By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 0 Comments
With his second question, Thomas Mulcair rounded on the Finance Minister.
“Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister announces changes to mortgage rules and then reverses them. The Finance Minister announces changes to skilled training programs and then reverses them, all without warning, all without consultation, all at great cost,” Mr. Mulcair declared. “It is no wonder that senior public servants from the Finance Minister’s own office are now calling his actions ‘a disgrace and an insult to Parliament.’ ”
The NDP leader had slipped two ways here. First, the two senior public servants in this case—Scott Clark and Peter DeVries—are formerly of the finance department and neither ever worked under the authority of Jim Flaherty. Second, the specific “disgrace” and “insult” to Parliament referred to was the practice of omnibus legislation.
The Prime Minister might remember feeling somewhat likewise about omnibus bills, but he stood here to resolutely defend his Finance Minister. “Canada is very lucky to have the most successful finance minister in the world,” Mr. Harper proclaimed. “That has been recognized by experts in this field around the world and is backed by the performance of the Canadian economy. In spite of the tremendous difficulties that continue to exist, the global uncertainty, the Canadian economy has managed to created 900,000 net new jobs since the end of the recession and that is due, in no small measure, to the good efforts of the Minister of Finance.”
Mr. Mulcair persisted, returning to the matter of Mr. Flaherty’s letter to the CRTC. Mr. Harper persisted in defending his minister. Somehow or another this culminated in John Duncan, the former aboriginal affairs minister who was recently dispatched after an errant letter to the tax court, receiving a standing ovation from the Conservatives.
When Bob Rae stood to ask his first question, he returned the House to this matter of the former public servants and their quibbles with the government’s general approach to budgetary matters. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 22, 2013 at 10:16 AM - 0 Comments
To account for the resignation of John Duncan, the Prime Minister’s Office has announced a small cabinet shuffle. Bernard Valcourt, previously the associate minister of defence, becomes the new aboriginal affairs minister. Kerry-Lynne Findlay, previously parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, becomes the new associate minister of defence.
National Revenue Minister Gail Shea gets responsibility for ACOA and Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney assumes responsibility for La Francophonie. Both were previously the responsibility of Mr. Valcourt.
Mr. Valcourt held several ministerial portfolio’s in Brian Mulroney’s cabinet in the late 80s and early 90s.
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 3:56 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – The surprise resignation of Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan is being met…
TORONTO – The surprise resignation of Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan is being met with cynicism among some First Nations leaders, who call it a diversion as aboriginal issues gain momentum on the national stage.
Isadore Day, Chief of the Serpent River First Nation in Ontario, voiced his misgivings on Twitter Friday shortly after Duncan’s announcement.
He called the move a “shell game” and accused Ottawa of being “tactically strategic” in making Duncan its “sacrificial lamb.”
Other First Nations groups expressed shock or even sadness at Duncan’s departure and said they look forward to working with his replacement, Heritage Minister James Moore, who is temporarily taking over the portfolio.
A statement by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs also strongly urged the government to choose the next minister carefully, adding Canada’s indigenous people are “no longer willing to accept the status quo” of the Indian Act.
A spokeswoman for the group was more vocal on Twitter, however, saying Duncan’s resignation appeared to be “a diversion tactic.”
The message posted by Sheila North Wilson went on to say: “Either way, we are affecting (sic) change and I think prayers and songs we sing are helping.”
She said Saturday the comment reflected her own opinion rather than the chiefs’.
The national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples expressed sadness on Duncan’s resignation.
Betty Ann Lavallee called Duncan an honourable man who was doing his best “to improve the lives of all Aboriginal Peoples throughout Canada.”
With the prime minister having publicly committed to a new round of negotiations over treaty issues and land-claims settlements, the leadership of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is likely to take on a much higher profile in the Conservative government.
Duncan announced on Friday he was stepping down after improperly advocating to a tax court on behalf of a constituent.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 15, 2013 at 11:36 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic Jean Crowder.
“After the last two weeks of witnessing the Prime Minister defend the entitlements of his Senators and his ministers’ conflicts of interest, it’s good to finally see one Conservative, Mr. Duncan, actually take responsibility for his actions.
