By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
The afternoon was not without new clarification. Or at least an attempt at such.
Picking up where yesterday had left off, Thomas Mulcair endeavoured to sort out the precise value of John Baird’s assurance that the matter of Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy had been referred to two independent authorities.
“Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon, 11 times the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the Duffy affair was going to be investigated by independent authorities, independent bodies, independent officers. When my colleague, the House Leader of the Official Opposition asked him what those were, he could not give an answer,” Mr. Mulcair recounted. “Twice during the afternoon the Prime Minister’s Office said that they were referring to the Senate’s Ethics Officer. Later it corrected that to say that it is the Senate committee, the same one that whitewashed Mike Duffy the first time, that is carrying out the investigation.”
“Ahh!” sighed the New Democrats.
Along the government’s front row, Vic Toews grumbled in Mr. Mulcair’s direction about a “bribe” (seemingly a reference to the matter of Mr. Mulcair and the mayor of Laval).
“Does the minister not realize,” Mr. Mulcair asked, “that is about as credible as Paul Martin asking Jean Chrétien to investigate the sponsorship scandal?”
The New Democrats enjoyed this reference and stood to applaud their man.
Mr. Baird now stood to quote himself. “What I did say yesterday was, and I quote: ‘Furthermore, this matter has been referred to two independent bodies for review,’ which is nothing like what he just said,” Mr. Baird explained, seeming to stress the word referred.
It is not actually clear what this should clarify, although, as it turns out, it now seems the Senate Ethics Officer is indeed reviewing the matter. So there’s that. Unfortunately, there is not much else on offer. Or, rather, not much else that the government seems either willing or able to offer. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 6, 2013 at 11:09 PM - 0 Comments
Last week, Thomas Mulcair recalled, it was discovered that the Conservatives had lost track of $3.1 billion. The Auditor General, Mr. Mulcair declared, has regularly suggested that the Conservatives be more transparent. And so what, Mr. Mulcair wondered, have the Conservatives done to date to find that $3.1 billion.
Jason Kenney, leading the Conservatives this day, was unimpressed.
“Mr. Speaker, as usual,” Mr. Kenney lamented, “the question of the honourable Leader of the Opposition is not fair.”
Life, alas, is not fair. But protesting that fact tends to be counter-productive.
The Auditor General, Mr. Kenney explained, had said that the money hadn’t been used in a way in which it should not have been. Thus, it is all good.
Mr. Mulcair, mostly eschewing his notes to engage the government side directly and with the benefit of something the government seems unable to account for, was confidently unpersuaded. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 6:28 PM - 0 Comments
At 2pm, the Speaker’s parade—a ceremonial photo op, a silly show of hallowed tradition—proceeded down the West corridor of Centre Block toward the House of Commons. Preceded by one marching guard and flanked by three more—To protect the Speaker from what? A sneak attack by the Queen?—strode the sergeant-at-arms, carrying the large golden mace that must be in place for the House to conduct its business, and the Speaker and his clerks in their three-cornered hat and robes. Once the official party was safely inside, the large wooden doors were shut and the official business of the nation began for another day.
Something like a dozen reporters had gathered at the gallery door, anxiously waiting for the House to be called to order. This was something like four times the usual attendance—the larger crowd here in anticipation that one of the duly elected adults sent here to represent the people of this country might stand up in his or her place without having first obtained the permission of the party leader he or she is supposed to support. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 19, 2013 at 3:45 PM - 0 Comments
Earlier this afternoon, NDP MP Megan Leslie rose in the House to speak to Mark Warawa’s question of privilege.
Megan Leslie: Mr. Speaker, I rise to add to the debate around the point of privilege of my colleague, the member for Langley.
Before I begin, I would like to say that I worked with the member for Langley when he was the chair of the environment committee and I do respect his work as a member of Parliament in the House.
Saying that, I categorically oppose the content of the motion that he wishes to bring forward. The NDP has been very clear about its support for a woman’s right to choose and when it comes to women’s reproductive health. With that foundation, I would like to speak on the substance of the member’s point of privilege and add to that debate with the perspective of an NDP member of the House.
The NDP does not vet its members’ statements. Our statements are allotted and organized by the our whip and it is done in a fair and equitable manner so that all MPs have the opportunity to highlight the important issues going on across the country, as well as in their ridings. We also have a roster system when it comes to our daily statements, which we have had for the last decade.
