By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, October 20, 2012 - 0 Comments
The committee had also asked that each department’s annual spending plans, tabled in the House each spring, include details on the value of tax breaks provided to corporations and individuals. Currently, the Finance Department produces an annual report on these so-called tax expenditures but the information is difficult to link back to departmental programs. Clement rejected that proposal as well, saying it would make other ministers responsible for tax breaks that are solely the purview of the finance minister. ”This would not be appropriate as it would not be consistent with the principle of ministerial accountability,” Clement wrote.
Committee members also wanted a study on whether the parliamentary budget officer —currently Kevin Page, who regularly bumps heads with the Harper government — should be given independent powers as an officer of Parliament rather than working under the Library of Parliament. Clement noted that the issue had already been studied by Parliament and that the job was considered a “natural extension” of the library’s work.
The committee included five Conservatives, including Mike Wallace, who, in July, said, “we will be keeping the government’s … feet to the fire on it to see if we can implement some of these changes.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 16, 2012 at 11:04 AM - 0 Comments
Dean Beeby revisits the government operations committee’s report on Parliament’s ability to scrutinize government spending.
A new report says arcane rules are keeping MPs in the dark about the billions in government spending they should be scrutinizing. Members of Parliament receive conflicting, outdated information about how billions of tax dollars are being spent each year, and get little opportunity to review fiscal plans.
Just this spring, not a single House of Commons committee was able to report on its examination of some proposed spending because the information arrived too late — and the session clock ran out.
Within this report is the aforementioned suggestion that the Parliamentary Budget Officer might be made a full officer of Parliament. Tony Clement praised this report in June and Dean quotes Conservative MP Mike Wallace, who has previously called for estimates reform (see here and here).
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 4:29 PM - 0 Comments
The Conservative backbencher seems interested in empowering MPs for the purposes of properly scrutinizing how the government spends money.
Mr. Wallace, the Conservative MP who is also vice-chair of the Commons Committee on Government Operations, said he’s personally interested in updating the rules to give MPs a bigger role. As it stands now, he said, the stakes are too high for committees that vote to alter a department’s estimates – or spending – plans.
“A change in an estimate could force an election, so it’s not be taken lightly,” he said. “If you’re going to give us the right to do it, we should have the responsibility to do it – within reason. It just doesn’t exist right now… I think our government, based on my discussions with my colleagues, is open to a discussion on what we can do to improve the system to make Members of Parliament more engaged in the financial operation of government.”
This is not the first time Mr. Wallace has made noises in this regard.
The general failure of Parliament to properly hold the government to account on spending has been well-noted in recent years (see here, here or here). It was, for that matter, a dispute over the government’s willingness to be accountable—in the form of providing information to the House about the costs of legislation—that led to last year’s finding of contempt and vote on non-confidence (see here, here and here).
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 11:23 AM - 2 Comments
The Conservative backbencher says the House needs to better scrutinize government spending.
Conservative MP Mike Wallace (Burlington, Ont.), vice-chair of the House Government Operations Committee, told The Hill Times on Monday that MPs should do a better job of scrutinizing government spending, but also they don’t have the time, expertise or resources to do an adequate job …
“I’ve been on a number of committees now and I’ve sat in on others and not just for mains, but for supplementary As, Bs, Cs, [they] would get to the House of Commons without ever being reviewed by a committee. I think that committees should be more proactive on making sure that it’s a priority agenda item,” he said, explaining that it’s difficult also to keep track of everything and compare them to previous years to make an informed decision about passing them,” Mr. Wallace said.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 6:15 PM - 8 Comments
The Salvation Army hit the Hill and schmoozed with MPs. Below, Justin Trudeau arrives…
The Salvation Army hit the Hill and schmoozed with MPs. Below, Justin Trudeau arrives at the reception.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 14, 2009 at 6:53 PM - 67 Comments
The Scene. A week short of its official start, fall has arrived in Ottawa. The leaves on Parliament Hill are turning yellow. The faces inside the House of Commons are red. The voices are shouty. The Prime Minister’s pointy finger is once more unfurled, steady and strong and accusatory. Summer is gone. The air will soon grow cold and punishing.
The easy comparison, sure, is to the return each September of young children to school. Indeed, there is something to that—the anxiousness, the chaos, the new haircuts. Lawrence Cannon sported a particularly close shave. Lisa Raitt is back to blonde. Jack Layton, not blessed of much hair to begin with, trimmed his down nearly to the scalp. When you’re trying to Make Parliament Work it perhaps helps to be as aerodynamic as possible.
Here, too, those returning rise to report on their summers. Only here the stories have less to do with amusement parks, video games and family trips to major American landmarks. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 20, 2009 at 6:09 PM - 28 Comments
The Scene. In the 15 minutes between 2 o’clock and the start of Question Period, three different Conservatives were sent up to demonstrate their loyalty to the cause.
“Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party sure loves taxes,” sang Candice Hoeppner.
“This is a very troubling revelation and it should have Canadians worried,” moaned Bruce Stanton.
“The Liberals want to make Canada the most taxed country in the world,” reported Ron Cannan, who took the opportunity to compare some recently reported remarks of Michael Ignatieff’s to an earthquake in Italy this month that killed nearly 300 people and left tens of thousands homeless.
Ignatieff’s side balked and squawked at this last comment. Then their leader stood and offered the day’s first question. “Mr. Speaker, the government is presiding over the worst collapse in employment on record, 300,000 jobs lost in the first three months of 2009. Mayors and municipal councillors I spoke to in southwestern Ontario last week were promised federal help months ago to create jobs. It has not arrived. When will help arrive?” he wondered. ”What additional measures will the minister offer to protect jobs in a recession which the Minister of Finance has finally acknowledged is serious?”