“Conservatives have clearly been unable to get the job done on aboriginal issues. At this crucial time in First Nation, Métis and Inuit relations, the Prime minister must move quickly to replace Mr. Duncan with a full-time Minister – not someone who’s time is split between three ministries – who can help the Conservative government change direction and start building a more respectful nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations, Métis and Inuit.”
The official story seems to be that ministers were ordered to review their files after Jim Flaherty’s letter to the CRTC got the Finance Minister in trouble and that Mr. Duncan’s letter turned up as a result of that review. John Geddes explains why writing to the tax court was such a clear infraction.
By Bruce Cheadle - Friday, February 15, 2013 at 6:25 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A rough week for the governing Conservatives got rougher late Friday with…
OTTAWA – A rough week for the governing Conservatives got rougher late Friday with the surprise resignation of Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.
Duncan announced he was stepping down after improperly advocating to a tax court on behalf of a constituent.
Cabinet members were recently asked to review their correspondence following revelations by The Canadian Press that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had improperly promoted a business in his riding in its licence application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
The federal ethics commissioner reiterated that such interventions by public office holders are forbidden.
By John Geddes - Friday, February 15, 2013 at 5:52 PM - 0 Comments
The most surprising thing about John Duncan’s resignation today as Aboriginal affairs minister is the lack of ambiguity about the line he crossed. This isn’t an example of a politician misunderstanding a grey area: cabinet ministers just aren’t allowed to try to influence courts.
Yet Duncan says in his letter of resignation that he “wrote a character letter to the Tax Court of Canada on behalf of an individual to whom my constituency staff was providing casework assistance.” He did this despite the fact that, according to Ottawa University law professor Adam Dodek, who happens also to be a former political aide, “it is beaten into ministers and their political staffs that they can have no contact with judges.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 15, 2013 at 4:14 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from the Prime Minister.
“Today, I have accepted the resignation of John Duncan as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
“I would like to thank Mr. Duncan for his many contributions as Minister and for his service to the people of Canada. Mr. Duncan will continue to serve as the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Island North in the House of Commons.
“The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, will serve as the acting Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development until a new Minister is named.”
A statement from Mr. Duncan explains why.
“In June of 2011 I wrote a character reference letter to the Tax Court of Canada on behalf of an individual to whom my constituency staff was providing casework assistance on a Canada Revenue Agency matter.
“While the letter was written with honourable intentions, I realize that it was not appropriate for me, as a Minister of the Crown, to write to the Tax Court. I have therefore offered my resignation as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to the Prime Minister, which he has accepted.
“I take full responsibility for my actions and the consequences they have brought.
“It has been an honour to serve in the Cabinet and I thank the Prime Minister for placing his confidence in me on this most important file. I have every confidence that the Government will reach its goal of improving the lives of Aboriginal peoples across our country.
“I pledge that I will continue to work hard on behalf of the constituents of Vancouver Island North as their elected representative in Ottawa.”
Mr. Duncan will be added to the official list of ministerial resignations as the seventh minister to step down since the Conservatives formed government in 2006. The nearest precedent for Mr. Duncan’s particular situation might be Jean Charest, who resigned as sports minister in 1990 after speaking to a judge. David Collenette (who does not appear on that list of resignations for whatever reason) resigned in 1996 over a letter to the immigration and refugee board.
What’s the difference between Mr. Duncan’s letter to the Tax Court and Jim Flaherty’s letter to the CRTC? Adam Dodek says it’s the difference between judicial and quasi-judicial.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 10:15 PM - 0 Comments
MPs helped packed the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier for a reception put…
MPs helped packed the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier for a reception put on by the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 2:56 PM - 0 Comments
Today in Question Period, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan fielded questions on the consultation he’s launched into education in First Nations communities.
Duncan also discussed that subject briefly earlier this month in an interview with Maclean’s for this story. As the education file gains prominence, here are his answers, edited and condensed, on some key points up for debate:
Q Isn’t funding for First Nations education just too low?
A Because First Nations schools are in small, remote communities they require a higher per student expenditure to be at an equivalent level.
