There is also evidence of Senator Duffy campaigning for the Conservative Party of Canada and for various local Conservative candidates throughout the writ period. Some of these local campaigns have stated in their financial reports that they reimbursed the Senator directly for his trip expenses. Given that the Senator claimed taxpayer-funded Senate per diems on several occasions during the month of April, it raises the question of whether Mr. Duffy claimed both expenses on the same days.
This also raises concerns over whether Senator Duffy charged Conservative campaigns for the full cost of his travel, or whether part of these costs were unfairly born by the taxpayer and possibly constitute an unclaimed campaign expense. I note that the Elections Canada Act specifically prohibits the concealment of donations under the “Contributions” section of the act…
Given that Senator Duffy apparently refused to co-operate with the Deloitte auditors and reportedly failed to fully disclose details regarding his whereabouts and activities during the 2011 election campaign, we are asking that you initiate an investigation to determine whether any money was improperly used or concealed by Senator Duffy, the Conservative Party of Canada or any of the local campaigns involved.
Mr. Scott also cites several other senators whose expenses he would like to see scrutinized.
Update 3:58pm. Via email, a comment from Senator Grant Mitchell, who is referenced in Craig Scott’s letter.
While the paper files are archived and we are getting them asap, all the electronic info my office and the Senate Admin have confirmed that I claimed absolutely nothing for the writ period from the Senate. It was certainly my policy and recollection, confirmed by the data I have right now, that I claimed nothing from the Senate. I even shut down my Senate web site. I am pushing to get the archived files.
It might be that the NDP have checked the election expense reports submitted by campaigns which may have included expenses attributed to my visit to a constituency(s) to campaign(s), for example. This is done so there is clear reporting on that spending is within election limits. I recollect that I got no direct reimbursement from any campaign either.
Update 5:40pm. The NDP’s director of fundraising has just sent out a note, entitled “90,000 reasons to abolish the Senate.”
Enough is enough. It’s time to abolish the Senate. Make a special one-time donation to our Senate campaign today…
Donate to our Senate campaign right now. Your donation of $5, $10 or $50 will help pay for websites, emails and online advertising – all the tools we need to send Stephen Harper and Mike Duffy a message they can’t ignore.
Update 5:55pm. And now Pamela Wallin has left the Conservative caucus.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 6:28 PM - 0 Comments
At 2pm, the Speaker’s parade—a ceremonial photo op, a silly show of hallowed tradition—proceeded down the West corridor of Centre Block toward the House of Commons. Preceded by one marching guard and flanked by three more—To protect the Speaker from what? A sneak attack by the Queen?—strode the sergeant-at-arms, carrying the large golden mace that must be in place for the House to conduct its business, and the Speaker and his clerks in their three-cornered hat and robes. Once the official party was safely inside, the large wooden doors were shut and the official business of the nation began for another day.
Something like a dozen reporters had gathered at the gallery door, anxiously waiting for the House to be called to order. This was something like four times the usual attendance—the larger crowd here in anticipation that one of the duly elected adults sent here to represent the people of this country might stand up in his or her place without having first obtained the permission of the party leader he or she is supposed to support. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 7:33 PM - 0 Comments
I’m pleased with Speaker Scheer’s ruling that MPs have the right to seek the floor at any time.
Spkr Scheer eschews metaphor of being referee. How about Solomon playing tennis? Ball is now in MPs’ court. Next days to be interesting
An astute ruling by the Speaker on MP statements. He has served the Commons well today.
Leon Benoit, to reporters after QP.
Well, I think you’re going to see people rising both to make statements and ask questions.
John Ivison quotes an anonymous Conservative.
The initial reaction from Conservative MPs calling for a loosening of party control was positive. “It puts the issue back in the House,” said one MP. “It’s now up to us if we are to safeguard free speech. It will take a courageous response from MPs. Do I think they will step up? I do. It may be uncomfortable in the beginning but they will.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 1, 2013 at 12:46 PM - 0 Comments
Six hours or so after Claude Patry’s move from the NDP to the Bloc, the House moved to the second hour of debate on the Bloc’s bill to repeal the Clarity Act last night. No less than five New Democrats—Mathieu Ravignat, Robert Aubin, Nycole Turmel, Francoise Boivin and Craig Scott—stood to dismiss the Bloc bill and commend their side’s Unity Bill. The task of defending the Clarity Act fell to the Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia.
