By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her speech about the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Of course, she recognizes that in our Parliament, which is the Westminster system that we have inherited from the United Kingdom, it is the Crown that is responsible for making budgets, not Parliament. Parliament approves budgets that come from the Crown. I wonder if she would like to comment on that role. She seems to be saying in her remarks that the opposition members, individually, should have their fingerprints all over the budget, creating a system of what are called earmarks in the United States. Does she believe that it is an appropriate format for making budgets? I would like to comment on another aspect and add a secondary question. To what extent are opposition members using the Parliamentary Budget Officer role for partisan purposes, as opposed to trying to clarify and use it for information?
As I also mentioned, for 48 years the Library of Parliament has served members of Parliament. Its employees did not grandstand or hold regular press conferences; they simply did their job and served Parliament. That is what the Library of Parliament has done in the past and that is what we expect the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Budget Officer to do in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I guess it really boils to what is need for making this position an officer of Parliament? Under the position’s current mandate, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation’s finances, government estimates and trends in the Canadian economy. The role is not designed to be an independent watchdog. It is not designed to be an auditor general, chief electoral officer, privacy commissioner or access to information commissioner. All of those are independent officers, but that is not what this role was designed to be. The PBO is functioning perfectly well within the Library of Parliament, and that is where it belongs.
Mr. Speaker, I recall being on the Library of Parliament committee as my first committee when I was elected in 2008. We studied the issue of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. All the witnesses who were part of that process said that the Parliamentary Budget Officer clearly overstepped the responsibility of the role in the way they had envisioned it. I recall a point when the Parliamentary Budget Officer spoke out on a very specific issue during an election. I would like the member’s impression of it and whether he thinks it was unprecedented and, for that matter, appropriate.
The role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is simple. It is to provide non-partisan information so that MPs can be watchdogs. It is not that the PBO is to be a watchdog of the government. That is what the opposition members want to transform the PBO into, and that is a dangerous road to go down because it could lead the PBO to being subject to legitimate criticisms of partisanship. It is to equip members of Parliament, unless the opposition members believe they are no longer effective watchdogs of the government. Maybe that is why they want to change this role.
Mr. Saxton’s comments are interesting in their blatant criticism of Kevin Page’s term.
The watchdog distinction is also an interesting point. The opposition parties want to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer to be an independent officer of Parliament. Would Mr. Watson consider the auditor general a watchdog? Would the auditor general thus be subject to “legitimate criticisms of partisanship?”
Mr. Holder seems to be hinting at the release of the Afghanistan audit in 2008—we reviewed that particular moment last week.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 14, 2012 at 10:37 AM - 0 Comments
During his discussion with reporters Wednesday afternoon about decorum, Nathan Cullen was asked which Conservatives he was referring to. And the NDP leader identified two by surname.
Who are they? Well, some of them have been admonished by the Speaker and will continue to be. Some of them get admonished by their whip, twice, three times a week. I think what they get away with is the fact that their constituents don’t know about it, right. So if you look at Mr. Calandra or Mr. Watson, I’m sure they go home on the weekends and talk to their constituents about how hard they’re working, but never mention the fact that mostly what they do is try to disrupt the House and are offensive, basically offensive. I dare them to do that in any of the school visits they do or any of the church stuffs that they do in their regular touring around the riding. They don’t act that way. Why do they act that way here? Well, I guess it’s a certain frustration of their actual limitations of influence on the role of this government. So it’s no excuse, so not at all.
I’m not sure how often I’ve ever heard Paul Calandra shout something. There was some kind of exchange on Tuesday between Mr. Calandra, Mr. Cullen and Thomas Mulcair after Mr. Calandra, I believe, said something during Murray Rankin’s first question. Mr. Watson is, to my ear and recollection, a more frequent heckler. He had his own welcome for Mr. Rankin.
I emailed both Mr. Calandra and Mr. Watson to ask if either wished to respond to Mr. Cullen’s comments.
Mr. Calandra responds as follows. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 10:16 AM - 0 Comments
Shortly after Question Period concluded, the Speaker formally called for yelling. All those in favour of the motion were invited to yell yea. All those opposed were invited to yell nay.