By John Geddes - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
As Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan keeps a low profile
After last Friday’s high-stakes meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Assembly of First Nations, Jody Wilson-Raybould wasted no time flying back to the restful ocean views of her home in the reserve village of Cape Mudge, on British Columbia’s Quadra Island. But Wilson-Raybould, the AFN’s B.C. regional chief, and a key ally of its national chief, Shawn Atleo, couldn’t really escape. Atleo announced on Monday that he would be stepping aside temporarily to recover from a stomach flu and exhaustion. He left Wilson-Raybould, along with Perry Bellegarde, Saskatchewan’s regional chief, to take the lead in planning for the AFN’s crucial next meeting with Harper later this month. In a phone interview from Cape Mudge, she said the Prime Minister’s engagement gives her hope of being able to push past recent federal tactics, particularly in land claims talks, which she described as “an insult.”
The architect of those tactics is another British Columbian, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan. Considering the intense focus on his department in recent weeks, Duncan’s profile has stayed low. He remains Harper’s lead minister on the file, though, and a key figure in the story being driven by Idle No More—the loosely coordinated protest movement, mainly of Aboriginal youth—and the month-long hunger strike of Attawapiskat, Ont.’s Chief Theresa Spence. Duncan denies the claim, so often asserted as the underlying cause of the upheaval, that First Nations are stalled in poverty. He points to some 70 reserves, for instance, that have signed a federal law that gives them greater freedom to manage their own land. “Those communities are, for the most part, really moving forward,” he said. “They are not the people that are out there demonstrating.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 3:33 PM - 0 Comments
The Harper government announced yesterday that it will invest $330.8 million over two years “to sustain progress made to build and renovate water and wastewater infrastructure on reserve and to support the development of a long-term strategy to improve water quality in First Nation communities.” The funding commitment is about nine and a half months old, having first been made in the budget. At that time the Assembly of First Nations deemed it insufficient.
The 2012 budget commitment of $330 million over two years represents a continuation of the federal program. The two-year investment falls short of the estimated $4.7 billion in funding required as identified by the 2011 National Engineering Assessment. First Nations must continue to engage with the Government of Canada to develop a plan to implement the recommendations of the 2011 study and ensure a clear plan of investment.
The National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems was released in July 2011. The total cost for new servicing was projected to be $4.7 billion over ten years, but that projection comes with some caveats. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 8:41 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after noon, with a group of women standing as human obstacles in front of the Langevin Block’s main doors, a crowd spilling out into the street, a man in a fur hat—Raymond Robinson, I believe, the Manitoba elder who has been on a hunger strike for the past month—stepped forward to shout his demands at the building, an imposing, Gothic Revival bunker across the street from Parliament Hill.
“Come on out, Harper!
“Come on Harper! Come on out!”
“Come on Harper, come outside! Be a man!
“Nation to nation! No more, no less!”
Around him, protesters drummed and sang in the cold and the rain. Two carved eagle heads were held aloft along with a dozen flags. A chant of “Idle! No More!” rose up from the crowd.
“I don’t want to fight, I just want to talk to you!”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister’s Office has released the above photo of today’s meeting. Seated to the Prime Minister’s right is Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and to Mr. Duncan’s right is National Chief Shawn Atleo. Beside Mr. Atleo are Treasury Board President Tony Clement and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. To Mr. Harper’s left are Greg Rickford, parliamentary secretary to Mr. Duncan, and Mr. Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright.
According to the PMO, the Prime Minister will be attending for the duration of today’s meetings. A news conference with someone from the government side is expected after the meeting concludes. Mr. Atleo is not scheduled to meet with the media.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 3:33 PM - 0 Comments
The itinerary for Friday’s meeting between the Harper government and aboriginal leaders at the Langevin Block (the building across from Parliament Hill that houses the Prime Minister’s Office).
