By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
In the wake of a report from La Presse about Thomas Mulcair’s statements to police about a meeting with former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, the NDP released a statement from Mr. Mulcair this morning.
In early 2011, I met with the police in order to help in their investigation.
I gave to them my account of a meeting I had with Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt dating back to 1994.
As is indicated, I effectively and immediately ended the meeting with Mr. Vaillancourt.
This matter is currently before the courts and I will therefore avoid further comment.
The Conservatives followed that with a statement from Peter Van Loan.
The Canadian Press summarizes.
A statement from House Leader Peter Van Loan accused Mulcair of remaining silent about corruption for two decades. It also accused him of lying during a 2010 press conference, when he said he had never been offered a bribe during his time in Quebec politics…
It’s unclear whether Mulcair was in fact lying on Nov. 16, 2010, when a journalist asked at an Ottawa press conference whether he had ever been offered cash envelopes by Vaillancourt and he said: “No.” The report in La Presse said Mulcair told police he’d actually left the 1994 meeting without opening, or accepting, a white envelope and did not know for sure that there was cash inside.
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 3:45 PM - 0 Comments
The Government House Leader’s statement on bribery allegations in La Presse
Here’s a statement from Government House Leader Peter Van Loan regarding La Presse’s revelation that former Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt allegedly attempted to bribe NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair when the latter was a provincial MNA.
According to Radio-Canada [ed's note: it was actually La Presse's exclusive] Thomas Mulcair has known about corruption in Quebec politics since 1994, when the Mayor of Laval allegedly offered him “help” in the typical Liberal style: an envelope. Thomas Mulcair appears to have kept this sordid affair to himself for seventeen years. In 2010, he even denied having ever been offered a bribe. Yet after seventeen years of silence, Mulcair finally spoke up after investigations were already underway in 2011. As a result, Thomas Mulcair could be called before the Charbonneau Commission to explain his (in)action.
Mulcair kept his firsthand knowledge of corruption from the public for two more years, before choosing to dump it today, when he felt the media would be distracted by other stories.
This presents some difficult questions for Mr. Mulcair:
Why did he protect Gilles Vaillancourt and cover up this alleged criminal activity for 17 years?
Why did it take a public inquiry into the biggest corruption scandal in Canadian history for Thomas Mulcair to finally come clean with Canadians?
Why did Thomas Mulcair lie and say he was never offered any money by Gilles Vaillancourt?
Will he agree to appear if called to testify under oath before the Charbonneau Commission?
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Officially, C-60, the first budget implementation act of the year, requires 128 pages to print. Government House leader Peter Van Loan gave notice yesterday that he’ll move a motion of time allocation today to limit debate at second reading to a total of five days.
We support efforts to help Crown Corporations manage public resources responsibly. We believe that this initiative may have unintended consequences on the successful operation of some corporations. It is important that these consequences are understood and addressed.
We will be writing to the Government to share our concerns about C-60, and to request a meeting to ensure that Ministers have accurate information on CBC/Radio-Canada’s record, both at managing public resources and delivering on its mandate.
The New Democrats, meanwhile, have tabled their proposal for splitting the bill. The motion was denied yesterday at the finance committee, but, for the record, here is what Peggy Nash proposed.
“That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, that Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures be amended by removing the following clauses:
a) clauses 136 to154 related to the Investment Canada Act;
b) clauses 161 to 166 related to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program;
c) clauses 174 to 199 related to the proposed Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act;
d) clauses 213 to 224 related to the National Capital Act and the Department of Canadian Heritage Act;
e) clauses 228 to 232 related to the Financial Administration Act and collective bargaining between Crown corporations and their employees;
That the clauses mentioned in section a) of this motion do compose Bill C-61; that Bill C-61 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;
that the clauses mentioned in section b) of this motion do compose Bill C-62; that Bill C-62 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;
that the clauses mentioned in section c) of this motion do compose Bill C-63; that Bill C-63 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development;
that the clauses mentioned in section d) of this motion do compose Bill C-64; that Bill C-64 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage;
that the clauses mentioned in section e) of this motion do compose Bill C-65; that Bill C-65 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates;
that Bill C-60 retain the status on the Order Paper that it had prior to the adoption of this Order; that Bill C-60 be reprinted as amended; and that the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion.”