Technically, one supposes, the members need not yell yea or nay. They could nearly say so aloud. But democracy is not for the quiet. And so on one side they yelled yea and on the other side they yelled nay, the NDP’s Peter Julian seeming to particularly enjoy this (holding his yell for an extra beat or two). The Speaker made a judgement as to who had yelled most and then, inevitably, at least five members of whichever side had lost stood to demonstrate their desire for a formal standing vote to be recorded for the sake of posterity.
With a few of these final formalities dispatched with, the Speaker called for the members—all those duly elected to be here given 30 minutes to report to the House to spend the next seven hours expressing their respective wills on Bill C-45, the second budget implementation act of 2012.
Out in the foyer, as the dull digital tone that now stands in for the ringing of actual bells chimed over and over, Bob Rae attempted to explain to a cluster of reporters what could be hoped to be accomplished by what was about to happen.
“Well, you know, we want to inflict, frankly, as much damage and make the government realize this is just a crazy way to do public business,” he said. “We’re happy to discuss navigable waters. We’re happy to discuss the tax credit policy of the government. We’re happy to discuss what their approach is to small business. We just think these things have to be dealt with in a way that respects the House and respects the democratic process. And we just don’t see that in the approach that’s being taken by the government. They are pushing any approach that’s being taken by any other parliament in the world much, much, much further. In fact, if you go back to many of the principles of parliamentary democracy, they’re opposed to this joining together of several measures in one bill. In some states in the United States, to do that is actually unconstitutional.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 11:05 AM - 0 Comments
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6:30 AM - 0 Comments
Speaker Andrew Scheer hosted his second annual Hilloween party for MPs, staffers and all…
Speaker Andrew Scheer hosted his second annual Hilloween party for MPs, staffers and all their children.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 4:35 PM - 0 Comments
The Conservatives sent up four MPs during members’ statements this afternoon to lament for the NDP’s cap-and-trade proposal. Among them was Jeff Watson, who took a moment from discussing the auto industry, to offer this.
What our government will not do is risk auto jobs by implementing the NDP’s $21 billion carbon tax that would make minivans and the gas they run on more expensive.
For the record, though the government projects that the costs will be offset by savings on gas from fuel-efficient vehicles, the passenger automobile and light truck regulations that the Harper government is pursuing will increase the purchase price of vehicles. The Conservatives have yet to announce regulations for the oil and gas sector.
Mr. Watson was first elected as a Conservative in 2004, when the Conservative party platform included a promise to investigate a cap-and-trade system. He was a Conservative MP when the 2008 party policy declaration expressed support for a domestic cap-and-trade system and, through 2008 and 2009, when Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty, John Baird and Jim Prentice expressed support for establishing a price on carbon. Mr. Watson was re-elected in 2008 when the party platform included plans for a continental cap-and-trade system. And he remains an MP in a government that won’t definitively rule out the possibility of pursuing cap-and-trade if the United States is prepared to do likewise. (All citations here.)
Meanwhile, Stephen Gordon again makes the case that the Harper government’s regulatory approach will ultimately be more costly than a carbon-pricing system.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 5:54 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Two-thirds of the way through Question Period this afternoon, Megan Leslie rose to table a conundrum—to present to the House the foundational dissonance upon which rests so much nonsense. Here was the bare farce, exposed for all to see. After some weeks of merely referring to it, the New Democrats were apparently now prepared to confront it.
“Mr. Speaker, here is what the Prime Minister said in a speech on May 29, 2008 in London, England,” Ms. Leslie prefaced. ” ‘I should mention that while our plan will effectively establish a price on carbon of $65 a ton, growing to that rate over the next decade, our government has opted not to apply carbon taxes.’ ”
Various Conservatives applauded. A couple dozen were so moved they stood to applaud. Even the Prime Minister, who had been busy filling out paperwork at his desk, looked up to applaud Ms. Leslie’s reading of his previous sentiment.
What were these men and women cheering? It was certainly not the first part of the sentence: that Mr. Harper once sought to establish a price on carbon runs directly counter to everything these men and women have been saying of late. And it was certainly not the sentence in its entirety: no, taken as a complete sentence, this exposes everything they’ve been saying to be completely ridiculous. No, these grown men and women, all of them in business attire, each of them adults entrusted by their fellow citizens with no less a responsibility than public representation, could only have been applauding the third clause of that sentence. They were apparently suggesting it was possible, in the moment, to separate the final nine words from the rest of the statement. Here they were apparently venturing not simply that it was possible to take something out of context after the fact—anyone can do that—but that the human memory is so limited and the human mind so easily confused, that words can be taken out of context as they are being spoken.
