By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 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 - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 6:21 PM - 0 Comments
With protesters standing in the snow outside, our House moved quickly to make up for six weeks without these formal proceedings.
“Mr. Speaker, today in First Nations communities across the country, the unemployment rate can reach 80%, half of the housing units are in a pitiful state and schools and students receive 30% less funding than others,” Thomas Mulcair reported. “Last year, during meetings between the Crown and First Nations, the Prime Minister promised to renew our nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people. He promised substantial consultations: he never listened. He promised to tackle these problems: instead he attacked the chiefs. Will the Prime Minister finally take concrete action in this matter?”
The Prime Minister was prepared with assurances. “Mr. Speaker, this government has acted on several concrete measures, unprecedented in our country, for Aboriginals. We built new housing, created new schools, implemented new systems for drinking water and finalized certain land claims. Obviously, there is much more to do. However, we will continue our program with positive partners.”
It went on more or less like this for eight of the first 10 questions: a rhetorical stalemate, or rather a restating of the general positions. This newest concern is, of course, something like this nation’s oldest concern and the challenge is thus profound. In this case, the House probably needs something it can wrap its collective and metaphorical arms around—a tangible something to argue about (something that Romeo Saganash’s bill on the UN declaration and Carolyn Bennett’s question about cuts to the Aboriginal Job Centre might yet provide).
But if the last six weeks represented some kind of change beyond this place—though it is still too early to say so for sure—they did not quite resolve the matters that the opposition was fussing about at the end of 2012.
Take, for instance, the parliamentary budget officer—not merely the existential question of the office’s future, but the small matter of the questions the current officeholder continues to raise about this government’s management. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
Danny Metatawabin, spokesman for the most influential woman in the country, took centre stage in her absence. Chief Theresa Spence was said to be under observation in a local hospital. Her protest—”hunger strike?” “fast?” “liquids-only diet?”—was now concluded, but she would not be here to mark the occasion.
There had been some delay in starting and there was some confusion about the seating arrangement, but now everyone had found a place at the table at the front of the National Press Theatre—Mr. Metatawabin, Manitoba elder Raymond Robinson, Saskatchewan Regional Chief Perry Bellegarde and Native Women’s Association of Canada president Michelle Audette, NDP MP Romeo Saganash and interim Liberal leader Bob Rae. Mr. Metatawabin was asked to speak first. He paused for a few seconds before beginning.
He offered a few words in his own language, acknowledged the Creator and Chief White Duck of the traditional Algonquin territory. “This is sage,” he said, holding up a bowl that he had placed in front of him. “But I’m not going to light it. It’s against fire regulations.” He smiled. “But it was a gesture … we had hoped to do a cleansing ceremony because I know media has been on our backs for the last six weeks now. And I know you mean well and I know at times the full story doesn’t get out there, to the Canadian public or even on the international stage. But what we have accomplished has gone international.”
He wore a brown leather vest and in his left hand he held an eagle feather.
“It is not only about Theresa Spence, it is not only about Raymond. And I’m passionate for protecting my treaty rights as well, but it wasn’t only for me. It was for the entire indigenous nations as well your future. Our future together. We must walk in harmony together. We must work together,” he said. “That was one of the messages that we always brought forth, since day one. All that we wanted was for the Prime Minister of Canada to invite the Governor General to meet with First Nations leadership. That’s all that we wanted.”
Merely that the elected head of government, the titular head of state and the elected representatives of some 600 communities meet for the purposes of beginning to fix the problems that have compounded over some 500 years of history. That’s all. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 4:37 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP leader’s tie was a combination of black, grey and orange stripes. This was possibly coincidental, but the placard propped up on an easel behind him followed the same colour pattern: “Leaders Summit 2013″ emblazoned beneath three maple leaves, one black, one grey and one orange.