The following is from Mr. Aubin’s explanation of the NDP perspective.
What does the NDP bill say compared to the bill introduced by the Bloc? It says very straightforward things. An association, whether a business association, a constitutional association, or even a romantic association, is based on trust. It starts with trust. We will not change the ground rules along the way. It would therefore be rather silly to claim that 50% plus one is enough to join Canada’s Constitution, but that in order to leave, you need 66%. The rules for entry and departure should be the same. The NDP’s job is to make Quebeckers feel respected and at home in Canada, thereby ensuring that the question does not come up again. If it does, then these are the conditions that will apply.
The question could not be clearer. At the beginning, I said that Quebeckers will be able to decide their future at a time of their choosing. Naturally, they will also decide on the question. The NDP believes, however, that with their experience of repeated referenda, Quebeckers have also gained maturity. We believe that it might be possible, should a third referendum be held, to follow the example of the Scottish model and agree in advance on the wording of a question that would have everyone live with the results when the referendum was over. This is a very mature approach that Quebeckers are prepared to adopt, except perhaps for those who are spoiling for a fight.
And this from Mr. Scarpaleggia.
With regard to the threshold that would have to be met in a referendum to begin negotiating Quebec’s independence with the rest of Canada, the Liberal caucus fully supports, with the strongest and deepest conviction, the Clarity Act, based as it is on the Supreme Court opinion to the effect that the threshold must be much higher than the 50% plus one rule. There are number of reasons for this condition. First, the 50% plus one rule is not 50% plus one in reality; voter turnout at the polls is never actually 100%. We know that if you snooze, you lose, but do you deserve to lose your country and your citizenship forever if illness or some other situation makes it impossible for you to exercise your right to vote?
In the event that the “yes” side won a slight victory, would there be the broad popular consensus needed to move forward with the difficult negotiations with the rest of Canada? On the day after this kind of result, will Quebec fall into a bitter political deadlock that would undermine economic stability?
The Conservatives, meanwhile, were quite eager during QP this morning to suggest the NDP caucus was rife with separatists.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:52 PM - 0 Comments
The bill sets this threshold at a single vote difference. The NDP, which requires a two-thirds majority to amend its own constitution, is prepared to dismantle Canada on the basis of a recount. If 50 per cent plus one is a clear majority, then what would be an unclear majority? Moreover, contrary to the Clarity Act, this bill does not use the turnout rate as a criterion for evaluating a clear majority. Unlike the Clarity Act, the bill says nothing about the principles that should guide the federal government when negotiating on secession – in particular, the protection of minority rights.
Emmett Macfarlane questioned the NDP bill last week.
Craig Scott, the bill’s sponsor, defended his side in an interview with Postmedia.
“Everybody knows that the Clarity Act was anything but clear,” Scott told Postmedia News. He said the act is “arbitrary and unclear” and offers a “muddy set of ground rules.”
Uncertainty over the acceptable threshold for victory could even backfire on federalists, he said, because some Quebecers might vote for sovereignty to send a “signal” — only then to unhappily realize it helped secure a referendum victory for hard-core separatists. Scott said the NDP’s plan accomplishes two things: It respects basic democratic principles, and it provides clarity. “The fact of the matter is we have put forward a clear number. Everybody knows what the stakes are when they go to vote.”
By Emmett Macfarlane - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 12:35 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP is wrong on secession, the Clarity Act and the Supreme Court
“The Reference requires us to consider whether Quebec has a right to unilateral secession. Those who support the existence of such a right found their case primarily on the principle of democracy. Democracy, however, means more than simple majority rule.”
This was a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada in 1998’s reference decision on Quebec secession. The Court went on to declare that only “a clear majority on a clear question” could compel the federal government and the other provinces to engage in negotiations with Quebec on the matter.
