By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 8 Comments
The Scene. In the sandstone bunker named for John A. Macdonald’s public works minister, a man one biography describes as having left politics in “utter disgrace,” Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper honoured their forefathers with a meeting. According to one account, Mr. Ignatieff entered the building, home to the Prime Minister’s Office, around 2pm and exited about five minutes after three. A Canadian Press reporter on the scene claims the Liberal leader left through the Elgin Street exit, skillfully avoiding said reporter’s attempt to question him.
Requests for details of the proceedings would not go completely ignored though. Indeed, in short order there were identical statements from those assigned to speak on behalf of both men. The meeting was described as “productive”—a word that would seem to indicate there was a minimum of swearing and likely a complete lack of physical violence. There are vague promises, as of this writing, that the two will meet again later today. The adjective used to describe those discussions will surely be the subject of intense negotiation.
Across the street and up the hill, the business of Parliament was compelled to proceed without them. And not yet sure of how “productive” the negotiations would be, the parties of Messrs. Ignatieff and Harper were compelled to loudly and forcefully make their claims. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 6:55 PM - 53 Comments
The Scene. Stephen Harper is not one to leave well enough alone. So having spoken hopefully of his government’s plans to build parking spaces in the Toronto suburbs, a pedestrian overpass in Surrey and a library in Weymouth, his voice switched to a more ominous tone and his pointy finger started wagging near the bottom of the television screen.
He took direct aim at the Liberal leader, informing the viewing public that his rival had vowed “unequivocally” to raise taxes—news that will surely come as some surprise to even Mr. Ignatieff. He bemoaned the boogie men and women of the opposition who continue to insist their majority of seats in the House of Commons holds sway over his 37 per cent mandate. And he warned that only “needless political instability” could harm us now.
The Prime Minister does like to make dramatic-sounding pronouncements. Take, for instance, that moment in late September when he said “the only way” the country would fall into recession was if we were collectively crazy enough to choose Stephane Dion over him. Or that editorial, published on election day a few weeks later, when, with the stock market gone wobbly, he vowed “never” to take the country back into deficit.
Of course, you’ll forgive him if those assertions now seem a bit silly. Indeed, it is entirely unfair to impose the consistency of actual reality on Mr. Harper. A bit like asking Al Pacino to play the same character in every one of his movies. Though perhaps that’s a bad example. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 6:24 PM - 55 Comments
The Scene. About ten minutes past the appointed time, the cameras outside the door began to flash, announcing Lisa Raitt’s arrival. A few seconds later she appeared at the entrance to the cramped room in Centre Block’s basement reserved for announcements, explanations and apologies.
Ms. Raitt collected herself, then approached the podium, the standard array of flags behind her. She placed her notes in front of her, sipped quickly from a glass of water and then, with watery eyes, began what had been promoted simply as a short statement.
Opposition anger the day previous had been dismissed as “cheap politics.” Others argued it simply had to be accepted that ministers of the crown would naturally, if in private, find something “sexy” in a potential health care crisis. Given a night to think it over, the minister herself had apparently suffered second thoughts.
Three young men from the Prime Minister’s Office watched from the side. At the front of the room, the Natural Resources Minister apologized to those who might’ve taken offence to a statement she had not intended any of us to hear. She expressed “deep regret” and offered a “clear apology.” She paused at the end of each sentence to take a deep breath.
She spoke of her father and his 18-month ordeal with colon cancer. She spoke of watching her brother die from lung cancer. She struggled to swallow the lump in her throat. With tears welling in her eyes, she made a brief, futile search of the podium for tissue.
She steadied herself, finished her testimony, pledged to carry on, then took her leave. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 9:12 PM - 58 Comments
The Scene. Michael Ignatieff wasted few words on the way to a rather devastating question.
“Mr. Speaker, in private, the Minister of Natural Resources said that the isotope crisis was sexy, a means to advance her career,” he began in French. “So how can the Prime Minister explain the words of his minister to a woman who has just discovered she has breast cancer, is waiting for a test, but who cannot due to the isotope crisis?”
Standing opposite and speaking evenly, the Prime Minister proceeded directly to the government’s pat response.
“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “the crisis of isotopes is very serious.”
He reassured the nation and enthused about his minister and then returned to his seat.
Mr. Ignatieff seemed genuinely surprised.
