By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Ted Opitz attempts to sum up Nigel Wright’s resignation.
Nigel Wright is a patriot. A man with honour. If he made a mistake, it was a gentleman’s mistake. One made with the truest of intentions.
Wright gone but still not wrong? See today’s resignation statements – no acceptance of wrongdoing … Harper’s statement does nothing to condemn the $90,000 secret payment – the spin is still Wright as gallant knight … The claim is Harper knew nothing abt the Wright-Duffy secret deal, yet #PMSH has so far retroactively endorsed it by not once condemning it.
Mr. Wright’s statement explains that he’s stepping down because of the “controversy.” He regrets the “impact.” That sounds a lot like part of Mr. Duffy’s explanation for voluntarily—via Mr. Wright’s largesse—paying back his housing allowance. Mr. Duffy didn’t want to be a distraction. Mr. Duffy “filled out the forms in good faith,” but “rather than let this issue drag on” he and his wife had decided that the allowance would be repaid. Mr. Wright “intended solely to secure the repayment of funds,” which he “considered to be in the public interest,” but “in light of the controversy” he was resigning.
Mr. Duffy at least allowed that he “may have been mistaken.” And Mr. Opitz at least allows for the possibility that Mr. Wright also may have made a mistake, even if only of the gentlemanly variety.
So do Conservatives believe Mr. Wright did something wrong? Does the Prime Minister believe his chief of staff did anything wrong? And, if so, how do they think he erred? Merely in being too generous a man and too selfless a public servant?
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 25, 2013 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Two years ago, the procedure and House affairs committee voted to find the Harper government in contempt for its refusal to provide costing analysis for some of its major initiatives.
Last fall, the Harper government refused to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with information about the government’s spending cuts.
And three weeks ago, Conservative MPs on the public accounts committee decided they didn’t want to see the government’s reports on fiscal sustainability.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister says he doesn’t know how much his increase in tariffs will end up costing consumers.
But, last week, several Conservative MPs submitted order paper questions asking the government to provide costing analysis for several private members’ bills proposed by NDP MPs.
It is perhaps useful here to recall Brent Rathgeber’s words about the job of a government backbencher.
I understand that Members of Parliament, who are not members of the executive, sometimes think of themselves as part of the government; we are not. Under our system of Responsible Government, the Executive is responsible and accountable to the Legislature. The latter holds the former to account. A disservice is provided to both when Parliament forgets to hold the Cabinet to account.
Perhaps Merv Tweed, Ted Opitz, Randy Hoback, Kelly Block and Wladyslaw Lizon could use their next order paper questions to ask for the government’s fiscal sustainability reports or demand a costing analysis of the tariff increases. (Perhaps they could refuse to vote on the budget until such information is provided.) Perhaps they could submit order paper questions demanding exactly the information that Kevin Page is seeking. Or perhaps they could join together to propose that the Parliamentary Budget Officer be given the resources necessary to analyze all private members’ bills, thus saving the government the time and expense.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:55 PM - 0 Comments
Just before Question Period this afternoon, Costas Menegakis, the Conservative MP for Richmond Hill, stood in his spot along the back row of the government side and lamented for the NDP’s quibbles with a piece of government legislation.
“The NDP has proven once again that they will always put the interests of criminals first,” he reported, his words thus committed to the official record where they will remain in his name for eternity.
Was this uncivil?
A few spots after Mr. Mengakis, it was Ted Opitz’s turn. “Yesterday my NDP colleague from Scarborough Southwest said that his party will offer practical solutions,” explained the Conservative MP who had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court for the honour to stand in this place and say these words. “What he fails to mention is that the NDP solution is a new $21 billion job-killing carbon tax.”
This is mostly ridiculous, but is it uncivil?
Question Period then began. Soon enough, Bob Rae was on his feet, speaking loudly and wagging his finger at the Prime Minister.
“Mr. Speaker, it is clear after the Minister of Finance’s attack on the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Mr. Kevin Page, that it is the Prime Minister’s intention to turn the taxpayers’ watchdog into his personal lapdog. That is the plan that the government has,” he declared. “Why is the government having to fire Marty Cheliak, Pat Stogran, Linda Keen, Peter Tinsley, Paul Kennedy, Adrian Measner, Munir Sheikh, Steve Sullivan and Remy Beauregard? Why is the name of Kevin Page being added to this list of people who are being thrown out of the bus because they had an independent opinion about something?”
Was that uncivil? Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 1:11 PM - 0 Comments
The proposed amendments are presently being read into the record and put to voice votes in the House. As I type, Joe Comartin just read Motion 386, leaving just less than 300 to go. While we wait for the reading to end and the standing votes to begin, a few random speeches (courtesy of YouTube) from the C-45 debate.