Megan Leslie waited for the applause to finish and then continued. ”Mr. Speaker,” she asked, “why does the Prime Minister want to put a tax on everything?” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 2:26 PM - 0 Comments
Members of the Canadian Medical Association voted in favour last week of maintaining Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code, the section that Stephen Woodworth seeks to have studied with his motion. Mr. Woodworth is unimpressed.
Meanwhile, Mark Warawa has posted a video to explain that he supports Mr. Woodworth’s motion.
It was reported in June that Conservative MPs were being pressured to vote against Mr. Woodworth’s motion. Mr. Warawa is, by my count, the third Conservative backbencher to public state support for Motion #312, following Stella Ambler and Jeff Watson.
Government whip Gordon O’Connor spoke against the motion when it was debated in April. It is expected to be receive its second hour of debate this fall.
I asked Mr. Woodworth via email this afternoon if he had any sense of how many MPs will be voting in favour of his motion and he responded as follows.
I really can’t say for sure, but I am not optimistic that it will even approach 50% unless there is a sudden resurgence among Members of Parliament of a commitment to the ideal of universal human rights.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 4:33 PM - 0 Comments
Watson said the federal government has been pursuing the matter “under the radar” since a 2011 report by Natural Resources Canada, which determined the hum is coming from a one-square-kilometre area in or near industrial Zug Island in River Rouge. He said in contrast to the federal government’s silent course of action the “tone and approach” of three letters sent late last March by provincial Minister of Environment Jim Bradley “have not been necessarily helpful.
“When you’re dealing in diplomatic relationships you have to be a bit more nuanced and a little more positive and sort of draw partners in. If the tone or tenor is a bit strong or instructive that could put people off,” Watson said Tuesday.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 5:55 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. “Mr. Speaker, this spring we saw the Conservatives abandon the very principles they claim they came to Ottawa to defend,” Thomas Mulcair declared this afternoon. “Ramming through their Trojan Horse budget bill.”
“Wrong!” called Conservative MP Jeff Watson.
“Gutting their own Federal Accountability Act,” Mr. Mulcair continued.
“Wrong!” chirped Watson.
“Treating their backbench MPs like a rubber stamp,” Mr. Mulcair went on.
“Double wrong!” Watson cried.
“Using closure a record number of times,” Mr. Mulcair proceeded to general grumbling and mumbling from the government side, “electoral fraud, slush funds and, of course, ministers travelling the world staying in luxury hotels and taking $23,000 limo rides on the taxpayers’ dime.”
On all of this the leader of the opposition had two questions. “How can a former member of the Reform Party defend this behaviour?” he asked. “This summer, will the Prime Minister just shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic or will he get his Conservative cabinet under control?”
This being the last Question Period for nearly three months, it was now Mr. Harper’s turn to impart best wishes for the summer ahead. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 6:19 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair had news. Or, rather, he’d read the news. And so he had a question.
“Mr. Speaker, the member for Trinity-Spadina and I last year asked why Gary Freeman, who lived in this country peaceably for 40 years and had several children, was not being allowed back in the country. The answer was an event that happened in Chicago in the sixties and he had served a short jail time. They said that because he was not a Canadian he was not allowed back in,” the leader of the opposition recounted.
“We just learned that the British criminal Conrad Black will be allowed in despite serving a second term in a federal American penitentiary,” he reported. “Why the double standard?”
The New Democrats seated around him stood to applaud.
“What about the French citizen who leads the NDP?” chirped Conservative backbencher Jeff Watson.
One should have known then that this would not end well. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
In reciting the party talking points yesterday afternoon, Jeff Watson charged that Thomas Mulcair would “bring back a risky, job-killing carbon tax.” That basis for this would seem to be that Mr. Mulcair advocates for cap-and-trade.
During the 2008 federal campaign, Mr. Harper said a carbon tax would “screw everybody” and undermine national unity. During last year’s campaign, John Baird described cap-and-trade as “dangerous” and “unCanadian.” Mr. Harper then said cap-and-trade was the same as a carbon tax. And yet…
The Conservatives promised in their 2008 campaign platform to pursue a continental cap-and-trade system. The Harper government repeated the promise in its 2008 Throne Speech. In September 2009, Jim Prentice lobbied the Alberta government on the virtues of cap-and-trade. In December 2009, the Harper government claimed to be “working in collaboration with the provinces and territories to develop a cap and trade system that will ultimately be aligned with the emerging cap and trade program in the United States.” And as recently as last May, the Environment Minister allowed that cap-and-trade “can always be something to consider in the future.”