1pm: Opening session with remarks from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Chief Shawn Atleo
1:30pm-4:00pm: Plenary session to discuss the treaty relationship and aboriginal rights, and economic development. Chairs: John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development; Perry Bellegarde, Regional Chief; Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board; and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Regional Chief
4:00pm-5:00pm: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Chief Shawn Atleo will engage in a dialogue with the Chairs about the outcomes of the plenary session
The proceedings apparently won’t be televised and the Prime Minister won’t be taking questions from reporters afterwards. As noted, a ceremonial meeting with the Governor General is expected to occur at Rideau Hall after the meetings at Langevin.
Tonight, at Stornoway, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is meeting with 20 First Nations chiefs, including Shawn Atleo.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 5:59 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Of all the festive games to be played on Halloween, shaming committee chairs is somewhat less messy than leaving a bag of flaming dog poop on a neighbour’s doorstep, but decidedly less fun than bobbing for apples. Alas, under the stodgy rules of parliamentary decorum, it was the best the NDP could offer this afternoon.
The New Democrats have been occupying themselves these days with attempting to convince various committees to take up study of C-45, the government’s latest budget bill. The Conservatives, soon after tabling the bill in the House, had said that they would allow the bill to be studied at 10 committees. The Conservatives vowed they would move a motion at the finance committee to do just that. But the New Democrats were apparently keen to see those studies commence post haste and so have been proposing motions hither and yon. Each of those efforts seems to have been stymied. And so now the New Democrats get to claim great umbrage.
“Mr. Speaker, this is simple,” Megan Leslie explained this afternoon. “A motion was proposed, we went in camera, and the motion never came out again.”
Ms. Leslie wondered if the chair of the environment committee—Conservative MP Mark Warawa—might stand and confirm that he was going to be scheduling hearings on C-45. To respond though stood Transport Minister Denis Lebel, who assured Ms. Leslie of the validity of the budget’s changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
Bob Rae spoke in the House this morning on his motion about replacing the Indian Act.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 2:24 PM - 0 Comments
NDP MP Romeo Saganash and Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett say Nutrition North has failed, while John Duncan defends the program. Fred Hill and Michael Fitzgerald, who managed the previous Food Mail program, say Nutrition North is a poor substitute.
Though touted as a more efficient and market-driven approach with its streamlined (narrower) list of eligible foods scheduled to come into effect in October 2012, and with improved transparency and accountability, Nutrition North Canada seems to be perceived by most northerners as an unmitigated failure. Despite recent public protests throughout Nunavut and a barrage of criticism, including that of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, who was treated so disrespectfully by Canadian ministers in May, the department has released no evidence that the promised reductions in food prices and improvements in quality have occurred, 15 months after it came into effect.
Six months before the new program was launched, the department abandoned its 21-year practice of conducting food price surveys in isolated northern communities and southern supply centres and publishing the cost of a healthy food basket. It therefore has no reliable independent evidence to contradict or support the public impression of program failure.
(In the link above, Mr. Duncan does claim some specific reductions in food prices.)
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 22, 2012 at 1:33 PM - 0 Comments
The only thing more fun than a cabinet shuffle is speculating about a cabinet shuffle. The Star, Huffington Post, CBC and Postmedia have your first guesses, including mentions of Peter MacKay, Bev Oda, Julian Fantino, Christian Paradis, John Duncan, Peter Kent, Vic Toews, Maxime Bernier, Denis Lebel, Rob Nicholson, Jason Kenney, James Moore, John Baird, Chris Alexander, Michelle Rempel, Candice Hoeppner, Kellie Leitch, James Rajotte and Greg Rickford.
That leaves just 144 Conservatives (excluding the Prime Minister) left to be speculated about between now and whenever Mr. Harper goes to Rideau. Actually, 145 if you include the stuffed dog that participated in last week’s C-38 vote marathon.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 16, 2012 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Steven Fletcher, the Minister of State for Transport, is stepping away from his duties to deal with a health issue.
“I will shortly be undergoing medical treatment that will require some substantial recovery time, during which I will be unable to perform all of my duties as Minister of State (Transport). I am pleased with my medical team and appreciate the support and good wishes of friends, colleagues, and constituents.”
After some speculation that he might have to step aside, the office of Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan confirmed last week that he’d recently been hospitalized as a result of a heart problem, but was fully recovered and fully engaged with his file.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 12, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Aboriginal Affairs Minister and Attawapiskat chief seem to have communication issues.