The Conservatives have said they would like different parts of the bill sent to different committees for study, but we don’t yet have the details of their proposal.
By John Geddes - Monday, April 22, 2013 at 7:15 PM - 0 Comments
The timing was, to say the least, a stroke of luck for the Conservatives—and, according to government officials, nothing more.
On the very day when the RCMP was dominating national news by announcing that it had arrested two men in an alleged al-Qaida-linked plot against VIA Rail, the Conservatives had hastily scheduled a House debate on anti-terrorism legislation.
It’s called the Combating Terrorism Act, or Bill S-7, and would bring back a raft of anti-terrorism measures, first brought in as temporary powers by the Liberal government after the 9/11 attacks, which lapsed in 2007.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 22, 2013 at 6:19 PM - 0 Comments
At noon, the House moved to government orders. To present S-7, the Combatting Terrorism Act, stood Candice Bergen, parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety.
“In closing,” she concluded shortly thereafter, “I would like to express my deepest condolences to all of those who have suffered as a result of the despicable acts that occurred in Boston this last week. The way that the city has come together has been an inspiration for all of us. They have shown the world that fear would not define them and I would hope that Canadians, if such a thing would happen, would do the same thing.”
So let us say that it is not fear, but general awareness of fearsome possibility that guides us now.
“At the same time, I would like to say that it is so important to ensure that Canada has the necessary laws and tools to prevent such a heinous attack,” Ms. Bergen continued. “We want to make sure that we are fully prepared and that we can combat terrorism and possible future terrorist acts, as well as making sure that anyone who has been involved in terrorist acts in Canada is dealt with. We have to ensure that the evildoers are met with the justice that they deserve. Otherwise, we as parliamentarians have failed our most basic duty: To protect Canadians.”
Up first was Charlie Angus, who quibbled with nothing less than the fact that this debate was happening now. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 19, 2013 at 12:03 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberals will table the following motion on Monday.
That Standing Order 31 be amended by adding the following: (1) The Speaker shall recognize Members in alphabetical order by Party. For the purposes of this Standing Order, all Members who do not belong to a recognized party shall be grouped together. (2) When a Member is unable to present his or her statement on the date required by Standing Order 31(1), he or she may indicate in writing to the Speaker at least one hour prior to the beginning of Statement by Members, the name of the Member with whom he or she will exchange position.
This would attempt to deal directly with what Mark Warawa and other Conservative backbenchers have raised as a concern over the last few weeks. Yesterday, Conservative MP LaVar Payne became the ninth backbencher to speak in the House to the issue of the time reserved for statements by members.
Mr. Trudeau had vowed to “loosen the grip of the Prime Minister’s Office on Parliament.” He will speak in the House to the Liberal motion at noon on Monday.
Here is the official news release.
I’d asked last night about Mr. Trudeau’s position on Mark Warawa’s question of privilege and the power of party whips to control statements by members and Question Period. I’m told there won’t be a direct intervention on Mr. Warawa’s question of privilege (“We’re not going to get dragged into divisions within the Tory caucus,” says a Liberal spokeswoman). As for Question Period reform, as raised by Conservative MP John Williamson in his intervention, “Liberals have always been open minded on QP reform, but we’re focused on improving SO31s as a starting point.”
Update 1:51pm. The Liberals report that the government side has rescheduled Monday’s opposition day. The government side passes along the following statement made by House leader Peter Van Loan.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a brief statement respecting the business of the House next week. As I said at the start of question period, leadership requires decisive and serious action in response to the serious threats of violent terrorism. In order to give members of this House an opportunity to express their views on the appropriate way to respond to terrorist violence, on Monday and Tuesday the House will debate Bill S-7, the Combating Terrorism Act. This bill is at its final stage in Parliament and I call upon all members of this place to pass this bill, we don’t need further study – we need action. As a result, the government business originally scheduled for those days will be re-scheduled to a later date.
Here is the summary for S-7.
The Liberals are displeased.
PMO is scared of democracy and giving its Members an opportunity to express the views of their constituents freely in the House of Commons. By pulling our opposition day, PMO has shown yet again that they are control freaks who have a disdain for Parliament. Our motion is substantive, constructive and would ensure fairness for all MPs.