We used to only have one statement a day when we were a smaller party. We have always held some of those statements for different reasons. For example, on Wednesdays, we hold a statement to make a statement on women’s issues. We hold back some other statements for specific days, for example, a day of mourning for injured workers or Remembrance Day. We also hold back the occasional statement so that we can respond to issues arising that day, which are time specific, or to correct serious and deceitful accusations made by the government. We do have that kind of system.
What we are seeing right now, what is happening within the Conservative caucus over this issue, is a number of Conservatives are rising to speak and are speaking out against their own internal process. This speaks directly to the Prime Minister’s misunderstanding and disrespect of how Parliament needs to work for MPs and for Canadians.
First of all, the Conservatives ignore the voices of the oppositions and their own MPs. Second, they stifle attempts by our officers of Parliament to hold them to account. Third, they shut down the ability of MPs to speak by shutting down debate. That is disrespectful to Parliament.
I do not believe that this is a question of left versus right; it is a question of right versus wrong.
The NDP respects Parliament. New Democrats respect freedom of speech and I think that can be seen even at our very roots when we look at our party conventions, for example. This past weekend, we had a party convention and we debated requiring a two third majority of Parliament vote to consent to prorogation. We also debated and discussed having a two third majority to move parliamentary committees in to camera. These motions have not yet been adopted and they are not yet on our official policy, but it shows that there is a strong culture of respect for Parliament in our party and within our caucus.
We do respect the right of members of Parliament to use their S. O. 31s, or their statements, to express views on the topics of their choosing. This is their right. We oppose the abuse of using normal parliamentary tools and procedures. We oppose the Conservatives writing the book on lack of judgment disrespect for this institution.
The NDP has long been champion of the rights of free speech in the House, as well as for fair debate on legislation. It is against, for example, the government’s limiting of time for debate on important issues in the House, whether it is through time allocation or closure. New Democrats put forward an opposition day motion in November 2011 that would have required the government to justify its use of time allocation or closure–
An hon. member: Stop politicizing it. Talk to the issue.
Megan Leslie: Mr. Speaker, it is remarkable that I am getting heckled on a point of privilege. It really is. The Conservatives know no bounds.
We did actually put forward an opposition day motion in 2011 to require the government to justify its use of time allocation or closure before they could be put to the House. The Speaker would have criteria to follow to ensure that this stifling of debate could be not become as routinized as it has become under the government.
Those are my perspectives as an NDP member on this side of the House. I hope that the Speaker takes those comments and considerations into account when he is making his decision.
Ms. Leslie sort of allows what Nathan Cullen has kind of acknowledged: that the NDP seems to handle its last allotted statement with some specific purpose. Starting, by my recollection, in the fall of 2011, the NDP has taken to using at least some of the time for statements by members for partisan purposes. This week, for instance, they used each of their last statements to congratulate themselves or attack the government.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 11:48 AM - 0 Comments
Earlier this morning, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen and Conservative MP Kyle Seeback added their support to Mark Warawa’s question of privilege.
Nathan Cullen. Mr. Speaker, first, I appreciate the time today for allowing me to offer a few additional comments on what I believe is an important issue for Parliament and an important issue for Canadians.
On March 26, the member for Langley rose to say that his rights as a member of Parliament had been infringed upon when he was prevented by the whip of his own party to deliver a statement in this House, a statement that, in parliamentary terms, we call an “S. O. 31”. Much like the terms “omnibus bills”, “prorogation” and “closure”, the Conservative Party continues to offer what I believe is an unintentional lesson in how parliamentary systems work and sometimes can be abused.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 9:27 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP James Rajotte, asked after QP today whether Mark Warawa should have been able to give his statement to the House last Thursday.
I think members should be able to give the statements they want to give in the House, yes.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, speaking to reporters after QP.
I think that members should be freer to talk and should be freer to present their point of view but, you know, we’re dealing with a control freak government. I mean we’re dealing with a government that announces programs and then says now that we’ve announced the program we’ll start to discuss it with the provinces. I mean it’s the same philosophy that you see all the way through. So I don’t know, maybe if the members who are unhappy dressed up like pandas, the Prime Minister would pay them some attention … All I know is that I’ve consistently allowed free votes on private members’ bills. I’ve consistently indicated that I think we need to free the House up and I would have thought that the party of Preston Manning would want to do the same thing … that’s been one of the biggest changes that I’ve seen in my time in the House.
John Ivison reports that “20 or so” Conservative MPs met last night to discuss their concerns.
“The decision made by our own committee members, following orders from the highest office in the country, serves to euthanize any remaining principles of the Reform Party in our caucus, if we as members allow it to stand,” said one Conservative, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Star gathers comment from several MPs, including Conservative MP Brad Trost.
