By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 2, 2009 - 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 - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 6:22 PM - 26 Comments
“Mr. Speaker,” he began, “a third of a million Canadians have lost their jobs under the Conservative government.”
“You’re next Ralph,” chirped Conservative Jeff Watson from the further reaches of the government side.
“Tens of thousands cannot get the employment insurance they paid for, because Conservatives insist on eligibility rules designed for the beginning of a boom,” Goodale continued undaunted. “But the boom has gone bust. The C.D. Howe Institute, the Conference Board, the TD Bank—these are not socialist organizations—and they all say the Conservatives are wrong on EI. Why will the Prime Minister not help all of the jobless workers who are suffering through his recession regardless of where they live?”
“Oh Ralph,” moaned a Conservative at Goodale’s assigning our current predicament to our current Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, Mr. Harper was not present. And though normally that would’ve been the cue for Diane Finley, the Human Resources Minister, to stand and dismiss the Liberal complaint, this time the government sent up Tony Clement. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 7:30 PM - 17 Comments
The Scene. Bob Rae was lingering near the microphones after Question Period, taking questions on Ruby Dhalla’s nanny troubles, when he decided to venture an analogy
“I’ve said many times that politics is more like hockey than it’s like ballet,” he mused. “If you perceive a weakness, then it’s no surprise to anyone that people would try to take partisan advantage of that.”
The government side has taken a few opportunities these past two days to raise the matter of Ruby Dhalla in the House. On each occasion, a backbencher was sent up solemn-faced and seemingly on the verge of tears to read into the record details of the various allegations and ask that a minister rise to explain in further detail how precisely abhorrent the whole thing is. Today, both Helena Guergis, minister of state for the status of women, and Jason Kenney, the immigration minister, were given the chance and carried out their duties with obvious concern.
“Having been at this business for nearly 30 years, I’m not surprised by anything that I’ve seen or heard in the House of Commons the last couple of days,” Rae continued. “I think the point has to be made though that we don’t do public show trials in Canada and we don’t try and hang people on the floor of the House of Commons.”
Indeed, Canada did away with public hanging shortly after it became a country. Thus, we were left with hockey and politics to satisfy our need of bloody spectacle. And so Question Period still serves some purpose. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 27, 2009 at 7:10 PM - 31 Comments
The Scene. Shortly before 2 o’clock, in the midst of the capital’s first truly sweltering afternoon this year, a man in a dark suit and plastic animal mask—depicting a sheep, it seems—stood outside the Centre Block entrance reserved for Members of Parliament, handing out copies of former MP Garth Turner’s new book. Said book, as the animal mask was apparently intended to relate, is entitled Sheeple, a term apparently applied to people who often take on the characteristics—curly white hair covering most of the body, fondness for grazing, tendency to do as told—of sheep.
This was conceivably done to make some point. Or poke fun. Or sell a few books. Or some combination thereof. And, for sure, there should be nothing to prohibit anyone from making points, poking fun, or selling books about all that is obvious and absurd and obviously absurd about this place.
But then, in fairness, so much has changed in the six months or so since Mr. Turner was unceremoniously voted out of office. For one, the party to which he was most recently a member has found a new leader, this one fluent in all sorts of English verbs and tenses. For another, that leader has insisted on Question Period being something other than an opportunity to try and convict one’s rivals of various moral crimes.
Today’s session, for instance and as coincidence would have it, began with several fine and reasoned exchanges of inquiry and information. For perhaps a full half hour—with a man in a suit and an animal mask sweating away outside—the proceedings were both graceful and informative, genteel and respectful.
Oh, and boring. Dreadfully, dreadfully boring. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 27, 2009 at 12:21 PM - 30 Comments
The most entertaining parts of Sheeple, Garth Turner’s awkwardly titled account of his most recent time in politics, are almost definitely the previously undisclosed bits of private conversation and internal discussion Turner claims to have been party to. If only because truly candid, available-for-public-consumption comment from a politician is otherwise so rare.
Herein, a brief collection of Sheeple’s highlights in this regard. Note: some adult language follows. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 11:59 AM - 18 Comments
Transcript of a point of order raised after yesterday afternoon’s votes.
Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Madam Speaker, I would like to inform the House that, during the first vote, the one on the Bloc Québécois’ opposition motion concerning the gun registry, the Conservative member for Essex made an inappropriate gesture, and I would like to ask you to take action. When the member for Essex stood to vote against the Bloc Québécois motion—as is his right—he made an inappropriate gesture: he imitated a handgun, a revolver, using his thumb and index finger. Many Bloc Québécois members saw him quite clearly. Consequently, I would ask the member for Essex to apologize for making that inappropriate gesture. Given that the vote was on the subject of whether to maintain the firearms registry, it was totally unacceptable.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): The Chair did not observe the gesture. I will give the member for Essex an opportunity to comment, or we can wait and review the video recording for this session.
Mr. Jeff Watson (Essex, CPC): Madam Speaker, for the benefit of the House, I was horsing around a bit with a colleague. It was certainly not intended at any member across the House or anyone else. There was no disrespect intended. It was not intended at hon. members across the House. In that sense, this is my explanation on that.
Mr. Michel Guimond: Madam Speaker, when you look at the recording, you will see that he was pointing right at the leader of the Bloc Québécois, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie. It was perfectly clear to those of us on this side of the House. We eagerly await your decision.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): I would like to inform the hon. member that I will take his comments under advisement and, this afternoon, I will comment on what can be heard and seen on the tape.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 5:35 PM - 6 Comments
Watson said that caring community attitude is what will bring us through this difficult time. “We have to avoid ‘me thinking’ and start ‘we thinking’,” Watson said. “Community has to be that much more important.”
He encourages people to look in on their neighbours and make personal economic decisions in a “human way” to help stimulate the economy. “If you’re planning a renovation, now’s the time to do it. Purchase that new vehicle,” he said. “We have to do our own individual part.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 10:23 PM - 0 Comments
Globe and Mail, January 16. “The Harper government has refused to provide financial aid to the auto industry, including funding to support a $300-million plan to reopen a shuttered engine plant in Windsor, Ont. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said this morning that Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear when he met with the premiers last Friday that Ottawa is not prepared to inject funding into specific projects.”
Globe and Mail, January 17. “Ottawa won’t dole out direct financial aid to help reopen a shuttered Windsor, Ont., Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. engine plant, because the Harper government doesn’t believe in targeted subsidies to specific firms, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says.”
Windsor Star, tonight. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to pledge $80 million worth of financial support Wednesday toward a $600-million Ford investment to reopen its mothballed Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, Ont.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 8:06 PM - 0 Comments
Not that anyone’s currently around to hold a vote. Nor that there could be a vote—or at least one that could matter. But for those of you keeping score at home, here’s a breakdown of those MPs who’ve spoken publicly about the appointment of Dr. Morgentaler. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 23, 2008 at 4:44 PM - 0 Comments
The best, worst and merely laughable of the recently completed Parliamentary session
The Scene. Late last week, at the press conference he’d called to formally reject the Liberal green plan he hadn’t bothered to read, Jason Kenney was asked to account for his government’s tone—the language with which it had chosen to engage the current debate.
“I don’t think that Canadians are so humourless and earnest,” he posited, “that they reject humour in political discourse.”
There are at least two problems with this assessment.
At the outset, it assumes that what Mr. Kenney’s had to say has been particularly funny. This is, by most objective standards, a stretch. His particular line on the Liberal carbon tax relies on the fact that the word “shift” sounds something like a swear. While perhaps uproarious when compared with other discussions around here—so many of them having to do with war and poverty and other sufferings—most of us ceased finding this pun particularly hilarious around the first time we kissed a girl (or boy, as it were).
But, in fairness to Mr. Kenney, let’s pretend his comedic stylings on this front have been the stuff of a night at the Apollo. Even if that were the case, so, er, what? Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 20, 2008 at 4:13 PM - 0 Comments
Rick Norlock. “The reason for this tax shaft is that the Liberal leader needed to find a way to pay for all his unbudgeted spending promises.”
Daryl Kramp. “Canadians will not be fooled. They know when they are getting the shaft and not the shift.”
Jeff Watson. “Canadians and the environment get the shaft.”