Update 2:17pm. The government says the Liberal opposition day will now be Wednesday.
The Liberals, meanwhile, question the timing of all this. Here is the Liberal version of events from Marc Garneau (who the Liberals have put forward to comment).
The House leaders meet on Tuesday and, at that point, the House leader puts forward a kind of preliminary plan for debate for the next two weeks. And Tuesday being, of course, the day after the bombing. And there was nothing about S-7. And then on Thursday, [Peter Van Loan] makes his weekly business statement after Question Period … and again there was absolutely no mention of S-7. But suddenly, S-7 appears roughly less than an hour after we announce what we want to debate in the planned opposition day for the Liberals on Monday. So it does seem rather suspicious. And it is unfortunate. We cannot understand why suddenly S-7, when it was not even mentioned in the days after the Boston bombing, suddenly is invoked as being something that urgently needs to be, I presume, closed off in third reading by Tuesday evening. So that’s our view. And it’s unfortunate. I think Boston is kind of being used as a political football a second time.
I’ve asked Mr. Van Loan’s office to confirm that S-7 was not mentioned at Tuesday’s House leaders meeting.
The Liberals supported S-7 at second reading and continue to support it.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 12:13 PM - 0 Comments
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. It is an honour to come before you regarding the right of a member of Parliament to introduce an S. O. 31. Looking at our policy manual, O’Brien and Bosc, at page 60, it says that the classic definition of “parliamentary privilege” is the sum of the particular rights enjoyed by each House collectively and each member of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions.
What are those functions? What are those responsibilities? They are found on page 212 of O’Brien and Bosc, where it states: Members sit in the House of Commons to serve as representatives of the people who have elected them to…office. And: The member of parliament represents his constituency through service in the House of Commons.
That is the ultimate responsibility of us, as members of Parliament, each having the great honour to represent their communities. I am honoured to represent the community of Langley. It goes on, at page 61 of O’Brien and Bosc, to say: For example, the privilege of freedom of speech is secured to Members not for their personal benefit, but to enable them to discharge their functions of representing their constituents…
And there it says it, again, the importance of having that privilege, freedom of speech, to represent constituencies. On page 62 of O’Brien and Bosc, it says: Privilege essentially belongs to the House– To yourself, Mr. Speaker: –as a whole; individual Members can only claim privilege insofar as any denial of their rights, or threat made to them, would impede the [functions] of the House.
So, it clearly says that we each have responsibilities and we have privileges and rights to ensure that we fulfill the responsibility of representing our constituencies. It also goes on, at page 82 of O’Brien and Bosc, where it states: Any disregard…or attack on the rights, powers and immunities of the House and its Members, either by an outside person or body, or by a Member of the House, is referred to as a “breach of privilege”…
Last Thursday, it was my turn to present an S. O. 31. I was ready and prepared to introduce the S. O. 31. Now, some would ask, what is an S. O. 31? S. O., Standing Orders, clause 31 states: A Member may be recognized, under the provisions of Standing Order 30(5), to make a statement for not more than one minute. The Speaker–Yourself, Mr. Speaker: –may order a Member to resume his or her seat if, in the opinion of the Speaker, improper use is made of this Standing Order.
It refers to Standing Order 30(5). That Standing Order states the days and the times that S. O. 31s can be made. However, back to S. O. 31, it is clear, Mr. Speaker, that each member in this House of Commons has the right, the privilege, of presenting an S. O. 31, on a rotational basis, that gives each member in this House equal opportunity to represent their constituents.
That has been managed by yourself, Mr. Speaker, for those who are independent members of this Parliament. Those who are members of an official party, myself being a member of the Conservative Party, we, in an organized way, and the Liberal Party and the NDP, provide you with a list of those who will be making S. O. 31s in coordinated way. However, what has to be guaranteed is that each member of this House has the equal opportunity to make an S. O. 31.