“Mr. Speaker,” he exclaimed, “there was no apology, nothing. It’s amazing.”
The Liberal leader proceeded then to up the rhetorical ante. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 8, 2009 at 6:33 PM - 18 Comments
The Scene. Lisa Raitt arrived in the House sporting newly coloured hair, her blonde locks now brownish red. Perhaps the new look was meant to signal change or, better still, rebirth. Perhaps it was meant to confuse her critics opposite, disguising the Natural Resources Minister and redirecting attacks at the golden-haired government MPs around her.
To their modest credit, the opposition is a bit too quick for that. They can generally pick a troubled minister out of a line-up. And, however slow the MPs opposite sometimes are, even the most fascinating new do could not distract attention from the variously disheartening, troubling and entertaining allegations that now threaten Ms. Raitt’s previously promising political career.
“Mr. Speaker, across the country, thousands of Canadians can not get a cancer diagnosis. The government knew the last 18 months that it would happen. It left a problem at Chalk River to become a crisis for our health care system,” Michael Ignatieff began, opening the afternoon’s session of Question Period. “Instead of blaming young people of 26 years and instead of arguing among themselves, which in this government will take responsibility for this national crisis?”
In this case it would be Leona Aglukkaq, the health minister. She attempted reassurance, but Mr. Ignatieff persisted.
“Mr. Speaker, the government keeps pretending that there is an alternative supply of isotopes but the Dutch reactor will be shut down for maintenance next month and for six months in January,” he continued. “South Africa is already shut down for maintenance this week. The Australians will not come on line for at least six months. When will the minister stop trying to cover up a national health care crisis? When will she start telling Canadians the truth?”
Ms. Aglukkaq stood to answer, but Ms. Raitt was quicker to her feet, eager apparently to engage the opposition leader in a game of musical reactors. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 6:12 PM - 18 Comments
The Scene. The afternoon’s session began with the rare seven-part question.
“Mr. Speaker,” said Liberal David McGuinty, “I have several questions for the Prime Minister.”
Did the documents, he wondered, belong personally to the Natural Resources Minister? When did she realize they were missing? Did she inform her deputy minister? If so, when? What secret information did they contain? What commercial information may have been revealed? And, finally, would the government be taking action against the television network that was, previously and inadvertently, in possession of said documents?
Not surprisingly, the Prime Minister chose to answer none of these queries.
“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “as I said yesterday, the minister had reasonable expectations that these documents would be kept secret. The minister has acted accordingly, and I support the minister in her actions.”
Even less surprisingly, Mr. McGuinty did not then decide to cease with his examination. “Mr. Speaker, secret documents are those that ‘could reasonably be expected to cause serious injury to the national interest,’” he posited. “We are told these documents contain information on AECL’s financial status, indebtedness, contractual undertakings, obligations, lawsuits and details surrounding its bid for the supply of nuclear power in Ontario. They also deal with the critical issue of medical isotopes for medical testing. Can the Prime Minister explain how the release of this information could not be reasonably expected to cause serious injury to the national interest?”
The Prime Minister returned to his previous point. Then he revived his new favourite trick.
“Let me quote for the member opposite the editorial today in the Toronto Star which says that the minister offered her resignation,” he said. “The Prime Minister rightly refused to accept it. It is time for the opposition to move on to more substantive issues.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 7:11 PM - 26 Comments
The Scene. The good news for the Finance Minister was this: a full 45 minutes of Question Period passed this day without a single query about a federal deficit that may now be on track to total upwards of $170 billion. Not until after QP, surrounded by reporters, did the increasingly gaping hole in the national treasury come up. At which point, Jim Flaherty’s response was as follows.
“Well, you know, economists at TD and economists at the other banks are entitled to their view. I’m sure different economists will have different views. All of them were on average more optimistic than I was in the budget in January but they’re on the low side of the private sector forecasters right now.”
Er. Well, don’t get too worried about that $170 billion then. Indeed, it could be worse. For sure, it might be worse.
That though will be for whoever the Finance Minister is in 2014. Mr. Flaherty, no fool, will have surely bequeathed the position to someone else by then. Denis Coderre, say. Or Thomas Mulcair. Or Pierre Poilievre. Or whoever Prime Minister Gilles Duceppe decides to let handle the books.
