By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 0 Comments
Mitchel Raphael celebrates the season with the Opposition
The NDP held their annual holiday party in the Hall of Honour. Great lighting, booze bars, an oyster bar and food stations were spread over the Hall and and adjoining meeting rooms. It was one of the best parties held on the Hill.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 5:38 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. What does it mean to act? What is change? What does one do when one takes something and makes it somehow smaller? How should one describe such action?
For all the regular moaning about the rote thuggery of partisanship, this place is periodically like an undergraduate philosophy class. Or at least a game of charades played by men in suits.
“The Auditor General has just revealed that last spring Conservatives hid the cost of their cuts to Old Age Security pensions. According to the AG, the Department of Finance had in fact internally, and I quote: ‘Estimated the gross of net savings of raising the OAS eligibility age,’ ” Thomas Mulcair posited this afternoon. “The NDP had asked time and again but the Conservatives refused to give an answer. Why did the Prime Minister try to hide this $10 billion cut from Canadian seniors?”
“Woah!” called a voice from the opposition side at this apparent revelation.
The news here though is not entirely new. At least to loyal readers of this space.
On May 18 of this year, the Finance Department disclosed that the cost of Old Age Security for the Government of Canada through 2030 was now projected to be $10.8 billion less than it would have been if the Harper government hadn’t changed the eligibility age. Ten days after that, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions acknowledged that the Office of the Chief Actuary had provided that estimate to the department of Human Resources and Skills Development before the Finance Minister tabled his budget on March 29.
The problem then was the same as it is now: despite seeming to know what changes to OAS would do, the Harper government seemed not particularly eager to be forthcoming. On May 15, Jim Flaherty told reporters that he’d heard the savings could be something like $10 billion or $12 billion. But a day later, when asked for whence those numbers had been heard, the Finance Minister said he’d heard as much from the media. Two days later, as noted above, Mr. Flaherty’s department acknowledged that the number it had was something like the number the Finance Minister had heard.
And the issue then was perhaps the same as it was today: in asking about the matter, opposition MPs had failed to use the proper combination of words. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 5:47 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair stood and turned in his spot to directly face the Agriculture Minister seated across the way. After three days elsewhere, Gerry Ritz was back in the House of Commons. And with the Prime Minister occupied by a photo op scheduled for precisely this moment, there was now no one between Mr. Ritz and the opposition MPs who were here to shame him.
“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Mulcair began, “is the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food willing to accept responsibility for the self-regulating food inspection system he put in place?”
The New Democrats stood to cheer this query. Mr. Ritz stood to respond.
“Mr. Speaker, of course, there is no such system,” he asserted. “The CFIA operates at a professional level on a program called CVS which was implemented in 2005.”
This disagreement here was thus no less than definitional. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 5:28 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Impatient to spoil the surprise, Thomas Mulcair wondered aloud if the government side might confirm now that they’ll be presenting another omnibus budget bill in the fall. In a rare nod to full disclosure, John Baird stood and promised as much.
“Every year, as long as I have been in this place and in the Legislature of Ontario, the Minister of Finance presents a budget in the winter and the spring, then presents a budget bill in the spring and another budget bill in the fall,” Mr. Baird recalled. “That will be no different this year.”
In 2009, the two budget bills were a combined 712 pages. In 2010, the government managed 1,056 pages of budget implementation. Last year, it was 716 pages. If such recent precedent is any gauge, and keeping in mind that C-38 covered 452 pages, the fall’s bill should be something like a mere 376 pages.
Mr. Mulcair now had several questions. ”Mr. Speaker, the Conservative’s plan this spring was to ram their Trojan Horse budget bill through Parliament without anyone noticing what was actually in it. They hid their proposals, but even Conservative MPs could tell us, Canadians are taking notice. Bringing in another omnibus bill, another ominous bill, to change Canada in ways they never talked about during the election is simply wrong,” he declared. “Why will they not allow MPs to study their proposals properly? Canadians are calling for it, we are certainly calling for it and even Conservative MPs are calling for it. Why will they not show some respect for Parliament? What else will they try to hide this time?”
The New Democrats stood to applaud. Mr. Baird stood and enthused. “Mr. Speaker, this government is very proud of its economic agenda. We are very proud of Budget 2012 and the clear map it sets out for long-term economic prosperity,” he proclaimed, drawing applause from the government side. “We had a significant amount of debate on Bill C-38, probably more than any other bill since I have been a member of this place. That debate is now concluded. Now we will refocus and do even more to create jobs, more to create more opportunity, so that every Canadian who is looking for a job, can have a job.”
Alas, Mr. Mulcair next declared that the “culture of concealment” was widespread—from omnibus budget bills to the access to information system to the refusal to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with the information he has requested. At this, Mr. Baird paused long enough from the tabling of platitudes to make a vague, but direct, complaint about Kevin Page. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 3:18 PM - 0 Comments
Greg Fingas puts some hope in Linda Duncan’s shadow cabinet assignment.
Second, the choice of Linda Duncan as critic for Public Works and Government Services may make for a neat bit of strategy. A strong Alberta figure charged with criticizing patronage, waste and mismanagement should serve to raise serious questions among the Cons’ base- and that may not only help to shake loose populist votes on the prairies, but also put at least somewhat of a dent in the Cons’ fund-raising and activist networks.