Liberal MP Judy Foote.
NDP MP Glenn Thibeault.
Conservative MP Ted Opitz.
NDP MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault.
Conservative MP Kyle Seeback.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 5:01 AM - 0 Comments
A star-studded photo gallery by Mitchel Raphael
The 2012 Press Gallery Dinner was a night of glamour and mock awards.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 26, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
The majority decision has a firm grasp on the practical realities at place. The judges write that “our electoral system must balance several interrelated and sometimes conflicting values. Those values include certainty, accuracy, fairness, accessibility, voter anonymity, promptness, finality, legitimacy, efficiency and cost. But the central value is the Charter-protected right to vote.” [para. 44] Further, they note that the “current system of election administration in Canada is not designed to achieve perfection, but to come as close to the ideal of enfranchising all entitled voters as possible. Since the system and the Act are not designed for certainty alone, courts cannot demand perfect certainty. Rather, courts must be concerned with the integrity of the electoral system.”
This may be cold comfort to those who worry about fraud or simple errors resulting in ineligible votes. Some may not even care that there was no evidence of enough truly ineligible ballots to affect the outcome (let alone zero evidence of fraud). But if the cost of procedural safeguards to ensure absolute certainty in this regard is the disenfranchisement of legitimate voters then we may need to live with the reality that no system is perfect. At the very least, as the judges in the majority were correct to conclude, we need to have concrete evidence that results have been adversely affected by potential errors before we start overturning elections.
Adam Goldenberg also praises the decision.
Like Bush v. Gore, Opitz v. Wrzesnewskyj was a split decision. In 2000, five Republican-appointed justices voted to end the Democrats’ last hopes of victory. Thursday, by contrast, two of the four judges who voted to keep a Conservative MP, Opitz, in office were Liberal nominees.
But in Canada, such partisan math does not matter. True, the Etobicoke Centre dispute was about politics; an election was won by 26 votes, a losing candidate challenged the result, a lower court overturned it, and the winner appealed to the country’s higest court. But the Supreme Court’s decision turned on its mandate to set precedent, not settle scores. And, unlike their American brethren, the Canadian court got it right.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 9:48 AM - 0 Comments
The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Conservative MP Ted Opitz and there will be no by-election in Etobicoke Centre.
Update 10:12am. A statement from Mr. Opitz.
I thank the court for its carefully reasoned decision. It is important to respect the will of the voters in Etobicoke Centre which was demonstrated by the result of the election. I agree with the court’s decision where it identified the importance of enfranchising the electors of Etobicoke Centre. As the court decision confirmed, a fair election took place, the result was clear, was then confirmed on a recount and the result has now been endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Fifty two thousand people in Etobicoke Centre followed the rules, cast their ballots and today had their democratic decision upheld. I look forward to continuing my work as the MP for Etobicoke Centre, as we continue to implement Prime Minister Harper’s economic action plan to create and protect jobs.
The Prime Minister’s Office is pleased.
Update 10:32m. A statement from interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.
While we are disappointed in today’s split decision to overturn the Ontario Superior Court ruling, we accept it as the judgement of the majority of the Court. No doubt there will be a need to review both the opinions of the majority and the minority, and assess what further changes are needed to our election laws.
In addition to the split ruling today, there still exists a disturbing trend of irregularities and reports of election fraud stemming from the 2011 general election. We cannot forget that Canadians across the country were deprived of their right to vote through a coordinated attack on our democracy. Though Mr. Wrzesnewskyj’s case did not deal directly with these matters, it cannot be divorced from the allegations that have called into question the strength of our democracy. There is still much work to be done and many questions to be answered in order to restore our confidence in Canada’s electoral institutions.
I would like to thank Mr. Wrzesnewskyj for his tireless efforts in pursuing this cause. His dedication to upholding the integrity of Canada’s electoral system and the faith we have in Canada’s democracy is nothing short of remarkable. Regardless of the capacity, I know Mr. Wrzesnewskyj will continue to serve his community and the people of Etobicoke Centre.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 19, 2012 at 3:15 PM - 0 Comments
A note from the Supreme Court advises that a ruling in the case of Ted Opitz et al. v. Borys Wrzesnewskyj et al. will be delivered at 9:45am on Thursday.
See previous coverage of Etobicoke Centre here.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 11:49 AM - 0 Comments
Elizabeth May suggests that, in the event of a by-election in Etobicoke Centre, the Greens and NDP should stand down to allow for a straightforward grudge match between Ted Opitz and Borys Wrzesnewskyj.
Although Ms. May she said would not normally urge her party to stay off a ballot, the situation in Etobicoke Centre is highly unusual. If anyone was unfairly denied a seat in that riding it was Mr. Wrzesnewskyj, she said, and if there is a by-election it should be “a clean vote between Borys and Ted.”
