By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 29, 2010 - 13 Comments
As of April 1, MPs will have to restrict their junk mail to their own constituents.
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 8:40 AM - 76 Comments
Still foolish enough to be in the private sector paying for the benefits of the public sector?
I can’t remember exactly when I first encountered a pop-culture jetpack. Was it James Bond’s, courtesy of Q, in Thunderball? Or was it some comic book? At any rate, I no longer have to wait for mine. Martin Aircraft of Christchurch, New Zealand, have put one into production, for the cost of a top-of-the-line automobile—or about $100,000. It’s not clear to me where you’d be able to fly it, since government air-traffic agencies don’t seem eager to contemplate a world of individual human flight patterns. But still: the Bond jetpack is belatedly here.
Other than that, the future seems unlikely to be quite as futuristic as expected. The problem facing the developed world isn’t so very difficult to figure out. We’re living beyond not just our means but everybody’s means. You can strap on your jetpack, but where would you go? In the United States, Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute calculates that if the federal government were to increase every single tax by 30 per cent it would be enough to balance the books—in 25 years. Except that it wouldn’t. Because if you raised taxes by 30 per cent, government would spend even more than it already does, on the grounds that the citizenry needed more social programs and entitlements to compensate for their sudden reduction in disposable income.
In Canada, the average household’s debt-to-income ratio reached an all-time high in 2009. Credit-card holders at least three months behind with their payments increased by 40 per cent.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 8:26 AM - 95 Comments
In something of a surprise—at least to me as I sat in the gallery waiting for Francine Lalonde’s bill to be debated—the NDP stood Tuesday evening and voted in favour of a Liberal motion that directs an end to the practice of ten-percenters. Those votes, together with those of the Bloc Quebecois, were just enough for the motion to pass by a count of 140-137.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 10:38 AM - 53 Comments
Buried in a Liberal motion yesterday was a proposal that the House direct “its Board of Internal Economy to take all necessary steps to end immediately the wasteful practice of Members sending mass mailings, known as ‘ten-percenters,’ into ridings other than their own, which could represent another saving to taxpayers of more than $10 million.”
The resulting debate starts here and, later, resumes here. The gist would seem to be that the government side opposes the motion on an assertion of free speech, while the NDP would like the program to continue with some kind of rule against negative content.
By John Geddes - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 2:15 PM - 21 Comments
A few weeks back I tried making the case for tax hikes over spending cuts as the main way the federal government should tackle its deficit problem. My argument relied heavily on the rather obvious observation that not spending is hard. I rhymed off a list of stuff people don’t like governments to scrimp on: funding schools, filling potholes, equipping soldiers, and—this was before the Vancouver games opened—winning Olympic medals.
Today, Michael Ignatieff left little doubt that after the West Coast gold rush, his Liberals aren’t going to let the Conservatives off easy the last of my just-for-instances. Ignatieff threw his support behind the plea from the athletes’ lobby for Ottawa double its contribution to the winter sports portion of the Own the Podium program to $22 million from $11 million.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 3:03 PM - 5 Comments
Two days after an unnamed government official told reporters there would be no new spending in the upcoming budget, an unnamed government official (the same unnamed government official? a different unnamed government official?) says the upcoming budget will include new spending, just nothing “extravagant.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 1:15 PM - 78 Comments
James Rajotte, in Question Period yesterday. Mr. Speaker, as Canada continues to cope with the effects of the global economic recession, it remains essential for the federal government and for federal agencies to spend tax dollars wisely.
Globe and Mail, today. Reports that Tory MPs ran up $6.3-million in costs last year by mailing out so-called “ten-per-centers” to people outside their ridings have opposition MPs calling for new limits on the free-mail privilege … All the parties do it, but the Conservatives have taken to it with zeal: Adding up the costs, the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir found that MPs with the minority Conservatives spent $6.3-million on the mailers, while opposition MPs spent $3.8-million. The average Conservative spent $38,337, including eight who spent more than $80,000, while the average opposition MP spent $17,977. Ontario Conservative Rick Norlock topped the list at $87,749.The Sun was on this file last week and put together this handy graphic.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 6:21 PM - 63 Comments
The Scene. Worried perhaps that his point had been lost amid yesterday’s unpleasantness, David McGuinty stood at the start of Question Period this afternoon and picked up approximately where he had left off the day before.