The NDP’s ability to win seats in Saskatchewan was a preoccupation of Thomas Mulcair during the party’s leadership race. But what about Alberta?
The New Democrats currently hold just Ms. Duncan’s seat in the province, but over the last seven elections the party’s share of the popular vote in Alberta has gone from 4.1% to 5.7% to 5.4% to 9.5% to 11.6% to 12.7% to 16.8%. It hasn’t been that high since 1988 when the NDP took 17.4% of the vote in Alberta. (At that time, the NDP was the official opposition in the provincial legislature.) Ms. Duncan’s victory over Rahim Jaffer in 2008 was supposed to have been a fluke, but she increased both her vote and her margin of victory in 2011.
The provincial party is only polling at 11% in the current Alberta election, but the math is complicated and presuming the NDP wins a smattering of seats, it’s not inconceivable that they could end up being relevant players in a minority parliament.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 3:24 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Dewar’s Greening the Grid Agenda would prioritize working with provincial and territorial governments to promote renewable energy innovation and development. It will support regional interconnections that will enable the sharing of renewable energy sources, enhanced grid reliability and development of local green energy initiatives and the reduction of costs to consumers through enhanced grid efficiency and the avoidance of unnecessary new generation.
Paul Dewar aims to build a truly “smart” electricity system that will leverage Canada’s existing knowledge of electricity systems to make our country a green innovation leader. The green grid is the backbone Canada will need to spur the development of a green economy in areas such as new renewable energy, energy efficiency, electricity system management, and green vehicles.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 7:42 PM - 31 Comments
Maybe it is just the season—as soon as the clocks are turned back each fall, Ottawa is suddenly made even darker and colder than usual—but the daily insulting of the public’s intelligence seems particularly dreary of late. For sure, it has been worse. And it may yet get worse. But has it ever seemed so witless? Has it ever felt so leaden? Is it just us or is it getting dim in here?
There is much to be said—with expletives and otherwise—about the government’s recent penchant for shutting down debate. But it is surely more than that.
It is, no doubt, certain practicalities: the temporary status of the two opposition leaders, the prolonged nature of certain disagreements or the lack of some tangible new gazebo-based outrage to focus on, for instance. But it is also the collective and universal decision that sound economics, study and evidence are not particularly necessary when formulating public policy. It is the rote demagoguery. It is general neglect. It is smug disregard. It is the willingness of grown men and women in business attire to stand and allow themselves to be used to read scripted banalities and invective into the official record.
It is not all bad, of course. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 7:28 AM - 62 Comments
ULaval economist Stephen Gordon cracked me up on Twitter yesterday afternoon with his reaction to NDP candidate Paul Dewar’s “Western strategy”. In a CP interview, Dewar proposed “investing in strategic industries and developing ways to help Alberta and Saskatchewan make the transition from natural-resource based economies.” In a series of tweets, a baffled Gordon asked
Why does Paul Dewar want Alberta and Saskatchewan to transition away from resources? That’s where the jobs and money are!… Another victim of the Manufacturing Obsession. …I think Dewar has stumbled across why [the] NDP is weak in [the] West. “Vote NDP! We’ll make you stop doing the things that are making you rich!”
Brian Topp has also said that the NDP needs a “Western strategy”; he flew out to B.C. to announce one last month, but ended up making no discernible mention of it, instead becoming embroiled in controversy over his (and Thomas Mulcair’s) explicit advocacy of overrepresentation in the House of Commons for Quebec. Could “relatively less voting power for B.C. and Alberta” be part of a “Western strategy” along with insisting that we leave our hydrocarbons and minerals in the ground, not to mention whipping the hide off of gun-control opponents? Is all this “strategy” predicated on some perception of Western masochism, or is it just comic-book-style “reverse psychology”?
A natural place to look for the rudiments of an NDP approach to the West might be in the party’s single Alberta outpost—the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona, currently manned by MP Linda Duncan. Masochism actually seems to work for Duncan: having been returned to the House of Commons by Alberta voters, she displays what looks a bit like contempt for them.
Linda Duncan, NDP MP for Edmonton-Strathcona, said she supported the spirit of the [electoral rebalancing] bill, but questioned what Albertans would gain from their new representatives. “What difference will it make?” she asked, making reference to a lack of federal funding for projects such as the Royal Alberta Museum, announced Wednesday. “Are we going to get six more Conservatives that don’t stand up for Edmonton?”
As Jack Layton’s environment critic, Duncan also upheld the “Stop doing the things that are making you rich” pillar of the grand Western strategy, calling for a moratorium on new tarsands development and for much heavier federal intervention in the sector. She did this because she thinks tarsands exploitation does more harm than good, which is at least coherent. Dewar apparently has some economic objection, with West Texas Intermediate around $90 in spot and futures markets, to the extraction and sale of oil (and presumably gas and uranium and potash and diamonds and coal).