Conservative Brad Trost, the MP for Saskatoon—Humboldt, said he does not understand why his party will not let its MPs say whatever they want in their statements, given there is nothing to stop them from saying it outside the Commons. “Frankly, you guys (the media) don’t pay attention to all the ones that are spit out by the PMO at the end of the day anyway, so I don’t understand why we just can’t run through the order alphabetically the way it should be,” said Trost. “SO-31s should be the prerogative of the member. It’s just sort of bizarre why they just don’t live and let live,” Trost said.
Independent MP Bruce Hyer tells the Star he lost his speaking spot when he was set to announce his departure from the NDP caucus. After QP today, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen says the party works on a schedule that determines whose turn it is to give a statement and that the party doesn’t vet statements beforehand, except that the leadership sometimes “works with” whoever is delivering the last NDP slot (that statement is usually more partisan in tone).
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 9:46 AM - 0 Comments
NDP House leader Nathan Cullen has now released his proposal for improving decorum in the House. Here is the motion he hopes to put before the House.
That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to recommend changes to the Standing Orders, procedures and practices to increase the authority of the Speaker in order to impose disciplinary measures against Members who use harassment, threats, personal attacks, or extreme misrepresentation of facts or position in the House, particularly regarding Statements by Members and Oral Questions, including:
i. Revoking questions during Oral Questions from parties whose Members have been disruptive
ii. Issuing a warning to Members for a first offense
iii. Suspending Members from the service of the House for one sitting day for a second offense; five days for a third offense; and twenty days for a fourth offense
iv. Suspending Members’ sessional allowance for the duration of their suspension from the service of the House
And that the Committee report its findings to the House within six months of the adoption of this order.
The penalties are an interesting touch, but ultimately this will come down to a discussion of where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and that gets tricky very quickly (what constitutes an “extreme misrepresentation of the facts” and who will judge that?). Which is not to say that discussion shouldn’t be had. It should be and it will be valuable and I look forward to hearing it.
This is similar, in method, to what Michael Chong proposed for QP reform: charging a committee with studying the issue around certain parameters and suggesting changes. To get the sort of debate, consideration and buy-in from other MPs that is going to be necessary to make changes to the standing orders, this is probably a reasonable way to go about it (as opposed to simply using a private member’s bill to propose changes).
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
John Geddes looks at how the last two months will impact the agenda as Parliament returns today and Paul Wells considers the situations of Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper. Here are the things I’ll be watching for as the House of Commons reconvenes.
Nathan Cullen’s reforms. The NDP House leader is promising a proposal to improve decorum in the House. Civility is a bit of a riddle—where do you draw the line in a necessarily adversarial environment?—but whatever Mr. Cullen puts on the table, it should start a valuable discussion about how the House functions and what might be done to improve it.
The cabinet. If the Prime Minister sticks to his promise of a mid-term reset, the cabinet will be shuffled this summer. That sets up the next five months as an extended audition: a chance for ministers to demonstrate why they’re due a promotion or demotion and an opportunity for parliamentary secretaries and backbenchers to make their cases for a spot at the cabinet table.
The budget bill. After two budget bills were subject to parliamentary protests in 2012 and after Idle No More rallied around complaints about C-38 and C-45, are the Conservatives willing to table another omnibus bill this spring and ram it through the House or are they willing to compromise?
The New Democrats. The official opposition has to do two things: continue to build its case against the government and begin to explain precisely what it would do different. While the Liberals are picking a new leader in April, the NDP will be in Montreal for a policy conference. Thomas Mulcair says they’ll be spending that weekend “laying the groundwork to defeat Stephen Harper in the next election and form the first ever New Democrat government.” It will be interesting to see what that means.
Thomas Mulcair. The leader of the opposition has two and a half months left before his status as the number one challenger is challenged by a new Liberal leader. What can he make of this time? And, maybe more importantly, how well does he hold up when the Liberals receive an inevitable post-leadership bump in the polls?
Stephen Harper. He has based his leadership on the idea of economic and fiscal management. What happens if the economy starts to stall? Do the impacts of spending cuts begin to sway public opinion against austerity? And who does he pick to be the next parliamentary budget officer?
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Speaker returned to the House yesterday with a response to the points of order raised on November 28 by Nathan Cullen and Peter Van Loan, particularly Mr. Van Loan’s concerns about the opposition’s ability to subject bills to multiple votes.