“Remember the facts,” he said. “One hundred million dollars of partisan propaganda without accountability, infrastructure funds distributed as if they were reward points and more than 60 investigations by the office of the Ethics Commissioner, a minister under investigation for his ties to lobbyists and federal agencies, a Conservative senator linked to key players in a scandal.”
Then, a simple-enough question. “When,” Mr. McGuinty wondered, “are the Conservatives going to clean up this ethical mess?”
The Prime Minister stood, buttoned his jacket, adjusted his left cuff and addressed the Speaker on another matter entirely.
“Mr. Speaker, this is a time of global economic recession,” he said, “but Canada’s performance exceeds that of many other countries and the measures of government are well-supported by Canadians and even the vast majority of provincial governments.”
This much had been said in French, the language employed for Mr. McGuinty’s first question. But, before sitting, the Prime Minister switched momentarily to his first language. “This question,” he said, “reminds me of the old saying: ‘When you throw mud, you lose ground.’”
So there. The Prime Minister returned to his seat then, entirely done dealing with the Liberals for the day. Continue…
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, October 26, 2009 at 8:40 AM - 37 Comments
The underlying premise, writes Andrew Coyne, is that it is MPs’ business to bring home the bacon
It was as predictable as the tides. Could anyone have imagined otherwise—that billions of dollars could be pushed out the door in such fantastic haste, to no plan or purpose, without being turned into a politicized slush fund? Can anyone really claim to be surprised? When did any government, given control of a honey pot of this size, not abuse it?
We should be precise about just what is the scandal here. The scandal is not that Conservative MPs attached the party logo to the giant novelty cheques that have become the standard prop in government spending announcements. Though it is surely scandalous to pretend the public’s money is the party’s (the reverse is more nearly true), the logo only serves to make explicit what is implicit in all such exercises: that the flow of public funds to a given riding, province, industry or cause is owing entirely to the personal muniﬁcence of local MPs, who salute themselves for their generosity and compassion in the hope that their beneficiaries will be moved to do the same. That would have been the message even had there been no Conservative logos on the cheques, or no such cheques to bear them. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 26, 2009 at 12:56 AM - 62 Comments
Last week our Andrew Coyne argued that now is the time for Michael Ignatieff to deal honestly and directly with the deficit and the state of government finances going forward. In response, Glen Pearson wonders if the press gallery is ready to do likewise.
Let’s be honest: No political leader in their right mind dares to be as truthful as Coyne challenges because it would be the media itself that couldn’t withhold its skepticism long enough to truly investigate the merits of that leader’s case. Opposition parties would immediately pounce and all manner of bloggers, pundits and columnists would discuss the scary ramifications of such a daredevil proposition. I recall when Ignatieff came to London following a visit to Cambridge, in which he stated no leader would be worthy of the name if he or she didn’t place the possibility of raising taxes on a long list of future considerations if a deficit couldn’t be brought under control. Political staffers mulled around, worried that it would be taken out of context, which it inevitably was … The very next day in the House, Conservative members used every possible occasion to ridicule Ignatieff, calling him just another “tax and spend” Liberal. The media ate it up.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 6:55 PM - 45 Comments
“The Conservatives,” he said, “are engaged in an orgy of partisan abuse.”
And you needn’t apparently take Mr. Goodale’s word for it.
“Three independent investigations confirm the research of the member for Parkdale-High Park,” he continued. “A shocking part of the stimulus plan is earmarked for partisan Conservative purposes. Will the Conservatives admit this is a threat for those who didn’t vote for them?”
The Prime Minister stood, apparently quite confused by the Liberal house leader’s tone.
“Mr. Speaker, the program for the reconstruction of leisure facilities is a very important measure for the Canadian economy and for communities. I do not understand at all why the Liberal Party of Canada opposes such projects and, even in their own counties. The allegations of the honourable member are quite untrue and, indeed, the Liberal deputy premier of Ontario said so.”
So there. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 1:55 AM - 82 Comments
The Stars gets Gerard Kennedy’s numbers on hockey rink stimulus in Toronto ridings.