If at any time that right and privilege to make an S. O. 31 on an equal basis in this House is removed, I believe I have lost my privilege of equal right that I have in this House. I was scheduled on March 20 from 2:00 to 2:15 to make an S. O. 31. Fifteen minutes prior to that time, I was notified that my turn to present the S. O. 31 had been removed. The reason I was given was that the topic was not approved of. However, there is no reason why an S. O. 31 should be removed.
The only person who can remove that is you, Mr. Speaker, according to S. O. 31. The authority to remove an S. O. 31 from any member of this House is solely in your hands, and the guiding is under S. O. 31. Again, it states: A Member may be recognized, under the provisions of Standing Order 30(5), to make a statement for not more than one minute. So we cannot go over one minute. It could be less. Then it states: The Speaker may order a Member to resume his or her seat if, in the opinion of the Speaker, improper use is made of this Standing Order.
So that is only in your authority, Mr. Speaker, to ask a member to return to his seat if you feel that the S. O. 31 that is being made is not in order. I believe that my privilege as a member to present an S. O. 31 was infringed upon by the actions that happened on March 20. This is my earliest opportunity to present my question of privilege, today. I believe it is not an issue specifically for me. I have experienced the removal of my right and my privilege, but it is a question as to how this House operates. The question for you, Mr. Speaker, is should every member have that equal right? Yes, it is clear that every member does. How is it being managed? Is it being managed in a way that members could have that right removed? Yes, I have experienced that and others have too.
Mr. Speaker, I am asking you to rule the matter prima facie, a question of privilege. I also reserve the right to speak again to respond to comments that may be coming from others. The Canadian Parliament is based on rules, responsibilities and privileges. Each of us has that responsibility to represent our communities, the people who elected us. We need to have those rights to be ensured that we have the opportunity to properly represent our communities.
I look forward to your comments, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the opportunity to bring this to the attention of the House.
Essentially, Mr. Warawa is challenging his party’s ability to control which Conservative MPs are allowed to stand and speak in those 15 minutes before Question Period.
Government Whip Gordon O’Connor followed Mr. Warawa, arguing that the Speaker was in no position to tell a party how to conduct its own affairs. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 11:56 AM - 0 Comments
After Question Period yesterday, the Government House Leader rose with the defining point of order of our time.
The approach employed by the NDP not only personalizes debate, but it does so in an offensive and inflammatory fashion. Consider what we might expect to hear if the NDP position became the accepted practice in the chamber. If this kind of name-calling is allowed, it would apply not just to ministers and parliamentary secretaries, of course, but to opposition shadow ministers. For example, the hon. member for Halifax, the NDP’s environment critic, could well be referred to as the NDP spokesperson for creating a crippling carbon tax.
According to the NDP, this would be parliamentary language. I do not believe it is. Instead of the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park described as the NDP finance critic, she could instead be called the NDP spokesperson for bigger government and higher taxes, or perhaps the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay could be the spokesperson for unethical interference with independent electoral boundary commissions or, since he changed his vote on the long gun registry, maybe he could be the spokesperson for betraying rural Canadians.
The complaint goes back to March 8, when the New Democrats made reference to “the minister responsible for butchering employment insurance,” which the Conservatives interpreted as an attempt to suggest that was Diane Finley’s actual title. This presents a fairly tricky parsing for the Speaker, I suspect—certainly less obvious than, say, NDP references to Tony Clement as the “Muskoka Minister.” Parsing parliamentary insults is always fun. For instance, I suspect that if the New Democrats had referred to Ms. Finley as “the minister who has been responsible for the butchering of employment insurance” or “the minister who butchered employment insurance” there probably wouldn’t be grounds for a complaint here.
I’m not sure Pierre Poilievre has apologized for referring to Charlie Angus as the “gerrymanderer-in-chief over there.” But perhaps an apology could be part of some kind of armistice agreement between the government and official opposition.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 6:32 PM - 0 Comments
Kevin Page is concerned that, as noted here earlier, the membership of the committee that will help select the next parliamentary budget officer is being kept secret.
When I asked the Library of Parliament about this issue earlier this week, the response from a spokeswoman was as follows.
As is the case with any Governor-In-Council appointment process, and for that matter most personnel competitions, the work and deliberations of the selection committee are confidential until the process has been completed.