The underlying principles these citations express are the cornerstones of our parliamentary system. They enshrine the ancient democratic tradition of allowing the minority to voice its views and opinions in the public square, and in counterpoint allowing the majority to put its legislative program before Parliament and have it voted upon. In advocating a much stricter approach to the report stage on Bill C-45, the government House leader seemed to argue that the existence of a government majority meant that the outcome of proceedings on the bill was known in advance, that somehow this justified taking a new approach to decision making by the House and that anything short of that would constitute a waste of the House’s time. This line of reasoning, taken to its logical end, might lead to conclusions that trespass on important foundational principles of our institutions, regardless of its composition.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Before the House rose last night for Christmas, the Speaker delivered a statement on decorum.
As the House prepares to adjourn for the Christmas holidays, the Chair would like to make a short statement about order and decorum.
In recent months, for a variety of reasons, the atmosphere in the chamber has been at times difficult. This is perhaps not surprising since the House is made up of members who are committed and whose strongly held views are freely expressed on a daily basis.
The House is also an inherently adversarial forum that tends to foster conflict. As a result, sometimes emotions get the better of us and we quickly find ourselves in situations marked by disorderly conduct. Tone and gestures can cause as much of a reaction as the words used in debate. Lately, it appears that at different times the mood of the House has strayed quite far from the flexibility, accommodation and balance that ideally ought to exist in this place.
My task as Speaker is to ensure that the intensity of feeling expressed around some issues is contained within the bounds of civility without infringing on the freedom of speech that members enjoy. The Chair tries to ensure that our rules are adhered to in a way that encourages mutual respect.
However, all members will recognize that ultimately the Speaker must depend on their collective self-discipline to maintain order and to foster decorum. My authority to enforce the rules depends on the co-operation of the House.
Our electors expect all members to make greater efforts to curb disorder and unruly behaviour. So I urge all members to reflect on how best to return the House to the convivial, co-operative atmosphere I know all of us would prefer.
After QP, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen was asked about the role of the Speaker and Mr. Cullen suggested he might have something to propose in the new year.
I’m going to look to do something in the new year that will empower the Speaker with the support again of the House, because I think this is supported by Canadians, to be able to command the House even more and for all the heckling and the jostling and the sneering that goes on which is not representative of Canadian values, as far as I’m—Canadians don’t talk to each other this way, in any other circumstance, other than here in the House of Commons. Maybe in the cheap seats of a hockey game, but that’s about it and the House of Commons should be better than the drunken seats at a sporting event. So we’ll be offering some things to the Speaker and to the House to allow him more discretion and more power to control some of the members, but it’s like any class in a school. There’s only 5 or 10% that cause all of the trouble and I can name them for you. We know who they all are and the Conservatives know who they are too and just—this is their only lot in life I guess now, is that they’re not going to get into cabinet, they’re not getting any special appointments and they’re not very good at their job. So what do they do? They sit there and bark all day and it says a lot more about them than it does us.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 11:54 PM - 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 - Monday, December 10, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Ralph Goodale attempts to derive great meaning from last week’s commotion.
The altercation followed a fairly minor procedural argument. But it reflects a deeper problem. Since the last election, both the Conservatives and the NDP have pursued a strategy of partisan polarization. Their explicit objective is to drive all other participants off the political playing-field, so they can have it all to themselves. You see that strategy unfolding every day in the bitter polarizing tactics they both employ.
The subtext seems to be that the House of Commons would be a better place if Liberal MPs—those proud centrists who are not so sullied by “polarization”—were more prevalent, but it’s not clear to me what this has to do with last week’s events. What would have happened differently if the Liberals were in official opposition? Would a Liberal House leader have not used the point of order Nathan Cullen tried? Would Peter Van Loan have been less likely to confront a Liberal House leader who did so? Would the Liberal leader have reacted differently than Thomas Mulcair did if Mr. Van Loan attacked his House leader?
There’s a fair amount to be said about what the Conservatives and New Democrats have in common: the ways in which they have grown as parties over the last decade, the mutual desire to see the Liberal party crushed, a certain unabashedness about the practice of politics. But I don’t think last week’s disagreement is obviously something to do with any of that. I don’t think it’s particularly symbolic of anything. It was a thing that happened. Just like other things have happened in other sessions.
The deep-seated conflict that lies at the heart of polarized politics truly appeals to only a small number of the most extreme partisans, on one side and the other, who relish the constant fight. People like Van Loan, Cullen, Mulcair and Harper — it turns them on.