Ms. May has some history in this regard: Stephane Dion agreed in 2007 to not run a candidate in Central Nova in an ill-fated attempt to help Ms. May defeat Peter MacKay.
There is some general notion that parties might not field a candidate when a by-election occurs to provide an opportunity for the new leader of another party to win a seat, but, at least in recent history, it has been inconsistently applied. The Liberals, for instance, didn’t run candidates against Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest) in 2002 or Joe Clark (Kings-Hants) in 2000 and the Progressive Conservatives didn’t field a candidate against Jean Chretien (Beauséjour) in 1990. But the Liberals did field candidates against Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla) in 2000 and Brian Mulroney (Central Nova) in 1983. The NDP fielded candidates in all of those by-elections.
The last time an election result was declared void and a by-election ordered—York North in 1988—the dispute involved a close finish between a Liberal (Maurizio Bevilacqua) and a Progressive Conservative (Michael O’Brien). The NDP fielded a candidate in the by-election and ended up getting ahead of the Progressive Conservatives to finish second.
Astute reader Derek Leebosh notes that in 1942, the Liberals officially stood down in York South when Conservative party leader Arthur Meighen sought a seat, but the CCF candidate (with Liberal assistance) went on to win the by-election. This post from Torontoist explains the situation in lavish detail.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The disputed vote in Etobicoke Centre goes to the Supreme Court this morning for a final appeal. The official summary is here. The factums from Ted Opitz, Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Elections Canada are here.
Susan Delacourt says it’s a test of our democratic machinery. Leslie MacKinnon says the stakes are higher for all sides. Postmedia says the chief electoral officers for British Columbia and Alberta are concerned.
Our live coverage will start here around 9am.
8:54am. Greetings from the Supreme Court. The lawyers are seated and the candidates have taken their places in the gallery—Mr. Opitz on the right side, Mr. Wrzesnewskyj on the left. Now waiting for the justices to arrive.
9:00am. All rise. Let’s do this. (Or words to that effect.) Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 11:26 AM - 0 Comments
Canada Day video greetings from Jason Kenney, Ted Opitz, Cheryl Gallant, Peggy Nash, Jinny Sims, Colin Carrie, Joyce Murray, Wayne Marston, Craig Scott, John Weston, Ralph Goodale, Elizabeth May, Robert Chisholm, Claude Gravelle, Christine Moore, Laurin Liu, Ray Boughen, James Lunney, Russ Hiebert, Jack Harris, Peter Braid, Steven Blaney, Randy Kamp and, expressing their best wishes in rather similar words, Daryl Kramp, James Bezan, Randy Hoback, Diane Finley, Ed Holder, Ryan Leef, Bob Zimmer, Dave MacKenzie,John Carmichael, Bal Gosal, Costas Menegakis and Parm Gill.
After the jump, a video from the Prime Minister and statements from Thomas Mulcair and Bob Rae. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 6:32 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Ted Opitz, he who may or may not end up being the duly elected MP for Etobicoke Centre, had just finished doing his partisan duty, standing up to deliver the day’s harangue of the official opposition (“Ill-informed! Foolish! Dangerous!”) and Thomas Mulcair thought he spotted a segue.
“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Mulcair offered in English before proceeding en francais, “let us talk about unemployment insurance, something that will become important for the member very soon.”
There were groans and grumbles from the government side, the Conservatives in attendance apparently finding this to be poor form. Profoundly saddened, John Baird stood and shed a single tear. “Mr. Speaker, what is most interesting is when this gentleman became Leader of the Official Opposition he said he would bring a new civility and raise the tone of debate,” the Foreign Affairs Minister sighed. “I guess not two months after his election, they have thrown that to the side.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 10:14 AM - 0 Comments
A statement from Conservative MP Ted Opitz.
“This is the first time this section of the Elections Act has been considered by a court, and it is important that it be given the fullest consideration because of its significant impact on our democratic system. The court made it very clear that there was no wrongdoing by any candidate. Fifty-two thousand people in Etobicoke Centre followed the rules and cast their ballots. Their democratic choice has been called into question by the decision relating to 0.15% of those ballots.
There is an automatic right to appeal the decision directly to the Supreme Court of Canada. Parliament intended the final decision on such a significant matter of national importance should be made by the Supreme Court of Canada. I will be appealing the decision to let the Supreme Court of Canada decide. It is in the public interest that election results be respected and that voters not be disenfranchised.