The New Democrats are pointing, by comparison, to the selection of the next governor of the Bank of Canada. Here were Thomas Mulcair’s comments to reporters after QP this afternoon.
We know who’s on the selection committee to replace the Governor of the Bank of Canada. It is a bit surprising that the Library of Parliament finds that its appointments process is a notch higher and the public isn’t allowed to know. It’s quite a big concern for us because the Parliamentary Budget Officer of course came in as part of the much ballyhooed Accountability Act. They’ve gutted every other part of the Accountability Act since they actually formed government so we’re quite concerned about the PBO.
I was consulted on the PBO. I was the NDP’s Finance Critic when Kevin Page came in. Not only was I consulted, I got to interview Kevin Page. He insisted on it. The government wanted to make sure that everybody was onside and our party got to interview him and I thought that he was a sterling choice. It turned out that that was a good evaluation.
So it’s quite clear to us that they’re not taking it very seriously. The date for the announced holding of the competition is actually after the end of Kevin Page’s mandate. We’re really concerned. We’re really concerned.
Meanwhile, Government House leader Peter Van Loan has just announced—via a news release that arrived at 6:02pm—that the Parliamentary Librarian, Sonia L’Heureux, will take over as the interim parliamentary budget officer when Kevin Page’s term expires on March 25.
A month ago, the government was reported to have claimed that appointing an interim PBO was not an option.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 6:02 PM - 0 Comments
On the anniversary of the government’s Senate reform legislation last being debated in the House, an exchange this afternoon between Thomas Mulcair and the Prime Minister. (emphasis mine)
Thomas Mulcair: Sixteen Conservative senators are still refusing to provide evidence that they actually live in the provinces they are supposed to represent. Fifteen of those were appointed by the Prime Minister. In their eighth year of broken promises, this is the Conservative record on Senate reform. Will the Prime Minister demand that his senators, members of his caucus, come clean with Canadians or is he going to keep covering up for them?
Stephen Harper: Mr. Speaker, all senators conform to the residency requirements. That is the basis on which they are appointed to the Senate and those requirements have been clear for 150 years. We recognize there have to be reforms to the Senate, including limiting senators’ mandates and encouraging an elected Senate. Unfortunately, it is the NDP that consistently opposes reforming the Senate and opposes an elected Senate, hoping in the future to appoint its own senators. I would encourage the NDP to join with us and allow the bill to pass so that we can have an elected Senate.
Why, in this case, does the Prime Minister believe it is necessary for the opposition to “allow” the bill to pass? The Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons. They could use that majority to pass a motion of time allocation to bring C-7 to a vote and they could use that majority to pass the bill at second reading. They have already used time allocation to end debate in the House on 28 occasions in this Parliament.
Government House leader Peter Van Loan might be reluctant to do so, but he also seems to believe in the necessity of time allocation if it is about fulfilling a commitment the government has made.
Mr. Speaker, nobody would be more delighted than I if we could actually not have to use time allocation, but so far we have not seen an indication from the opposition parties that they are prepared to deal with bills on an expeditious basis. We feel the need to actually get things done here and deliver on our commitments.
In fact, in each of these cases since we started in September, each one of those bills continues to be debated in the process in the House of Commons. At committee, they have not even returned here for report stage yet, let alone third reading. Extensive debate is taking place.
The fact is that the parliamentary process is a lengthy one with many stages. We want to ensure that bills have an opportunity to get through those stages so they can become law, so we can keep the commitments that we made to Canadians.
As Mr. Van Loan said yesterday, Canadians have “elected a government committed to delivering Senate reform.” Surely then this moment cries out for time allocation.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Punctuating a back-and-forth with the NDP over the Senate yesterday, Peter Van Loan offered a stirring call to move forward with the government’s Senate reform legislation.
Mr. Speaker, the question was put to Canadians in 2006 when we proposed an elected Senate, in 2008 when we proposed an elected Senate and in 2011 when we proposed an elected Senate.
None of those times did the NDP support it, but Canadians did. They elected a government committed to delivering Senate reform. We brought forward legislation on Senate reform and the NDP has blocked it every step of the way.
What is the real agenda of the NDP? Appointing its own senators, that is the agenda of the NDP.