It is true the Court did not specify what would actually count as a “clear majority” (55 percent? 60? 67?). That, the justices said, was a matter for the political actors to decide. What is crystal clear, for anyone with the scarcest smidgen of reading comprehension, is that a “clear majority” is something more than 50 percent plus one. The highest court in the land has made an explicit distinction between “simple majority” and “clear majority.”
In 2000, the Liberal government enacted legislation along precisely these lines to dictate the federal government’s response to a future referendum on sovereignty. Dubbed the Clarity Act, the law sets out a timeframe and some conditions (such as taking into consideration the views of other provincial governments, Aboriginal peoples and all the parties in the House) for Parliament to determine whether the results reflect a clear majority on a clear question.
In 2005, the NDP passed the Sherbrooke Declaration, taking the position that 50 percent plus one was sufficient for triggering negotiations. Since then, the party has often stated its belief that such a position was consistent with the Clarity Act. This week, after a Bloc motion to rescind the Clarity Act put pressure on the NDP to clarify its position, the party came out with a private members’ bill that would replace the Clarity Act altogether.
The NDP legislation, dubbed the Unity Bill, would see the federal government enter into negotiations after a simple majority vote on a clear question. The bill, and the party’s defense of it, betrays a cringe-inducing understanding (or blatant misrepresentation) of the Supreme Court’s reference decision, the Constitution and how a presumably “federalist” party ought to act as a defender of the Constitution and national unity.
Craig Scott, the NDP MP (and former law professor!) introducing the bill, has said “the Supreme Court never once hinted that when they were talking about a clear majority, they meant a substantial majority.” He’s right. The Court didn’t “hint” at it at all. It explicitly said so (see the quote above).
If the NDP thinks the Court is wrong then it is certainly free to say so. But instead, the party has introduced a bill on the utterly false proposition that the bill is consistent with what the Court has said.
Piling gaffe onto blunder, in another hilarious misread of the Court’s reference decision the bill would also refer the matter of a “clear question” to the Quebec Court of Appeal. This is a scenario the Supreme Court clearly wanted to avoid when it emphatically declared such a determination was to be made by the political branches.
In some ways this is all moot. There is little reason to be worried about even a simple majority of Quebecers voting yes on a legitimately clear referendum question (despite the razor thin margin in 1995, the question then spoke of a murky “economic and political partnership”). Even if it did, the federal government is not the sole authority on how any negotiations would proceed—each of the other nine provinces would be every bit as important in the process, given the unanimity required under the constitutional amending formula.
Yet the NDP’s stance, to put it as diplomatically as possible, is highly problematic. First, the party is actively, egregiously misrepresenting what the Supreme Court decided on this matter. Second, and more importantly, the NDP is defending a position that the Canadian Constitution could legitimately be torn asunder by an ephemeral simple majority of a single province. The party ignores basic supermajority requirements for constitutional amendment (except, it appears, for the party’s own constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority).
And from a political perspective, the party shuns even deeper principles, for it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that this is a shameless appeal for soft nationalist voters in Quebec. As a result, it is also impossible to be sure that, were it to form government, the NDP would live up to the expectation that it would act first and foremost in defence of Canadian unity and the Constitution.
Emmett Macfarlane is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo. You can follow him on Twitter here.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 4:24 PM - 0 Comments
The full text of Craig Scott’s bill on the Clarity Act and Quebec secession, as referenced by Thomas Mulcair this morning, can be viewed here.
CP’s Joan Bryden explains.
By contrast, the NDP’s unity bill specifies that Parliament must be satisfied the referendum question was clear and that there were no “determinative irregularities” in the vote, including in the balloting, counting of votes, transmission of results and spending limits. Provided those conditions were met, the bill says a vote of 50 per cent plus one would enough to trigger negotiations.
The NDP bill goes further than the Clarity Act in spelling out what would constitute a clear question, offering two examples: “Should Quebec become a sovereign country” or “Should Quebec separate from Canada and become a sovereign country.” Wording agreed upon by both the federal and provincial government would also be acceptable. Should the question be deemed insufficiently clear, the bill would require the federal government to refer the matter immediately to the Quebec Court of Appeal, which would have the final say.