Suddenly this is a Cosmo sex advice column. I’ve no idea what turns these gentlemen on—and would rather remain so ignorant—but I’m not sure it helps to Mr. Goodale’s case to include this guy in that group. Also: are there really no Liberals who share the same zeal for political conflict?
But it also turns off large numbers of Canadians generally. They don’t hold extreme views. Perpetual campaigning is not their thing. They don’t like polarization or the hatred it breeds. So they just drop out of the political process altogether. They are the ones who stay home on election day.
But here’s the good news! Canada is far too complex a country — too subtle and nuanced, too fundamentally decent, too full of hope and ambition — to be content for very long with the polarizing wedge politics of division, greed, fear and envy. People will look for something better. The greater Canadian instinct is to want to pull together to achieve goals that are bigger and more worthy. The future will belong to those who blaze that trail.
Aside from the obvious implication—The future belongs to the Liberal party! If it can just hang on long enough for everyone to come around!—Mr. Goodale has something of a point here. There are a lot of people—especially young people—who don’t vote. There would seem to be a lot of people who don’t believe the political process is relevant. There are about 10 million registered voters who didn’t vote in the last election. That’s a tantalizingly large block of potential voters—if you could just figure out how to motivate them.
But if the political process in this country needs to be fixed, if it needs to be made more relevant, the fight of significance last week occurred on Tuesday night, not Wednesday afternoon. If there is a conflict over and within the soul of our politics, that’s where it is. Not in political polarization or Peter Van Loan and Thomas Mulcair exchanging bad words or in the permanent campaign (the latter of which is probably not going away, no matter how noble the politician or the political party in government strives to be).
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 7, 2012 at 3:20 PM - 0 Comments
Keith Beardsley considers Peter Van Loan’s walk across the aisle, opposition delays and omnibus legislation.
The Official Opposition thought they had caught the government on a technicality and they wanted to force another vote which would have further delayed passage of Bill C-45, a bill with which they strongly disagree. What is so exciting about that? Why was it necessary for the Conservative House Leader to cross the floor? It is perfectly legitimate for any opposition party to use the full arsenal of tactics available to them to delay or defeat government legislation.
Perhaps the Conservative side has forgotten the tactics they used when one of their predecessor parties (the Reform Party) used every tactic available to them to stall and try to prevent the Nis’ga Treaty from being passed by the Chretien government. In 1999, the Reform Party forced 471 votes on amendments to the Nis’ga Land Claims Treaty. According to the CBC, it took 42 hours and 25 minutes to force recall votes on all the motions, including some as minor as the placement of a comma. Delaying or stalling the passage of a bill is a legitimate tactic in a democracy. While the Conservatives may not like anyone standing up to them or delaying their agenda in the House, the last I heard Canada was still a democracy and opposition parties are not required to do the government’s bidding.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 5:08 PM - 0 Comments
After QP today, Paul Dewar, who can be seen on the video walking over to intervene, explained to reporters what, from his perspective, happened between Peter Van Loan, Nathan Cullen and Thomas Mulcair.
It was very simple. Mr. Van Loan was saying some things at his desk and then he started across the aisle and he was looking very aggressive and he was wagging his finger and continued to say some very aggressive things and threats and that was unprompted and unbecoming any member of the House, let alone a House Leader and he continued to do that. I saw him coming across. I could see in his face that he was very upset and in a very aggressive kind of mode and so I’ve seen that before in men and I know it’s the best thing to do is to get people away from each other and that’s what I did.
In terms of his apology, frankly, I think it’s unbecoming a minister or a House Leader. And I’m not sure if I was the Prime Minister I’d still have him as a House Leader. I just—yeah, I don’t know how you can have your House Leader, you know, after a point of order is made, behave like that. And that was entirely something he did. No one else did anything. No one said a word to him. It was totally unprompted. He did it all by himself. So the only person who should be apologizing and maybe taking a timeout for a while is Minister Van Loan, no one else.
He was then asked if Mr. Mulcair said anything inappropriate.
He said something that I think most people would say and is that don’t threaten my House Leader and that was totally appropriate.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 11:44 AM - 0 Comments
Shortly after 10am this morning, the House had a little talk about yesterday’s unpleasantness.
Bob Rae: Mr. Speaker, I do not quite know when the appropriate moment would be to say something on this subject, but it is a little hard for us to carry on the normal business of the House without referring to the somewhat unusual transaction that took place on the floor of the House yesterday. I wonder if those who were involved in it would care to perhaps indicate their regret at what took place and the fact that we need to continue for the next several days in the House with a greater degree of civility and willingness to engage in public discourse without insulting each other.