Stephen Harper. “This is different in that this will actually screw everybody across the country.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 9, 2008 at 9:21 PM - 0 Comments
Neither cowardly nor spineless, this man is most certainly a mule
The Scene. If nothing else now, let there be no more suggestion that Stéphane Dion is a wimp. A wuss. A pussy cat of a man. Indeed, if it’s animal metaphors you traffic in, he is neither the rat his sovereigntist opponents once thought him, nor the spineless jellyfish (an amorphous blob drifting along, prone to stinging well-intentioned swimmers with sudden tax hikes) these Conservatives have exhaustively made him out to be.
No, Mr. Dion is most certainly a mule. Stubborn, steadfast and undaunted at the prospect of suffering and burden. Surely there is no more appropriate description of the man we presently see before us. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 4:22 PM - 0 CommentsContrary to what you might believe from staring into Maxime Bernier’s sturdy visage, the business of running this country is not all so glamorous. No, much of it involves selfless acts of partisanship, the denial of one’s individual respect in the interests of more senior ministers. And for this stuff, the government keeps a couple dozen backbenchers at the ready—each eager to read from whatever piece of paper they’re handed whenever the Minister of Defence needs a friendly question or a former prime minister needs his reputation guarded at committee.We’re thinking here of the grumpy David Tilson or the wild-eyed Jeff Watson, the latter a man who is forever smiling like those fans you see in the background of hockey fights. Poor Rick Dykstra, the honourable member for St. Catharines, would be relatively anonymous if not for his standing up ever second QP and lobbing a safely scripted query at whatever minister needs to tout an accomplishment.
Still, every so often, one of the grunts is rewarded. Perhaps with a spot on CBC’s afternoon panel. Or, in the case of Rick Norlock, a spring break trip to Mexico.
Norlock is, unluckily enough, the official representative of a constituent by the name of Brenda Martin, an altogether unlucky chef currently held in a Mexican prison. As a result, Norlock was called upon last week to have the following, completely spontaneous exchange with Maxime Bernier during QP.
Norlock: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I have met recently concerning the plight of Brenda Martin, who remains in a Mexican jail awaiting the completion of her trial. I have spoken with Ms. Martin’s mother. She is concerned, I am concerned, my constituents are concerned, as are many other Canadians. We want to see action and justice for Ms. Martin and that is what I believe this government is doing.
Can the minister give the House an update regarding the steps our Conservative government is taking on behalf of Ms. Martin to ensure a speedy completion of her legal situation and a return to the loving arms of her mother as soon as possible?
Bernier: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and also for his hard work on this case. We are working to help Canadians. We are working to help her to be sure that she will be back in Canada and that she will have a process. An important point— yesterday, we sent a very clear diplomatic note. We asked for additional guarantees from the Government of Mexico to ensure that Ms. Martin’s rights are being respected.
Good stuff. And in case there were any doubts about his resolve, Norlock told the local paper back home how he’d pleaded his constituent’s case with no less than the Prime Minister.
Funny thing though, early this week concerns were made public about how sincere Mr. Norlock was being in his insistent concern. The reason for such cynicism?
When he was approached by a Canwest News Service reporter in February 2007 for the first story about Martin’s imprisonment, he told the reporter he had reviewed her file and said she belonged in prison. He then abruptly hung up and did not return subsequent calls.
Oh. Well. Probably just a bad connection. And anyway, the honourable member was off to Mexico with one of the Prime Minister’s most trusted deputies, Jason Kenney, to speak directly with Ms. Martin and ensure her well-being.
After a long day of diplomacy, Mr. Norlock spoke with another local scribe and detailed the government’s progress. Ms. Martin, he said, would be home soon enough. Just a matter of paper work. And, for that matter, she’s doing just fine. Even got her own bed.
Funny thing though, Ms. Martin then gave her own interview.
A Canadian woman imprisoned in a Mexican jail says a visit by a pair of Conservative MPs was nothing more than a “dog-and-pony show.” A tearful Brenda Martin says she thinks Tory MPs Jason Kenney and Rick Norlock met with her for political gain now that her case is garnering more media attention.
Though perhaps not to the benefit of his own re-election campaign, Norlock can at least now go back to anonymity (or wherever Helena Guergis is being kept these days), leaving the likes of Kenney and Bernier to answer opposition questions about which is the dog and which is the pony.