The first part was a response to Charlie Angus’ suggestion that a referendum be held on the future of the Senate. The third part was apparently a reference to the coalition agreement signed by the Liberals and NDP in 2008 that would’ve allowed for Senate appointments (as well as all other appointments).
The trouble here is the second part. The Conservatives are fond of the idea that the New Democrats have held up the legislation—Bill C-7—by standing to speak to the bill each time it is brought before the House. Technically, C-7 can’t be brought to a vote until debate collapses. Thing is, if the Conservatives wanted to have a vote on it, they could do so almost immediately. They’d just have to use their majority in the House to pass a motion of time allocation. Just like they have done 28 times already in this Parliament.
So why not use time allocation to compel a vote? I asked Tim Uppal’s office that question last month and the only words I received in response were, “We are committed to moving reform forward.”
The Globe’s John Ibbitson suggested last August that to use time allocation to move along legislation related to reforming Parliament would be “unconscionable.” Maybe the Conservatives feel likewise. But then, if they admitted as much publicly, it might raise questions about those 28 times they’ve already used time allocation.
As Ibbitson wrote in August, the Conservatives could just keep bringing the bill before the House for as many hours as it took for each New Democrat to have his or her turn to speak. But, according to Ibbitson, the Prime Minister doesn’t want to do that because some Conservative senators don’t agree with the bill’s term limits.
Meanwhile, of course, the Conservatives have asked the Supreme Court to provide a reference on Senate reform. And it’s now been exactly one year since C-7 was brought to the House for debate.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 25, 2013 at 5:40 PM - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair stood first to mock.
“Mr. Speaker, Conservative Senator Mike Duffy has now admitted he mistakenly collected, maybe, about, $100,000 in Senate housing allowances. How does one accidentally claim $100,000 in living expenses? He says the form was too complicated,” the NDP leader reported sarcastically. “We also have Senator Pamela Wallin who has an Ontario health card while claiming to be a resident of Saskatchewan. She told the federal government that she lived in one province but told the provincial government that she lived in another. This would be unacceptable for any other Canadian. Why does the Prime Minister seem to think it is acceptable for his Conservative senators?”
The Prime Minister was away, so it was Peter Van Loan’s responsibility this day to offer the official reassurances. “Mr. Speaker, we have committed to ensure that all expenses are appropriate,” the Government House leader reported, “that the rules governing expenses are appropriate and to report back to the public on these matters.”
But Mr. Van Loan apparently sensed that Mr. Mulcair was not sufficiently serious in his concern for the Senate. “The reality is, if we want to see real change in the Senate, real change toward an accountable Senate,” Mr. Van Loan segued, “we need to embrace the Conservative proposal to actually let Canadians have a say on who represents them in the Senate. The NDP simply will not do that.”
So if you are truly upset with the actions of the senators Mr. Harper has appointed, you simply must agree to pass Mr. Harper’s legislation to reform the Senate. Neat trick, that. Indeed, if this has been the Prime Minister’s play all along, to appoint dozens of senators—and two former members of the press gallery at that—in the hopes that somehow someday they would do something to incite the sort of controversy that would leave everyone begging for change, he is precisely three times the brilliant strategist he is often thought to be.
Of course, if Mr. Van Loan really wanted to move ahead with Senate reform, he might invoke time allocation to bring the legislation to a vote. Unless the Conservatives now believe that such maneuvering, of which they have otherwise been so fond, is somehow undemocratic.
This much though was merely the preamble this day. Indeed, for perhaps the first time since Confederation, the Senate was only the setup and not the punchline. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
Why they skipped Poutine Week
There is always something to celebrate in the office of government House leader Peter Van Loan. His staff looks up what is special for each day on Hallmark’s theultimateholidaysite.com as well as thenibble.com, which has a food holiday for every day of the year. For National Croissant Day last month, one staffer had to go to two Tim Hortons outlets to get enough for everyone. For International Pancake Day, Van Loan prefers Estonian pancakes that are closer to crepes. On National Gingerbread Day, Van Loan takes matters into his own hands, whipping up batches himself using a Martha Stewart recipe. Last week was Montreal Poutine Week, but the office chose to not observe that one. “We stand in solidarity with the St. Albert cheese factory,” quipped one staffer. The factory, which is just southeast of Ottawa and a major supplier of poutine’s essential ingredient, cheese curds, burned down as poutine festivities got underway.