Peter Van Loan: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to address that point. Yesterday I went to speak to the opposition House leader with the intention of discussing my concerns with the point of order that had been raised related to a mistake that had been made by the Deputy Speaker during Tuesday night’s vote. I know that mistakes happen. The Deputy Speaker is new and I am sure he is going to do a very good job, but I thought it was inappropriate for the New Democrats to raise a point of order relying on that mistake and somehow suggest it was the responsibility of the government. To do that was inappropriate. It put me in a very difficult position. I did not wish, in defending the government, to be critical of the Deputy Speaker and I tried very delicately to dance around the point. Mr. Speaker, you ruled appropriately in the circumstances. I acknowledge that I used an inappropriate word when I was discussing this matter with the opposition House leader. I should not have done that and I apologize for that. I would expect the opposition House leader to do the same and I hope that at this point we can move forward and get on with the important business that Canadians want us to do.
Nathan Cullen: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Toronto Centre for his intervention and some of the words from the government House leader with respect to his apology. You and I will be having a conversation quite shortly, so any other more official statement coming from the official opposition is a bit premature, until you and I have spoken in private. Then we will get back to the House forthwith.
Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I trespass on this very tentatively, but recall that the history of the length between these benches was to be two sword lengths. We would like the notion to be figurative. We do not like the notion that someone from one side of the House would march across to the other side. I can only conclude the hon. government House leader is a sore winner. I hope we will never see this sort of thing again.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 11:01 AM - 0 Comments
Peter Van Loan claims his government colleagues were concerned for his safety yesterday and that it was Mr. Mulcair’s response that “made this into a story.” Nathan Cullen, in a subsequent interview with Canada AM, says Mr. Van Loan is a bully trying to play the victim.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 5:05 PM - 0 Comments
Ralph Goodale reports on some kind of confrontation in the House following a vote this afternoon.
Altercation on floor of HofC – DefMin MacKay has to pull his HouseLeader + another ConsMin out of silly scrap with Mulcair+ Dippers….
Lots of talk and gestures. Nose to nose, but no apparent direct contact.
Right after vote, Cons House Leader crossed floor to confront NDP leadership group. Tempers clearly flared.
CTV has the House video that shows Peter Van Loan and Gary Goodyear on the NDP side of the House.
Update 5:13pm. There was maybe a middle finger involved?
Update 5:27pm. A little bit of background is apparently necessary. After Question Period, Nathan Cullen rose on a point of order to argue that the final vote on C-45 last night was out of order because the person moving for the vote, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, was not in his seat when the motion was brought forward. After submissions from all sides on this, the Speaker promised to get back to the House and the House proceeded to a separate vote. After that vote, the Speaker ruled that the final vote last night was in order. It is apparently after that ruling, as MPs were milling about, that, at least according to the New Democrats, Peter Van Loan crossed the aisle and complained to Mr. Cullen about Mr. Cullen’s point of order. Mr. Mulcair seems to have objected to Mr. Van Loan’s treatment of Mr. Cullen and, in the ensuing discussion, cross words seem to have been exchanged.
Update 5:58pm. Oddly enough, this confrontation was preceded by a notably civil moment between Mr. Mulcair and the Prime Minister. Immediately after Mr. Cullen’s point of order, as MPs were being called in for the subsequent vote, the NDP leader crossed the aisle and sat down beside Mr. Harper. The two chatted apparently amicably for a few minutes, Mr. Mulcair even laughing at something Mr. Harper said. The two parted company with a handshake.
Update 6:16pm. C-45 has just now passed a vote at third and is off to the Senate.
Update 6:31pm. Here is CBC’s version of the House video: it’s a bit longer than the CTV cut and in it you can see Mr. Van Loan walk across the aisle immediately after Speaker Scheer finished delivering his ruling.
Mulcair has a temper, but Van Loan would have turned Gandhi into a cold blooded killer.
Update 8:00pm. Peter MacKay tweets his version of events.
Whoa – Angry Tom at it again! NDP snaps at Van Loan for standing up for Canada’s economic recovery
Here is Mr. Cullen’s interview with the CBC.
Update 8:25pm. A statement from Peter Van Loan.
We are disappointed that the NDP has attempted to obstruct the passage of the important job creating measures in the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012.
Today, I conveyed my disappointment to the NDP House Leader for the hypocrisy of his complaint which related to a mistake by a member of his own caucus last night.