Toronto 23 ridings — all but two held by Liberal MPs — got about 38 per cent less than the average Conservative riding in Ontario, prompting accusations that the government was again playing favourites as it doled out its massive stimulus fund.
The Toronto ridings got an average of $1.3 million, compared with an average of $2.1 million that was approved for Conservative ridings in Ontario — a difference of $777,787, according to Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale—High Park).
Kennedy’s office provides various figures and tables here.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 8:40 PM - 88 Comments
The Prime Minister, he reported en français, had admitted it was wrong for the government to put Conservative party logos on giant novelty cheques announcing the arrival of taxpayer dollars. But what of the public funding itself? What, for instance, of the fact that 75% of a fund for unemployed youth had been allocated in Conservative ridings?
On the government side, there was much yapping and whining.
“Having admitted it was wrong to put logos on cheques,” the Liberal leader wondered aloud, “will the Prime Minister admit now that partisanship in spending must stop immediately?”
The Prime Minister would not, if only because he was elsewhere. Absent too was John Baird, the government’s usual choice to enunciate a response on this file. So here, instead, came Industry Minister Tony Clement, waving his arms and pleading for your respect.
“We are on the side of Canadians,” he declared. “We are producing these projects because they mean jobs and opportunity. They mean getting behind and beyond the recession to a better and more prosperous economy through economic recovery. That is our message to Canadians and that is what Canadians want of us.”
Oddly enough, Mr. Ignatieff did not find satisfaction in this explanation.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 4:09 PM - 33 Comments
The Globe does its own analysis of stimulus spending on ice rinks, playgrounds and such.
A high-profile Harper government stimulus program created to build hockey rinks and other recreation projects has funnelled about 33 per cent per cent more money to Conservative seats than to opposition ridings in the battleground province of Ontario.
An analysis by The Globe and Mail shows Tory ridings received an average of $2.1-million, compared to $1.5-million on average for opposition ridings.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 11:39 AM - 79 Comments
Conservative MP Larry Miller tells us what’s really going on here with all these stories about giant novelty cheques.
“This is about the national media trying to help the Liberals deflect the attention off their problems right now,” said Miller. “Anybody that has seen Mr. Ignatieff and his crew in the House of Commons in the previous two or three weeks, it has looked as bad as when (Stephane) Dion was there and the media knows it, the Liberals know it and they are just trying to make an issue out of something.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 7:05 PM - 33 Comments
CBC explores the irony of news that the ethics commissioner will be investigating the ethics of giant novelty cheques.
Canada’s ethics commissioner will investigate dozens of allegations that Conservative MPs are using taxpayers’ money for partisan purposes. But Mary Dawson says she’s not sure how far her mandate allows her to go into ethical issues, despite her job title.
… in her annual report, Dawson highlighted that while the word “ethics” appears in her job title, it does not appear in the Conflict of Interest Act or the Code of Conduct for MPs. ”It’s quite unclear as to the extent to which my mandate extends into ethical issues that are not expressly referred to in either the code or the act and, in fact, one would wonder whether it extends there at all,” Dawson said at parliamentary ethics committee meeting.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 4:29 PM - 29 Comments
The Chronicle-Herald’s Stephen Maher and the Citizen’s Glen McGregor continue to investigate the distribution of federal stimulus.
Funds from a federal stimulus program designed to put hockey rinks and other recreation projects in communities across the country appear to be have been awarded disproportionately to Conservative ridings, an investigation shows.
Tory ridings have landed 66 per cent of all projects so far announced under the Harper government’s Recreation Infrastructure Canada program, also known as RinC.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 6:36 PM - 112 Comments
The Scene. The Prime Minister was not in his seat this afternoon when Question Period began. Which seems a shame. Not least because of the profound moment in the history of his government that he was not there to witness firsthand. The rest of us will at least be able to say we were there, that we saw it with our own eyes and heard it with our own ears. The Prime Minister will have to suffice with seeing it on TV. Or perhaps hearing about it from a member of his staff.
Although, maybe it was best he wasn’t there after all. Indeed, in a way, it’s better he was spared the awful sight.