When the minister, John Duncan, said the band’s chief had agreed to have third-party manager Jacques Marion supervise finances, co-host Craig Oliver said he had just spoken to Chief Theresa Spence. She says that’s a lie,” Oliver said. “She did agree to everything else you said but did not agree to work with the third-party manager. We have a serious conflict here.” Then Duncan said, “We talked to her within the last hour.” To which, Oliver replied, “We talked to her 10 minutes ago.” The minister concluded: “The reality is the third-party manager is in place.”
In a telephone interview with CTV News after the program’s conclusion, Spence said: “He’s a liar, because I didn’t say I agreed. Third party is not the answer here. We declared an emergency crisis, not a crisis on finances.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 4:59 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP leadership contenders made their first impressions. Bruce Hyer napped. Robert Chisholm defended his unilingualism. Paul Dewar proposed a new kind of vote subsidy. Thomas Mulcair pitched cap-and-trade.
Chuck Strahl complicated John Duncan’s timeline. The citizens of Attawapiskat turned away the auditor, who’s costing them $1,300 per day. Peter MacKay had a history with helicopter rides. The Liberals double-checked. A retired major came to the minister’s defence. And the minister threatened to sue. Peter Goldring became an independent. MPs failed in their duty. And Jim Hillyer celebrated (and then kind of tried to sort of apologize). Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 1:11 PM - 71 Comments
The third-party auditor will cost Attawapiskat about $1,300 per day.
Aboriginal Affairs officials told The Canadian Press they have an agreement to pay Jacques Marion of BDO Canada LLP a total of $180,000 to look after the reserve’s accounts from now until June 30. The money comes from the Attawapiskat First Nation’s budget. That rate over the course of a year would run up to $300,000 and easily pay for at least one nice, solid house, notes Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Stan Louttit.
Conveying a request from the community, the NDP says the military should be used to help get supplies to Attawapiskat. John Duncan is raising the possibility of evacuating those who do not have adequate housing.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 8:15 AM - 34 Comments
Attawapiskat turned away the third-party manager yesterday. John Duncan’s office expressed its disappointment in a statement last night.
Today, the Third Party Manager was in the community with AANDC officials. When he arrived he was asked to leave by community leadership on behalf of Chief Theresa Spence. The Third Party Manager, Jacques Marion, wished to respect the volatile situation and is currently not in the community. He remains in full control of funding from Aboriginal Affairs to the community and is hoping to work with the community to address urgent needs. It is extremely worrying that the Chief and council are not open to outside assistance. Minister Duncan met with Chief Theresa Spence, and Grand Chief Stan Louttit and reiterated that our government’s priority is to ensure that residents of Attawapiskat have access to safe, warm, and dry shelter. The Minister stressed that all parties should put the needs of the people first. He asked that the Chief and Council work with the Third Party Manager to identify the immediate needs of the community. Minister Duncan remains committed to this plan of action.
Kathryn Blaze Carlson compares the competing claims.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 31 Comments
In an interview with CBC Radio’s The House, Strahl tells host Evan Solomon the crisis at Attawapiskat “has been a slow moving train-wreck for a long time … Attawapiskat “was always a problem,” said Strahl. ”It was not good when I was there, and I don’t think it’s appreciably, or any better now. That was well known, everybody knew it was a very difficult community for a bunch of reasons.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 6:41 PM - 1 Comment
We tried to save the House of Commons.
Brian Topp pitched higher taxes (and considered equality). Nathan Cullen pitched democratic reform. Martin Singh pitched a national pharmacare plan. Paul Dewar prioritized. Robert Chisholm talked leadership.
Elections Canada tried to figure out kids these days. The Department of National Defence tried to keep the cost of its new headquarters quiet. The NDP bought billboard space. The omnibus crime bill went unaccounted for. The House voted to keep curtailing debate. The Harperization of Canada was confirmed. The Conservatives peddled rumours and defended their right to do so. Tony Clement explained his verbal typo. And the Speaker ruled John Williamson and Geoff Regan out of order. Continue…