The Prime Minister was away, as were both the Finance Minister and the Finance Minister’s parliamentary secretary. So up came John Baird, who took the opportunity to ignore the question and instead offer a few thoughts on the airplane scare in Montego Bay. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 7:01 PM - 13 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair had tried to reason with the government.
“According to StatsCan, of the 300,000 people who have lost their jobs since the election, only four out of 10 workers have qualified for EI. Parliament has spoken and called upon the government to reform employment insurance. Today, the conference board repeated that,” he said. “Why is it doing nothing to help?”
“Mr. Speaker, let us not quibble about the statistics that he is citing,” sighed Diane Finley, accusing Mulcair of misconstruing the situation and “playing petty partisan politics with the futures of real people.”
Now, the NDP deputy leader was merely mad, yelling and pointing across the aisle. “Mr. Speaker, in September, the Conservatives were saying there would be no recession and no deficit. In November, it was a technical recession and small surplus. In January, it was a recession and some deficit. In the past 24 hours, both the parliamentary budget officer and the TD Bank are predicting record deficits and a long recession,” he reported. “What purpose is served by continuing to misstate the facts as she just did on the deficit, the recession and unemployment? Start telling the truth to Canadians. Start respecting the votes in the House and we can start implementing resolutions like the EI proposals adopted two weeks ago. Start helping Canadians and stop lying.”
The Conservative side howled at the allegation. The Speaker reprimanded Mulcair. And Jim Flaherty stood to offer a rare response. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 11:50 PM - 17 Comments
Mike Wallace responds to the parliamentary budget officer’s latest projections.
“I believe part of the issue facing Canada and the world is we need some of the positive stuff. And when the positive stuff does come out it tends to get discounted immediately,” he said. “I myself purchased two cars these past two weeks. I am doing my share. I think there’s some good news stories. It’s not great news, don’t get me wrong.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 5:46 PM - 5 Comments
From his Twitter feed.
I’m always amazed by how many special interest micro-issues the opposition raises during QP, rather than issues of general public concern.
The government has been allowed six of its own questions so far this week. Mike Wallace asked about the government’s position on what an American television personality had said about our military. Steven Blaney ridiculed the Liberal leader and asked to hear what the government has done for Quebec. Rodney Weston asked how the government was supporting seal hunters. Ed Fast asked when the government would begin spending its economic stimulus (giving Vic Toews opportunity to allege opposition obstruction). Kevin Sorenson asked the government to clarify its position on Kashmir. And Bev Shipley asked the Human Resources Minister to repeat her announcement from earlier in the day.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 23, 2009 at 6:37 PM - 19 Comments
The Scene. The Conservatives have identified a loophole in the Speaker’s recent ruling against the use of Parliament’s time to launch personal attacks against political rivals—namely that it’s not a personal attack if you don’t immediately identify the individual you are defaming.
So it was that Mike Wallace, another of the government’s enthusiastically obedient, if relatively interchangeable, backbenchers, was sent up before Question Period to air various allegations against “someone.” Only at the final moment did he reveal that this “someone” was, in fact, the Liberal leader. Suffice it to say, the Prime Minister found this quite hilarious.
In related news today, this first day back for Parliament after a week off, the Conservatives also made use of another gap in the Speaker’s prohibition—namely that it does not cover little-known and generally irrelevant late-night television hosts who say rude things about us on American cable news network shows that are watched by fewer people than live in Windsor, Ontario.
So it was that two Conservatives were sent up before Question Period to bemoan the besmirchment of this country’s honour done by one Greg Gutfeld, an American TV personality who once apparently edited the erudite current affairs journal, Maxim. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, February 2, 2009 at 7:37 PM - 3 Comments
The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) held a special reception for MPs in the…
The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) held a special reception for MPs in the Quebec room at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Below are Louis Alexandre Lanthier (from Justin Trudeau’s office), Tommy Desfossés, Speaker Peter Milliken and Liberal MP Rob Oliphant.
Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett and Milliken.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 5:16 PM - 0 Comments
There’s an old idea in football that when one arrives in the end zone, one should eschew the typical dancing and “act like you’ve been there before”—a quote attributed variously to any number of old and grouchy football coaches. The point being that true confidence doesn’t require theatric expression.
By this standard, it is almost impossible to believe the Conservative members of the ethics committee are at all sure of their party’s position. At times yesterday they seemed alternately petulant, boorish, bitter, frustrated, childish, dismissive, unhinged, giddy, patronizing, exasperated, arrogant, chastened, indignant, whiny, angry, snarky, mocking, snide, sarcastic, bored, scared and threatening. (And that’s just Gary Goodyear.) 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 - Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 6:09 PM - 0 Comments
But enough about the government, what shall we do with Roméo Dallaire?
The Scene. Making use of her allotted time before Question Period, Marlene Jennings chose to publicly enunciate all the ways in which Roméo Dallaire and Jason Kenney are quite unlike each other.
“Mr. Speaker, Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire holds the Order of Canada, the Order of Military Merit, Ordre national du Québec, the Meritorious Service Cross and the Canadian Forces’ decorations,” she began. “The Secretary of State for Multiculturalism does not.”
“General Dallaire graduated with a bachelor of science from Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean and was commissioned into the Canadian armed forces. The Secretary of State did not earn a degree and did not serve in the Canadian armed forces.
“General Dallaire has a school named after him in Winnipeg and a street named after him in Calgary. The Secretary of State does not.
“General Dallaire holds the Pearson Peace Medal. The Secretary of State does not.
“General Dallaire is an officer in the highest American military decoration for foreigners, the Legion of Merit of the United States. The Secretary of State is not.”
And so on.
“You’re defending him!? You’re defending that?!” cried John Baird as Jennings spoke. “You’re defending those comments?!” Continue…