It is normal for me to speak with the opposition House Leaders. I was however surprised how Mr. Mulcair snapped and lost his temper.
The reference to “a mistake by a member of his own caucus” is apparently a reference to the fact that Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin was in the Speaker’s chair when the vote in question was called last night.
Update 9:38pm. The Canadian Press talks to Mr. Cullen.
For his part, Cullen wouldn’t specify precisely what was said but indicated that Van Loan used “a lot of real bad language, threatening language.” ”It was inappropriate and then Tom said, ‘Don’t threaten my House leader,’ and that’s when we all sort of stood up to make sure it didn’t go any further,” Cullen said in an interview. ”You’ve got to get him away because nothing good happens if he stays there talking that way.”
Cullen said Mulcair’s intervention was aimed at making Van Loan back off. ”For the Conservatives to try to spin his out that somehow (Van Loan) was the victim, I mean, give me a break … That’s ridiculous.”
Update 10:51pm. Mr. Cullen tweets at Mr. MacKay.
Check the video @MinPeterMacKay to see who came after whom. But we all need to work on raising decorum, I hope you agree with that, at least
Update 10:56pm. Elizabeth May chimes in.
Update Thursday. For the sake of comparison, a brief history of recent commotions is here. Morning-after interviews with Mr. Van Loan and Mr. Cullen are here. And this morning’s points of order on the matter are here.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
The House of Commons is filling up—the Prime Minister seems to have brought a large stack of paperwork to keep him busy—and voting on C-45 will soon commence. We’ll be here until the end to observer all the sights, sounds, thrills and chills of democracy in motion (specifically the motion of standing and sitting down repeatedly).
3:43pm. The party whips have been duly applauded and the Speaker is now calling the first vote. Thomas Mulcair receives a round of applause as he leads the votes in favour.
3:45pm. If you’d like to follow along with the commentary from the floor, our list of MPs on Twitter is here.
3:47pm. Mr. Harper receives a round of applause as he leads the nays.
3:51pm. The first vote goes to the nays, 156-134.
3:56pm. Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre, Randy Kamp, Mark Adler, Bob Rae, Vic Toews and Ruth Ellen Brosseau are using the time to sign Christmas cards. Greg Rickford is reading Sports Illustrated. Denis Lebel is going through some paperwork. Megan Leslie and Nathan Cullen are fiddling with their iPads.
3:58pm. The second notes goes to the nays, 147-134. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Andrew Coyne calls for a one-time co-operation pact aimed at electoral reform.
There are a lot of reasons to prefer proportional representation — I’ve written about it often — but for the opposition parties there is one reason in particular: the current system heavily favours the Conservatives, as the party with the support of the largest single block of voters.So while I don’t see the case for merging the other parties, I do think there’s some merit in a proposal floated by the Liberal leadership candidate Joyce Murray: namely, a one-time-only electoral pact, for the sole purpose of changing the voting system. The Green Party has proposed something similar. And Nathan Cullen famously ran for NDP leader on an electoral cooperation platform. The details no doubt vary, but here’s how I can see it working. The opposition parties would agree on a single candidate to put up against the Conservatives in each riding. Were they to win a majority, they would pledge to govern just long enough to implement electoral reform: a year, two at most. Then fresh elections would be called under the new system, with each party once again running under its own flag, with a full slate of candidates.
Supporters of each party, therefore, would not have to give up their allegiance. Neither, for that matter, would reform-minded Conservatives. They could vote for the reform ticket this one time, then return to the Tory fold when it came to deciding who should represent them in a reformed Parliament.
I guess the theory is here at that the 2015 election could be an election about electoral reform. That strikes me as an odd notion. Are we going to suspend all other issues of consideration? Are the the Liberals, Greens and New Democrats going to put aside all other policy proposals? Are they going to promise, for the year or two it takes to implement reform, to not do anything else of consequence? Or are they going to have to agree on a unified platform? Could the general public be convinced to take electoral reform so seriously that all other policy issues would be secondary?
I also continue to find the idea of riding-level co-operation to be hopelessly problematic. To start, doesn’t the last federal election demonstrate the folly of trying to figure out ahead of time which party’s candidate has the best shot of winning? How many of the ridings that the NDP won for the first time in 2011 would have had a New Democrat candidate if a co-operation approach had been adopted two months before that election?
Alice Funke sees lots of practical issues. But how would this work politically? Having agreed to co-operate on nominating candidates, how tied to each other would the parties be? Could they still disagree amongst each other? Would they have to agree to refrain from attacking each other? Wouldn’t the Conservatives happily be able to exploit differences of opinion and attack the three as a united front—the NDP held responsible for any mistakes of the Liberals and vice versa? What if 200 Liberal candidates are nominated, but, mid-campaign, the Liberal leader is suddenly enveloped in some scandal?