In the meantime, the bad news for Mr. Flaherty was this: even without, apparently, the time to prepare some questions about our increasing indebtitude, the opposition still arrived for Question Period ready to press all sorts of issues said to demonstrate some failing or another in the minister. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 1, 2009 at 6:15 PM - 11 Comments
The Scene. David McGuinty rose first with a reminder of days gone by.
It was 18 months ago, he mused. The Chalk River nuclear facility was inactive. A shortage of medical isotopes threatened. Thousands of patients across Canada and around the world hung in the balance. The Prime Minister, Mr. McGuinty recalled, quite rightly deemed the precarious situation a “threat to human health.”
The Liberal environment critic though was not giving the Prime Minister full credit. Indeed, to pick just four of Stephen Harper’s words from those heady days of national crisis, is to do a great disservice to the memory of his performance then. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 12:54 AM - 26 Comments
Members of Katimavik, Canada’s leading youth service program, were on the Hill for a…
Members of Katimavik, Canada’s leading youth service program, were on the Hill for a reception which they do several times a year. Joining them was Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau who used to be Chair of the Board of Directors of Katimavik. Trudeau poses below with a youth and loaf of bread.
The kids were also joined by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 6:17 PM - 7 Comments
Rona Ambrose, then environment minister, July 5, 2006. “The transit tax credit will not only save people money, but by taking public transit Canadians will be helping to improve our environment. The transit tax credit is part of our government’s made in Canada environmental plan. Our transit tax initiative will take the equivalent of 56,000 cars off the road each year which will significantly reduce greenhouse gases here in Canada.”
Environment Commissioner, December report. “In its 2007 Climate Change Plan under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, Environment Canada stated that the Tax Credit is expected to result in emission reductions of 220,000 tonnes each year from 2008 through 2012. This was approximately double Finance Canada’s estimate of the resulting emission reductions in its strategic environmental assessment. In its 2008 Plan, Environment Canada amended the figure for expected reductions to an average of 35,000 tonnes per year—about 16 percent of the original estimate. Given the lowered figure, the Tax Credit will have a negligible impact on Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Many factors influence public transit ridership, including the price of gasoline. The result is that it is almost impossible to measure actual greenhouse gas emission reductions attributable to the tax credit. With regard to other air emissions, Environment Canada could not provide any analysis to support the assertion that the Tax Credit would result in measurable impacts.”
Jim Prentice, environment minister, this afternoon. “Well, as I said, there are two ways to measure the tax credit. One is greenhouse gas reductions. The other is it’s important as a fiscal measure for people who use bus transportation and it needs to be measured in light of both of those public policy objectives. But certainly, you know, we will take the report. We’ve just received it in the last few hours. We’ll take it. We’ll study it and we’ll learn from what the commissioner has to say. They do — they do good work and we can all benefit from their advice.”
David McGuinty, Liberal environment critic, asked to comment on Prentice’s remarks. “Well then give me a tax break for taking out my garbage.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 5:23 PM - 43 Comments
Posted without comment for the moment. Some attempt at analysis to follow after some consideration now offered below.
Intergovernmental Affairs Michael Ignatieff
House Leader Ralph Goodale
Deputy House Leader Marlene Jennings
Whip Rodger Cuzner
Deputy Whip Marcel Proulx
Finance John McCallum
Foreign Affairs Bob Rae
Defence Denis Coderre
Environment & Energy David McGuinty
Health Carolyn Bennett
Industry, Science & Technology Marc Garneau
Public Safety & National Security Mark Holland
Natural Resources Geoff Regan
Justice and Attorney-General Dominic LeBlanc
International Trade Scott Brison
Public Works and Government Services Martha Hall Findlay Continue…
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 6:10 PM - 56 Comments
ITQ BerryCam – In which our heroine is confronted by abstractly angry farmers, and surprisingly cheery Liberals
By kadyomalley - Monday, September 8, 2008 at 12:25 AM - 10 Comments
After spending the morning outside Rideau Hall, ITQ headed off to the Billings Estate in Ottawa South to liveblog Stephane Dion at the launch of the local Liberal campaign – which we did right here. But first, we had to run a small- to medium-sized gauntlet, as gauntlets go, of protesters:
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 19, 2008 at 6:54 PM - 0 Comments
‘The Canadian people is ready to do the right thing’
The Scene. By midday, the Liberal leader was getting a bit ahead of himself, referring in the third-person hypothetical to “Prime Minister Dion.”