As noted earlier today, Mr. Scott is presently last in the order of precedence for the tabling of private members’ bills. Barring maneuvering to advance it up the list, it will be quite awhile before it gets debated in the House.
That said, even if, in the worst case, it isn’t debated before the next election, it likely now stands as an indication of what an NDP government would seek to legislate.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 9, 2012 at 3:28 PM - 0 Comments
Vic Toews wonders.
Here is Open Parliament’s page C-217.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:25 PM - 0 Comments
Jer’s Vision, Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative, held a special reception on the Hill for…
Jer’s Vision, Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative, held a special reception on the Hill for parliamentarians to raise awareness about bullying and diversity. Pink cupcakes were served.
By Mitchel Raphael - Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 9:00 PM - 0 Comments
Parade gathers politicians, leadership hopefuls and Mulcair Bears
Politicians were out for Toronto’s annual gay pride parade.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 11:26 AM - 0 Comments
Canada Day video greetings from Jason Kenney, Ted Opitz, Cheryl Gallant, Peggy Nash, Jinny Sims, Colin Carrie, Joyce Murray, Wayne Marston, Craig Scott, John Weston, Ralph Goodale, Elizabeth May, Robert Chisholm, Claude Gravelle, Christine Moore, Laurin Liu, Ray Boughen, James Lunney, Russ Hiebert, Jack Harris, Peter Braid, Steven Blaney, Randy Kamp and, expressing their best wishes in rather similar words, Daryl Kramp, James Bezan, Randy Hoback, Diane Finley, Ed Holder, Ryan Leef, Bob Zimmer, Dave MacKenzie,John Carmichael, Bal Gosal, Costas Menegakis and Parm Gill.
After the jump, a video from the Prime Minister and statements from Thomas Mulcair and Bob Rae. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 1:27 PM - 0 Comments
Laureen Harper fosters kittens and Patrick Brazeau’s hair is growing
The Harper most likely to yell ‘Mine’
Stephen Harper’s son Ben is now six foot three and has become a skilled competitive volleyball player. The 16-year-old plays for the Ottawa Fusion Volleyball Club, where the online team profile lists his positions as middle and outside. Ben Harper used to play hockey (with NDP MP Paul Dewar’s son) but has given up the sport his father has written a book about to focus more on volleyball. He’ll be playing in the Canadian championships in Toronto, along with the children of two other famous Canadians, Rick Hansen and Colm Feore. Laureen Harper says so far two Canadian universities have expressed interest in her son joining their volleyball teams. Ben is only in Grade 10. The PM’s wife quipped that this is now the first year she had Maclean’s annual University Rankings issue on hand in light of the college attention.
The undercover life of a political wife
It is difficult to imagine Michelle Obama shopping undetected at Target. But a recent shopping trip by Laureen Harper illustrates the difference between the two nations and their first ladies. Mrs. Harper was recently in Wal-Mart buying large amounts of cat food. She often fosters kittens from the Ottawa Humane Society, so always keeps a hefty supply of special kitten food packed with additional nutrients. The Wal-Mart staff had no clue she was the Prime Minister’s wife; as often occurs with customers buying in bulk at the megastore, she was asked to show her receipt upon exiting. All was in order and she headed back to 24 Sussex with her cat food.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 30, 2012 at 10:11 AM - 0 Comments
Moments after Thomas Mulcair was declared the new leader of the NDP, the Conservative party sent its supporters a series of talking points that deemed him an “opportunist” with a “divise personality,” who would unleash “dangerous experiments” upon the country and put “Canadian families and their jobs at risk.” The next day, the Prime Minister called Mr. Mulcair to congratulate him and to say he “looked forward to their dealings together.” And yesterday, Mr. Harper stood in the House and publicly congratulated Mr. Mulcair at the first opportunity.