Ron Paul vs. RuPaul
Calgary Tory MP Michelle Rempel, a rising star in question period, was recently asked by a journalist what she thought of former congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul coming to Ottawa as part of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy’s conference in March. Rempel diplomatically said she respects “a diversity of opinions.” The truth is that Rempel prefers RuPaul over Ron Paul. She is a huge fan of the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, which has drag queens compete to become America’s next drag superstar. She watched last year’s season, which included contestants Jiggly Caliente, Madame LaQueer and Sharon Needles. The new season began on Jan. 28, but because she has only basic cable in Ottawa, Rempel asked her sister to record the show so she can catch up.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 7:05 PM - 0 Comments
In being the last of the major parties never to have formed a federal government, the NDP has won something almost nearly as satisfying: the right to pronounce shame on the Senate. Perhaps the meek shall one day inherit the earth, but first those unencumbered by never having had to do anything about the Senate shall inherit the righteous indignation about the chamber’s continued existence.
“Mr. Speaker, in the Senate, the more things change, the more they stay the same,” Thomas Mulcair sighed this afternoon. “Senator Pamela Wallin claimed more than $300,000 in travel expenses over the last three years alone. Less than ten percent of these costs were used for her movements in Saskatchewan. This is taxpayers’ money that Senator Wallin used to walk across the country to star in fundraising for the Conservatives. Does the Prime Minister think it is acceptable for taxpayers’ money to be used to raise funds for his political party?”
It is unclear how much of Mr. Mulcair’s aspersion here can be precisely substantiated—specifically how much of Senator Wallin’s travel expenses could be said to have resulted from partisan activities. Suffice it to say, the Prime Minister “regretted” the opposition leader’s “characterization.”
“In terms of Senator Wallin, I have looked at the numbers,” Mr. Harper reported.
Stand down, Deloitte.
“Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time. For instance, last year Senator Wallin spent almost half of her time in the province she represents in the Senate. The costs are obviously to travel to and from that province, as any similar parliamentarian would do.”
Mr. Mulcair was not quite reassured. Continue…
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 Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:07 PM - 0 Comments
Picking up where they left off yesterday, Charlie Angus and Peter Van Loan went another round this afternoon.
Charlie Angus. No wonder the Ethics Commissioner is fed up with these guys over here. We have a minister who was found guilty of breaking section 9 of the conflict of interest law, but rather than coming clean the Conservatives have been hiding behind loopholes, they have trolling the letters of opposition members to obscure the fact that he was found guilty. No wonder the Ethics Commissioner wants the power to be able to fine these cabinet ministers. A simple question, will the Conservatives support the Ethics Commissioner in her desire to strengthen the rules or are they going to try to gut the act to cover up for those insiders who are continually breaking the law? It is a simple question.
Peter Van Loan. Mr. Speaker, the other day I read a letter from the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay supporting AVR radio. It might be interesting to note that the president and executive vice-president of AVR actually made donations to the NDP in 2011. This letter, of May 18, 2012, went to the CRTC. He stands here as the ethics czar for the NDP and his main argument is that the NDP should be held to a lower standard of ethics than the Conservative MPs. Perhaps that is what Mary Dawson is talking about.
Here again is the compliance order issued to the Finance Minister after his appeal to the CRTC on behalf of an easy-listening station. The ethics commissioner applied Section 9 of the Act and Annex H of the guide. Section 9 sets out that “no public office holder shall use his or her position as a public office holder to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to further the public office holder’s private interests or those of the public office holder’s relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests.” What’s the definition of a public office holder? Section 2 defines it as follows.
(a) a minister of the Crown, a minister of state or a parliamentary secretary;
(b) a member of ministerial staff;
(c) a ministerial adviser;
(d) a Governor in Council appointee, other than the following persons, namely,
(i) a lieutenant governor,
(ii) officers and staff of the Senate, House of Commons and Library of Parliament,
(iii) a person appointed or employed under the Public Service Employment Act who is a head of mission within the meaning of subsection 13(1) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act,
(iv) a judge who receives a salary under the Judges Act,
(v) a military judge within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the National Defence Act, and
(vi) an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, not including the Commissioner;
(d.1) a ministerial appointee whose appointment is approved by the Governor in Council; and
(e) a full-time ministerial appointee designated by the appropriate minister of the Crown as a public office holder.