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 - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 2:20 PM - 0 Comments
A new statement from the Conservative backbencher in his quest to start a national debate about abortion.
MP Stephen Woodworth is challenging those who disagree with his description of Canada’s 400 year old definition of human being to prove him wrong. “I’ve pointed out that Canada’s definition of human being was formulated more than 400 years ago and says that a child is not a human being in Canada until the moment of complete birth. Those are the plain words of Section 223, and no one is allowed fundamental human rights if they are not a human being. If that isn’t true, prove it”, he says.
Woodworth says he is pursuing hints that the Canadian definition of human being might have originated in the twelfth century, which would make it almost 900 years old. “I’ve concluded that 21st Century modern medical science informs us that children are certainly human beings before the moment of complete birth”, he says, challenging those who disagree to produce medical evidence which supports the existing Canadian law.
Woodworth proposes that Parliament has a duty to examine Canada’s existing 400 year old definition of a human being because of its important implications. “If there’s justification for a law which defines anyone as less than a human when that person is clearly a human being, let Canadians hear it. If there’s a principled reason why Parliament has no duty to update this 400 year old law which has such important consequences, let’s hear it”.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 11:29 AM - 5 Comments
Conservative backbencher Jeff Watson twice used the term “anti-Canada” to describe the NDP during a statement before QP yesterday. Meanwhile, fellow backbencher Patrick Brown posted the following note to Facebook last night.
Had our first government vs opposition hockey match tonight in Ottawa. All in all it was a great social outing for MPs from all three parties in the Commons to get to know each other. We may all come from different parties but we are all in public service because we love Canada. (and yes team govt won….)
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 3:42 PM - 0 Comments
The government’s investments weren’t as advertised, but the future looks expensive. Supply management was put on the table and duly debated. The Royal Society asked us to think about euthanasia, but no one wanted to talk about it. The Conservative party has some reimbursements it might return. The NDP got set to debate itself as the contenders peddled their thoughts. The Liberals offered to realign the House at no extra expense. And a multi-party committee came together to consider matters of life and death. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 18, 2011 at 2:08 PM - 24 Comments
Rob Nicholson, July 2008. “We don’t govern by statistics in our government.”
Rob Nicholson, July 2009. “We don’t govern on the latest statistics.”
Stockwell Day, August 2010. “We’re very concerned . . . about the increase in the amount of unreported crimes that surveys clearly show are happening. People simply aren’t reporting the same way they used to.”
Rob Nicholson, September 2011. “We’re not governing on the basis of the latest statistics.”
Jeff Watson, this morning in the House. “Madam Speaker, with our tackling violent crime act, measures to strengthen parole, pardons and sentences for violent criminals, funds for more frontline police and to prevent at-risk youth from a life of crime, only this Conservative government is making our communities and streets safer. According to StatsCan’s just released 2010 crime severity index, Windsor–Essex is the safest region in Canada. Among the safest Canadian communities over 10,000 people, the town of LaSalle ranks 2nd, Tecumseh 4th, Kingsville 7th, Lakeshore 8th, Essex 12th. Windsor is the 7th safest big city of 32, and topping the list of 238 safest towns and cities is my hometown, Amherstburg. Thanks to our dedicated police, strong community involvement, our government’s investments to prevent crime and tough laws to crack down on criminals, Windsor–Essex is the safest region in Canada.”
Local officials in Windsor and Essex County have cited a number of possible explanations for the recent success there, including shifting demographics, community assistance, police involvement in schools and “luck.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 3:30 PM - 0 Comments
One part of the In-and-Out scandal came to an end with the Conservatives pleading guilty and claiming victory.
Romeo Saganash clarified himself and touted his skill. Niki Ashton asserted herself. Nathan Cullen continued to pitch cooperation. Paul Dewar set out his arts agenda. Peggy Nash won the endorsement of Alexa McDonough.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 11, 2011 at 3:24 PM - 24 Comments
Wading into a discussion about rail service between Quebec City and Windsor, Conservative MP Jeff Watson ventures an interesting stance on government spending.