Also yesterday, Craig Scott, the newly elected MP for Toronto-Danforth, formally took his seat in the House of Commons. Ten minutes later, the Conservatives sent Eve Adams up to demand that Mr. Scott be “disciplined” by the NDP for “radical soft on crime comments” he had apparently once made. A half hour later, Mr. Scott asked his first question and, in response, Heritage Minister James Moore took the opportunity, “on behalf of all members of the House,” to “welcome” Mr. Scott.
(Afterwards, Mr. Scott stood on a point of order to suggest that Ms. Adams was out of line. Ms. Adams then stood, welcomed Mr. Scott—”Happy first day”—and said “no smear was intended.” She then suggested he should apologize and explained that she was only trying to bring attention to the NDP’s “hug-a-thug attitude.”)
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 26, 2012 at 5:19 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Olivia Chow stood and bestowed her blessing upon him. A Conservative backbencher, Jeff Watson, stood and recited the talking points. And then the Speaker pronounced the time for oral questions and called on the honourable leader of the opposition to stand.
Thomas Mulcair rose and so did the entirety of his caucus, his colleagues sounding his arrival with a great “Woooo!” The Liberals and, eventually, the Conservatives stood too, the House of Commons offering its unanimous regards to the newly delivered leader of the NDP.
The press gallery was filled nearly to capacity. Sitting in the opposition leader’s gallery across from him watched his wife, a few of his aides, former MP Bill Blaikie, newly elected MP Craig Scott, Jack Layton’s former chief of staff, Anne McGrath, and Paul Dewar’s wife and two teenage sons. And also, apparently by some mistake, Arlene Perly Rae, wife of the interim Liberal leader.
When the House had quieted, Mr. Mulcair began. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 19, 2012 at 8:44 PM - 0 Comments
Polls are now closed in Toronto-Danforth and returns should start appearing here soon.
Riding history and previous results are here.
8:58pm. The NDP’s Craig Scott takes the first poll with 49 of 79 votes.
9:02pm. This advert, from Liberal candidate Grant Gordon, was also interesting. Mostly because of who was leader of the Liberal party less than a year ago and what that individual did before entering politics.
9:08pm. Ten polls into the night, the NDP share of the vote is just below where it was for Jack Layton last May (58.2/60.8). Conservative share is down nine points, Liberal share is up 12. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, March 5, 2012 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
How not to look like an interim leader
Bob Rae…, the “interim” Liberal
How not to look like an interim leader
Bob Rae, the “interim” Liberal leader, has been making all the right moves to look more and more like the party’s permanent leader, and even the unofficial official leader of the Opposition. On the Hill, it’s all about positioning. The Liberal leader typically holds his Wednesday post-caucus meeting press conference outside the doors of the House of Commons. NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel holds hers outside the party’s caucus meeting room with a backdrop of coat racks. Rae often brings a few MPs along with him. Once he had the entire caucus positioned behind him, including the Liberal senators, making his numbers look hefty. Rae is also asking more questions during question period, popping up when the Liberals get their second round of questions, in addition to his guaranteed question spot in the leaders’ round. Liberal MP Hedy Fry says, “We want him to ask the questions. He does the best job.” But having Rae ask more questions also means the Prime Minister has to get up more. With the Bloc losing official party status, the PM, for the most part, just answers questions from leaders of parties officially recognized by the House and now there are just two.
Taking a development minute
When International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda travels the world meeting top country officials seeking Canada’s assistance, she is often the only woman in the room aside from her own female staff. Women on the ground can be a key to effective aid. When Oda froze new funding to Egypt after the uprising, the only exception was to help women’s groups, arguing that how women ultimately fare in Egypt will be the true test to whether democracy takes hold. Oda was appointed in August 2007 and is the longest-serving CIDA minister. Oda is hoping some of CIDA’s work will be showcased in a similar way that Canadian history got highlighted in Heritage Minutes. It’s an idea she is floating with her department. One example of such a moment could be when CIDA co-ordinated with aid groups in Afghanistan so that polio vaccinations could be administered to people in remote areas.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 9, 2012 at 9:47 PM - 0 Comments
Mr. Scott had been endorsed by Brian Topp.