The session began simply enough with the obvious, the Liberal leader wondering aloud about a potential conflict of interest involving a Conservative senator and a sizable government contract. “Mr. Speaker, a pattern is becoming all too clear,” Michael Ignatieff posited. “The Conservative government is using stimulus spending to buy votes and reward its friends. This morning, we learned that one of the Prime Minister’s newest senators works for a company that has just won $1.4 million in infrastructure spending. At a time when the middle class is struggling, would the Prime Minister explain why infrastructure spending that is needed by all Canadians ends up in the hands of a member of his own—”
His time expired, the Transport Minister stood smirking to dismiss Mr. Ignatieff’s concerns. The Liberal tried again, this time en francais. John Baird once more swatted the question away. “Mr. Speaker, there is no reason to jump to the conclusions that the Leader of the Opposition does,” Mr. Baird declared. “If he has any evidence of any wrongdoing, rather than pontificating in this place, he should put his facts on the table and be accountable for those. We have been completely open, completely transparent with the infrastructure spending that we have made.”
The Liberals howled with mocking laughter.
“The grant in question was made by a crown corporation,” the Minister finished, “with no lobbying and no involvement whatsoever of my office or the office of the Minister of Public Works.”
Here, then, is where it happened. Where everything that once was up turned down. Where left became right, day became night and blue became red. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 3:33 PM - 23 Comments
Liberal Todd Russell, yelling in the direction of Rob Nicholson this afternoon as the Justice Minister took a friendly question about crime legislation.
“What’s the mandatory minimum for cheque fraud?”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 15 Comments
The Conservative backbencher admits the giant novelty cheques he handed out upset his stomach.
The design of the cheques provided to one area MP to highlight infrastructure spending left him feeling “a bit queasy,” he said. Royal Galipeau, MP for Ottawa-Orléans, said he insisted that the cheques provided to him didn’t have the Conservative party logo but said he still wasn’t happy with the design. ”That didn’t look like a government cheque to me. I would preferred it looked like a government cheque.”
… Galipeau was photographed in March handing over a $21,339 cheque for a francophone seniors program in Ottawa with his name printed at the top and his signature below. He says he still thinks the large cheques are a good way to highlight government work and plans to continue handing them out, but using a design based on a real government cheque.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 4:29 PM - 100 Comments
Jim Flaherty, Nov. 27. We cannot ask Canadians to tighten their belts during tougher times without looking in the mirror. Canadians have a right to look to government as an example. We have a responsibility to show restraint and respect for their money. Canadians’ tax dollars are precious. They must not be spent frivolously or without regard to where they came from.
Canadian Press, today. The Harper government spent well over $100,000 staging a one-hour event in June to deliver an update on its efforts to help the recession-ravaged economy. Invoices obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act show a nominal bill to taxpayers of $108,000 for the carefully scripted “town hall” meeting in Cambridge, Ont … Some $30,000 was spent on audio visual equipment and staging, another $10,000 was spent buying the rights to use photos and web images and almost $50,000 went toward printing glossy copies of a 234-page Economic Action Plan “report card.” Another $5,700 went to an outside editing service and more than $3,300 was spent on a communications firm. Almost $10,000 was spent on airfare, ground transport and hotels for some 20 individuals who flew in from Ottawa, not including their meal expenses … The invoices don’t cover the cost of the use by Harper and his staff of the government’s Challenger jet to get to Cambridge, about an hour’s flight from Ottawa. In opposition, Harper and other Conservatives repeatedly said the jets cost about $11,000 an hour to operate.
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, October 16, 2009 at 10:20 AM - 83 Comments
If the Liberal leader wants to show some backbone and differentiate himself from Harper, he should start by addressing the deficit issue
It is true in politics, no less than in physics, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Michael Ignatieff, as is well known, has seen his popularity nosedive in recent weeks, when it seemed he could not put a foot right. Very well: if he is smart, he can turn that to his advantage, using the very speed of his decline to propel his rebound. Reculer pour mieux sauter and all that.
There is a script for this. If listening to his advisers, playing it safe, taking no stands, guarding every word has brought him to this humiliating low, then the way is open for one of those Hollywood moments, where the candidate rips up the speech that has been prepared for him and speaks from the heart—when he sheds the ingratiating poses of “politics as usual” in favour of his authentic self. Of course, it helps if that is, in fact, what the candidate is up to. Continue…