You’ll note that the Finance Minister is a minister of the Crown and that nowhere in the definition is a member of parliament identified as a public office holder.
Annex H of the Prime Minister’s guide explains that “Ministers must not intervene, or appear to intervene, with tribunals on any matter requiring a decision in their quasi-judicial capacity, except as permitted by statute.”
On those grounds, the ethics commissioner found that Mr. Flaherty had erred. Mr. Flaherty explained that his mistake was including his ministerial title under his name at the bottom of the letter, but, in scolding two parliamentary secretaries, the ethics commissioner later clarified that the actual use of the title wasn’t important. In other words, a minister or parliamentary secretary couldn’t pretend he or she was writing as only a member of parliament if they were otherwise a minister or parliamentary secretary.
Mr. Van Loan responses on Monday—see here and here—suggested Mr. Flaherty and the government were merely operating previously with a different interpretation of the Conflict of Interest Act (although there would still be the matter of the government’s own accountability guide). But beginning with his second response on Tuesday and continuing yesterday and today, the Government House Leader seems to be expressing confusion about the standard applied by the commissioner.
Or perhaps Mr. Van Loan means to suggest that the Act, which his government introduced, is illogical. In that regard, if the Harper government would like now to change the rules so that all MPs are banned from such writing letters to the tribunals like the CRTC, there is certainly a case to be made for such a change.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 5:29 PM - 0 Comments
Reporters were summoned to Parliament Hill for this morning to see and hear the Prime Minister’s remarks to the weekly gathering of the Conservative caucus. Somewhat disappointingly, the press gallery’s attention was not requested so that Mr. Harper might announce the Conservatives had succeeded in consolidating the government’s computer systems and thus returned the federal budget to surplus. Rather, it seems, the Prime Minister’s Office was just in the mood for a pep rally.
“Welcome to our very first caucus meeting of 2013,” caucus chair Guy Lauzon proclaimed. ”And we’re going to start with a bang, ladies and gentlemen. I’m going to ask you to help me welcome the leader of Canada’s strong, stable, Conservative majority government the Right Honourable Stephen Harper. How about a welcome for Stephen Harper?”
The great man thus entered the room to a standing ovation, the chanting of his surname and rhythmic clapping. Apparently we are to assume the government caucus reacts this way whenever the Prime Minister arrives to speak to them.
This was apparently something of an occasion. “Friends, welcome back. As you know, last week we passed a significant milestone,” Mr. Harper explained. “Seven years ago, for the first time, Canadians placed their trust in this government.”
But it is not merely the passage of time we note.
“And to that trust we have been faithful,” the Prime Minister continued. “We have kept our promises.”
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 - 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 - Friday, December 7, 2012 at 12:10 PM - 0 Comments
This morning’s QP has just concluded. The F-35 procurement was, predictably, a particular point of opposition concern. Below, a sampling.
Jack Harris. Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives don’t even know how to cancel a project properly. The deliberations of a cabinet committee on operations has been leaked and after years of defending the F-35s in the most insulting way to anybody who commented, the government will now reportedly restart the whole process, as the NDP has demanded for years. This issue has shown the worst of Conservative mismanagement. Will they stop these backroom leaks and share the truth with Canadians and release and table the KPMG report today?
Jacques Gourde. Mr. Speaker, we are determined to continue with our seven-point plan and our exhaustive and transparent process to replace the CF-18s. The government has received the KPMG report and it is examining it. The government will talk about this publicly before the end of this Parliament.
Jack Harris. Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve to know the truth and yet the Conservatives have been hiding the truth from Canadians for years. The cabinet leaks are everywhere, the KPMG report is supposedly out, there’s a program here that no one will defend and now costs are estimated to be north of $40 billion. A litany of Conservative failure and mismanagement. When will they come clean, admit their misguided plan has failed and finally agree to have an open and transparent competition? Continue…
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.