The legal grounds for the appeal will be argued in court. My focus will continue to be on doing my job. As I have done for the past year, I will continue working hard on behalf of my constituents in Etobicoke Centre.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 9:51 AM - 0 Comments
The Conservatives need to figure out which trend is their friend in this case. Is it that they should avail themselves of some of the best election lawyering in the country to appeal the case and try to keep the seat for fear the national polling trends (and even Rob Ford is having some troubles holding onto Ford Nation these days too) could see them underperform in a do-over, as happened in York North. Or should they rely instead on the finding that defeated Liberal incumbents can rarely stage comebacks these days, and try to bank on a better split … For the Liberals, a by-election here would be either their time to shine in an old-school pure two-way Liberal-Conservative contest – the kind they love, and want to recreate in as many other places as possible – or another quantifiable measurement of their reduced status on the federal scene.
*Conservative MP Ted Opitz has this week to decide whether he will appeal the Ontario court’s ruling.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 18, 2012 at 1:34 PM - 0 Comments
An Ontario court has ruled last year’s federal election result in Etobicoke Centre to be null and void.
Unless today’s ruling is appealed—it would go directly to the Supreme Court—and subsequently overturned, a by-election will be held.
Update 2:07pm. A statement from Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey.
We are disappointed with the decision of the Court today. The judge has found problems with the way that Elections Canada ran the election in this riding. As the judge took care to point out in the decision, Ted Opitz and the Conservative campaign team followed the rules. Fifty two thousand people in Etobicoke Centre followed the rules, cast their ballots and today had their democratic decision thrown into doubt. Ted Opitz will continue working hard on behalf of his constituents.
Update 2:41pm. Mr. DeLorey, on the question of a possible appeal: “We are reviewing the decision.”
Update 2:57pm. Only five times since 1949 has a vote been declared null and void: the last time being in York North in 1988. The House of Commons guide lays out the procedural steps as follows:
The court sends a copy of the decision to the Speaker; the Speaker will also be informed if an appeal has been filed. If no appeal has been filed, the decision is tabled in the House. An appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada must be filed within eight days of the decision being rendered and is heard without delay. The Supreme Court’s decision is transmitted to the Speaker who tables it in the House. If the election is declared null and void, the Speaker addresses a warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for a new election.
Update 3:14pm. A statement from Mr. Opitz.
I am disappointed with the decision of the Court today. The judge has found problems with the way that Elections Canada ran the election in this riding. As the judge took care to point out in the decision, I and my campaign team followed the rules. This is not about me. It is about fifty two thousand people who followed the rules, cast their ballots and today had their democratic decision thrown into doubt. I am proud that the people of Etobicoke Centre elected me to represent them as their Member of Parliament. I will continue working hard on their behalf.”
Update 3:27pm. A statement from interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.
“I was pleased with the Ontario Superior Court’s decision to declare the 2011 election results in Etobicoke Centre null and void. Liberal Member of Parliament Borys Wrzesnewskyj lost his seat by 26 votes and had outlined numerous irregularities that were, in the end, found by Justice Lederer to have undermined the results. It has become clear to many Canadians that our democracy was tested and perhaps undermined during the last election. Reports and allegations of election fraud are widespread and there are many cases still under investigation. This has cast serious doubts on the integrity of our electoral system, but we are confident that a by-election in Etobicoke Centre would help greatly in reaffirming the strength of our electoral system and Canada’s democracy.”
Update 4:40pm. CBC has the text of today’s court decision here.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:05 AM - 0 Comments
Tories gathered at the Hard Rock Café in Ottawa on Wednesday night.
Tories gathered at the Hard Rock Café in Ottawa on Wednesday night.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 2, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Borys Wrzesnewskyj is not alleging the kind of dirty tricks that opposition parties are accusing the Conservatives of employing to suppress the vote in other ridings. Quite the reverse; he’s alleging that too many ineligible voters were allowed to cast ballots in Etobicoke Centre, in some cases more than once.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, November 25, 2011 at 3:11 PM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s 5th annual Parliamentarians of the Year Awards ceremony at the Fairmont Château Laurier. …
Maclean’s 5th annual Parliamentarians of the Year Awards ceremony at the Fairmont Château Laurier. See winners here.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 5:07 PM - 13 Comments
The Conservative campaign goes looking for extras.
“We … are trying to create a photo-op about all the multicultural groups that support Ted Opitz our local Conservative candidate and the Prime Minister,” reads the email sent Tuesday night by Zeljko “Zed” Zidaric with the subject line: “Opportunity – Thursday night with the Prime Minister.”
“The opportunity is to have up to 20 people in national folklore costumes which represent their ethnic backgrounds. These people will sit in front row behind the PM – great TV photo op (sic).” The email continues: “We are seeking representation from the Arab community. Do you have any cultural groups that would like to participate by having someone at the event in an ethnic costume? We are seeking one or two people from your community.”