On Wednesday I asked Essex MP Jeff Watson, who sits on the federal transportation committee, why Canada couldn’t do something similar on the Quebec City-Windsor line – say, invest $100 million per year in the corridor to gradually boost speeds. ”Why?” Watson shot back. “Rail is not profitable. Why would we invest $100 million a year in something that’s not profitable?”
The difficulty here would be applying this standard to spending on health care, the military or policing and law enforcement. With the exception of collecting taxes, is there much of anything a government does that turns a profit?
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 5:42 PM - 67 Comments
The Scene. For a full 13 questions this afternoon, the opposition insisted on pressing the government about matters—the economy, trade, the separation of powers in a proper functioning democracy—unrelated to whether or not the Defence Minister should be ashamed or at least embarrassed.
Finally, the Speaker called on the NDP’s Tarik Brahmi, a francophone apparently of Algerian descent, who nonetheless looks to me like a tough English soccer fanatic.
“Mr. Speaker, according to a release by the Canadian Press, the Defence Minister was kept out of key decisions about Canada’s role in the Afghan war,” he said. “This was a top defence priority, yet the Prime Minister was calling all the shots. The Prime Minister could have used some advice. Most agree our efforts should have focused more on peace talks and diplomacy. Is he still making foreign policy and defence decisions on his own, or does he now let his cabinet in the room?”
Peter MacKay stood here not only to enthuse about how cooperatively the Harper government operates, but also to state his objections to talks with the Taliban. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 1:10 PM - 101 Comments
On the occasion of National Flag Day last week, Conservative backbencher Jeff Watson celebrated everything that Canada has to be proud of from the last fifty years—managing in the process, either with or without irony, to both damn and confirm Mr. Ignatieff’s observation of some years ago.
Mr. Speaker, it was not the flag in days of yore; not Wolfe’s flag, nor Sir John A.’s. It was not the flag of Vimy or Passchendaele. It was not even the flag of Mr. Diefenbaker. Yet it is “our emblem dear.” When we welcomed the world at Expo in 1967, when we won the 1972 series against the Soviet Union, when we set a Winter Olympic record for gold medals last year in Vancouver, it was our flag.
We are proud to be here representing Canadians under our single red maple leaf raised 46 years ago. Well, most of us are proud. One MP, however, has said, and I quote: In the case of the Canadian flag, I cannot entirely forget that it is both my flag and a passing imitation of a beer label.
The Liberal leader should be ashamed of himself. We should all be proud to celebrate Flag Day. As one company said, “I am Canadian.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 12, 2010 at 4:05 PM - 0 Comments
We know, because we’ve been told, that the next governor general is a non-partisan. But other facets of his history and personality are so far less understood.
For instance, though it was not noted in the official release announcing his appointment, in the third paragraph of the attached four-paragraph backgrounder we learn that Mr. Johnston, who was introduced to the country as a respected academic, began his post-secondary studies at Harvard. Granted, while at Harvard, he played “ice hockey,” as they call it there. But still, Harvard.
This is obviously confusing, for if we have learned anything at all over the last four and a half years it’s that the name of that American educational institution is only to be invoked or referenced in the derisive sense, for the purposes of mocking another’s character or intellect.
To wit. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 9 Comments
All parties were united by wearing blue to show their support for NDP leader…
All parties were united by wearing blue to show their support for NDP leader Jack Layton in his battle with prostate cancer. The men were given ties and the women were given scarves by Prostate Cancer Canada. Below, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 9, 2009 at 10:37 AM - 56 Comments
The Star explores the practice of unelected Conservative candidates turning up at government funding announcements. Not mentioned is candidate Denise Ghanam’s explanation when she appeared with Conservative MP Jeff Watson at an announcement in Essex County two months ago.
What’s the rush, I asked Watson; are Conservatives preparing in case the Liberal party decides in Sudbury today it needs to trigger an election? ”These announcements take months to prepare,” Watson said, shaking his head at my suggestion.
Then why bring a Conservative candidate from a nearby riding to a funding announcement? ”I’m still learning the ropes,” Ghanam says. “This is all about the economy.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 4:36 PM - 7 Comments
RCMP officers mingled with MPs at The Mounted Police Members Legal Fund reception held…
RCMP officers mingled with MPs at The Mounted Police Members Legal Fund reception held in House Speaker Peter Milliken’s dining room.
(Left to right) Anthony Carricato from Speaker Milliken’s office, Tory aide Matt Deacon, Transport Minister John Baird.