You might forgiven him that bullishness though. For this was likely his happiest day since that night in Montreal. Not that there is a great supply of good days with which to compare what transpired today.
To set the stage though we turn first to the afternoon before. Chatting with reporters after QP, David McGuinty was asked to cast forward toward the Liberal plan to come. And without giving away any of the surprises—details of what we would come to know as the “Green Shift” were already being leaked all over Ottawa anyway—he did as good a job as any have done so far of making the case for his leader.
“We’re going to do what Mr. Dion’s always done,” he said, “which is to, you know, be strong, be sincere, be thoughtful.”
If Her Majesty’s Opposition has figured out the point of Stéphane Dion, this is probably it: He is not Stephen Harper. It surely ain’t much. But with two-thirds of the population fairly certain they don’t want to vote for the sitting Prime Minister, it might be enough. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 18, 2008 at 6:32 PM - 144 Comments
From David McGuinty’s scrum this afternoon.
“Wait, if you wait until, if you wait until tomorrow, you’re going to get a very good and solid breakdown on how we intend to price carbon, where we intend to price carbon, what it’ll apply to, over what phased-in period. It’s a very, very intelligent and well crafted plan. And that is why Mr. Harper is so desperately afraid of the growth capacity for this idea. It’s a coalition in Canadian society. We have David Suzuki agreeing with Andrew Coyne, we have David Frum agreeing with Elizabeth May. The right and the left, those old clichés of the past are over when it comes to dealing with the only atmosphere we have.
“They’re desperately afraid of the fact that a new groundswell coalition in Canadian society is coming up saying you know what? We want to hear more about this because the status quo isn’t going to take us there and they aren’t going to take us there. And everybody knows it. Eleven independent groups have looked at the plan and said it’s nonsense. Stop playing. If they’re so sure about their plan, then why aren’t they actually presenting it?”
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 18, 2008 at 3:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister’s second answer on Thursday included this meditation on patriotism. “Whenever this government announces something for the men and women of the forces, the Liberals always attack it. They always complain. Canadians know their attitude and that is why they elected a government to be for the Canadian Forces.”
The same day, Rick Fuschi, Conservative candidate in 2006 for Windsor-Tecumseh, posted these thoughts on one of our Forces’ more decorated veterans. “Romeo Dallaire is a Liberal soldier. That’s similar to jumbo shrimp. Before he became confused about right and wrong, he was best known for having had emotional difficulty after witnessing wholesale slaughter in Rwanda, and becoming confused about the required action. The height of his confusion was becoming a Liberal senator. Now he is doing his best to confuse the rest of us about the definition of ‘enemy.’” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 9, 2008 at 9:14 PM - 0 Comments
In response to this week’s open challenge, a reader raises an interesting point about the in-and-out controversy: if all the component parts are legal on their own, how can the scheme in its entirely be illegal?
Interesting point. Indeed, that’s essentially what the Conservative party argues in the Donald Affidavit.
Is it a sound argument? Well, if the ADA from Law & Order were here, he’d probably point out that it’s entirely legal to own a gun. And it’s entirely legal to fire a gun. And society has deemed it lawful, or at least acceptable, in various situations to fire a gun and propel a bullet in order do another person great physical harm. And yet, it’s not legal to murder someone.
Likewise, it’s legal to consume alcohol to the point of intoxication. And it’s legal to operate a motor vehicle. But it’s not legal to drive while drunk.
Context is rather important that way. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 13, 2008 at 11:56 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The government benches stood and cheered, unanimously and enthusiastically, swollen with pride. What were they all so happily applauding? Good question.
Surely it was not the news that an inquiry into their handling of Afghan detainees will soon be launched. Nor could it have been word that one former prime minister (Clark, Joe) sees Canada’s international stature wasting away under this administration. Nor reports the last prime minister (Martin, Paul) was recently in Mexico showing more concern for a mistreated Canadian citizen than the current head of government has yet demonstrated.
What about the arrival on Parliament Hill of Justice Gomery, the esteemed detailer of government malfeasance, to identify the current Prime Minister’s Office as a “danger to Canadian democracy?” Or the latest calls for various resignations in the wake of that NAFTA messiness?
No, neither of those developments seem worth cheering either.
So what was it? What had so reassured this bunch of its purpose and righteousness? Well, it was this. Continue…