On a local level, how sure are we that Liberal or Green voters will vote NDP or vice versa? What would be the impact locally in 2019 on a party not running a candidate in 2015? Wouldn’t sitting out a campaign in a given riding make it at least a little bit harder for a party to mount a campaign four years later?
As when Nathan Cullen proposed it, the idea still strikes me a too cute by half. I think people who want to see co-operation among the three non-Conservative parties might as well argue for a merger (though I don’t think that makes much sense right now) or the possibility of a coalition government. Joint nominations, in my mind, put you in no man’s land between those two ideas.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 11:26 AM - 0 Comments
Amid all else yesterday, Nathan Cullen rose on a point of order shortly after Question Period to argue that the way in which C-45 was referred to various committees for study was procedurally illegitimate.
Scott Brison then rose on his own point of order to argue that the maneuvering at the finance committee was out of order.
Meanwhile, the Green Party has recruited Gord Downie, Leslie Feist and Sarah Harmer to oppose C-45′s changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 26, 2012 at 12:02 PM - 0 Comments
Murray says she believes Liberals, New Democrats and Greens should have the option of conducting run-off nominations to choose a single candidate in tightly contested ridings where a united progressive front would guarantee defeat of the ruling Tories … To make sure Harper is ejected from that seat, she said riding associations need to be able to co-operate with rivals. ”There are some ridings where the vast majority of voters would like to have a progressive voice,” she said. “So, if a riding is willing to have a run-off (nomination) so that the progressive voice has a chance of becoming elected, then that’s something that I think is a good idea.”
Murray wouldn’t impose the idea; she’d ask Liberals to endorse it at their next convention, then leave it to local riding associations to decide whether to use it or not. It would be a one-time tactic only for the 2015 election. She stressed she is not proposing a merger with the NDP or any other party.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Saskatchewan Tory MP Brad Trost called it “the equivalent of passing it in the middle of the night.” ”It didn’t follow proper democratic due diligence in the House of Commons,” he said. “There seems to have been a deal done.”
Manitoba Conservative MP Lawrence Toet also voiced concerns about the process and said it was known a number of MPs had concerns about C-290.
The New Democrats have written to
Conservative Senator Bob Runciman, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate,all senators to argue that there was nothing wrong with how the bill advanced through the House. Here (pdf) is a copy of that letter.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 5:14 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. After eight questions about other matters, the House returned to the serious matter of Ashley Smith.
“Mr. Speaker, in her 11 and a half months in federal custody, Ashley Smith was involved in 160 use of force incidents. She was subjected to a barrage of inhumane treatment: pepper spray, tasering, duct tape, and chemical restraints,” the NDP’s Randall Garrison recounted. “We know our correction system failed Ashley Smith, and we know the correctional investigator has put forward basic recommendations to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. Once again I ask the minister, will he commit today to fully implementing these recommendations on dealing with mental illness in our correction system so there are no more tragedies like Ashley Smith?”
It was Vic Toews’ responsibility to take this. “Mr. Speaker, this is a very sad case. Our thoughts go out to Ms. Smith’s family,” the Public Safety Minister offered. “This tragedy continues to show that individuals with mental health issues do not belong in prisons but in professional facilities. At the same time, our government continues to take concrete steps on the issue of mental health in prison. Since 2006, we have invested nearly $90 million in mental health for prisoners and we have taken action to improve access to mental health treatment and training for staff.”
The NDP’s Rosane Doré Lefebrve stood and seemed to suggest that a tragedy was not the word to describe Ms. Smith’s fate: that this was not an accident that couldn’t have been predicted. “In the case of Ashley Smith, and too many women with mental illness, you could see it coming,” she said. She then restated the question. “It’s been a week since the NDP has been asking questions about the subject, whether the Conservatives will implement the recommendations of the Correctional Investigator of Canada,” she said. “Will the Conservatives follow the advice of the Correctional Investigator of Canada, yes or no?”
Mr. Toews managed two sentences in response—”Mr. Speaker, we continue to work with the correctional investigator. We review all of his recommendations.”—before turning the matter on the NDP. Nine months removed from explaining that opposition MPs could stand with the Conservatives or stand with child pornographers, Mr. Toews now fretted that the NDP was insufficiently conscious of the victims of crime. Continue…