I don’t know what he expects Albertans and Saskatchewanians to end up doing instead—baking artisanal bread? Writing folk songs?—but it should be noted that it’s the rest of the country that would be required to foot the bill for this “transition”. Either that, or we’re gonna need to recruit a few more “have” provinces somehow.
[UPDATE: A Dewar spokesman phoned this afternoon, hoping to clarify the wire story mentioned supra. What Mr. Dewar was driving at, Kiavash Najafi tells me, was "diversification" and the capture of "value-added" jobs "in partnership with the industries on the ground" as opposed to limitations on the output of raw-resource businesses. "We've heard from Westerners that they're frustrated about sending B.C. logs to China, sending raw Alberta bitumen to the United States for processing."
I'm sure Najafi is right about this: he is describing the philosophy by which Alberta was actually governed throughout the 1970s and '80s. I'm also sure this is unlikely to placate Gordon, who gnashes his teeth routinely over this very philosophy. But Dewar, for those who are keeping score, is eager to set himself apart from candidates who would suppress resource extraction for its own sake.]
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, April 29, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 3 Comments
Mind if we update that Jaffer sign?
Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman… is running against
Mind if we update that Jaffer sign?
Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman is running against NDP incumbent Linda Duncan in what used to be Rahim Jaffer’s riding of Edmonton-Strathcona. While going door-to-door, Hastman campaigners came across one house displaying a Jaffer sign. When they politely offered to “update” it, the homeowner said, “Sure. I’ll take two.” Hastman has been knocking on doors since he got the nomination in 2009. In the early days, people would be confused when he appeared at their door, asking him, “Is there an election?” Before he got the nomination, Hastman was with the PMO, and before that he worked for Stockwell Day, whose advice to him was to get a good pair of running shoes and to stand on the side of the road the day after the election with a big “thank you” sign. While going door-to-door, Hastman met a senior with a walker, who after he was given a Conservative brochure with pictures of all the opposition leaders, snapped: “That Layton is using a cane for effect.” Hastman told the man that, in fact, the NDP leader had recently had hip surgery.
Hastman’s campaign office is next door to a place that offers hot air balloon rides, while Duncan’s is in what used to be an animal rehabilitation clinic with an underwater treadmill. NDP supporter Phyllis Harlton bakes the office a “cookie of the day.” One of the most popular ones has a Rolo in the middle of it.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 10:04 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister is now customizing his fear and paranoia for individual opposition backbenchers.
“The first thing the new NDP MP did when she got to Ottawa was to sign onto a coalition deal with the Bloc Quebecois,” he said during the speech. “The next election is going to be a choice…When the next election does come the entire future of this country is at stake… Let’s be blunt: A far left coalition’s only priority seems to be shutting down Alberta energy industry and putting thousands of Albertans out of work.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, October 8, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
CPAC held a reception in the East Block Courtyard. Below, CPAC’s Martin Stringer.
CPAC held a reception in the East Block Courtyard. Below, CPAC’s Martin Stringer.
Ken Stein, Chair of CPAC’s Board of Directors.
Liberal MP Siobhan Coady.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, March 8, 2010 at 12:33 PM - 6 Comments
After the Throne Speech, folks gathered in the Hall of Honour. Below, Auditor General…
After the Throne Speech, folks gathered in the Hall of Honour. Below, Auditor General Sheila Fraser (left) and Tory Senator Nancy Ruth.
Conservative Senator Partrick Brazeau.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.
NDP MP Peter Stoffer helps serve sushi.
Canadian astronaut Julie Payette (left) and Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton.
Christopher White, the founder of Canadians Against Prorogation, with NDP MP Linda Duncan.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 7:00 AM - 11 Comments
Sustainable Development Technology Canada put on a fierce reception in 200 West Block. Finally,…
Sustainable Development Technology Canada put on a fierce reception in 200 West Block. Finally, someone had the smarts to bring along a DJ and serve good food. Below, Minister of Natural Resources Lisa Raitt (centre).
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, May 4, 2009 at 6:18 PM - 1 Comment
Speaker Peter Milliken held a special reception for the group Buy-A-Net. This Kingston, Ont.-based…
Speaker Peter Milliken held a special reception for the group Buy-A-Net. This Kingston, Ont.-based organization raises money to purchase insecticide-treated bed nets and anti-malaria medicine for Ugandan villages.
Winnipeg NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
The Speaker (right) and His Excellency George Marino Abola High Commissioner-designate for the Republic of Uganda.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 20, 2009 at 2:04 PM - 8 Comments
Roy MacGregor in today’s Globe.
Linda Duncan has already produced one political miracle — winning the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona for the NDP in the federal election last October — and now she’s taking aim at another one. On Monday, Duncan will table a private member’s bill in the House of Commons to have the third Friday officially declared National Hockey Day. She plans to announce her intentions today at Vimy Ridge Academy, an Edmonton school with a hockey team that has both boy and girl players.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, February 2, 2009 at 1:25 AM - 16 Comments
On the evening of the Throne Speech, Speaker Peter Milliken held his annual Robbie…
On the evening of the Throne Speech, Speaker Peter Milliken held his annual Robbie Burns dinner.
Former NDP MP Bill Blaikie came back to Ottawa to address the haggis.