Placards and colour coordination are the hallmarks of professionalism in modern politics. Rarely does the Prime Minister appear anywhere without a blue sign hanging in front of him on which is written the two or three words that we are supposed to commit to our subconscious that day. (In Mr. Harper’s ideal world the first words that would come to mind upon seeing his face or hearing his voice would be “jobs,” growth” and “long-term prosperity.”) The New Democrats have picked up on this trick and now have their own placards. Today’s was more of a sign, as if to demonstrate that here was an important thing happening—please note that what is going on beyond this sign and behind those doors is of such a serious nature that a sign is required to indicate as much.
The gathering in this case—the nation’s provincial and federal NDP leaders meeting on Parliament Hill to ruminate and be seen to be ruminating —was some combination of a first ministers’ conference and a corporate retreat.
“The NDP is very proud of its track record of prudent public administration in the five provinces and the territory where it has been in power. And that’s what we’re going to be doing today. Sharing best practices. Looking at the best way forward. Sharing ideas for the future of Canada based on better cooperation between the provinces and the federal government.”
Prudent public administration and sharing best practices: Mr. Mulcair seems to like to talk like this. It is possibly helpful for the purposes of not sounding like a hippy socialist who will spend the entirety of the defence budget on fair trade espresso beans for his friends in the union. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 8:41 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after noon, with a group of women standing as human obstacles in front of the Langevin Block’s main doors, a crowd spilling out into the street, a man in a fur hat—Raymond Robinson, I believe, the Manitoba elder who has been on a hunger strike for the past month—stepped forward to shout his demands at the building, an imposing, Gothic Revival bunker across the street from Parliament Hill.
“Come on out, Harper!
“Come on Harper! Come on out!”
“Come on Harper, come outside! Be a man!
“Nation to nation! No more, no less!”
Around him, protesters drummed and sang in the cold and the rain. Two carved eagle heads were held aloft along with a dozen flags. A chant of “Idle! No More!” rose up from the crowd.
“I don’t want to fight, I just want to talk to you!”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 6:08 PM - 0 Comments
“We have arrived at a moment unlike any other in the history of our peoples,” ventured Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
And yet, here we are again.
“Generations of our leaders have delivered the same message to successive federal governments for over a century,” he explained, a few moments later. “From the battle against the destructive federal government white paper back in 1969 to the struggles to win section 35 in the Constitution in ’80, to the Charlottetown debates in the 90s, to our efforts to make effective the recommendations of the royal commission 16 years ago, we have never wavered. Our voices have always been clear. Continuing attempts to undermine our resolve, to divide our people, have and always will fail. Today our work in preparation for the meeting with the prime minister on January 11, 2013, stands on the shoulders of decades indigenous leadership.”
Mr. Atleo, the public face of an assembly of some 600 communities, was flanked on both sides by a regional chief. Around him, in the metaphorical sense, loomed a protest movement of marches, flash mobs, blockades and hashtags—a thousand different expressions of dissatisfaction. Seated at the front of the National Press Theatre, the 45-year-old father of two—he turns 46 next week—wore a black vest over a black long-sleeve shirt, his glasses perched on the end of his noise, a small black moustache and goatee framing his mouth. He leaned forward slightly on his elbows, his arms crossed in front of him.
He offered to summarize the results of two days of discussion with other chiefs in preparation for tomorrow’s meeting with the government.
“The demands of our people of the First Nations is the need for fundamental transformation in our relationship with the government of Canada, now,” he declared, emphasizing that last word. “That we need real remedies and real change for our people, now. And we action, in particular for our most vulnerable citizens.”
That’s it. Only merely that so many wrongs be righted. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 7:23 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The leader of the opposition had asked again for the Prime Minister to account for the government’s fraught relationship with the F-35 and the Prime Minister had again reassured the leader of the opposition of the government’s intent to follow a “seven-point” plan. And Mr. Mulcair was apparently ready for this.
“Mr. Speaker, instead of following their seven-point program, they should inspire themselves with 12-point programs,” the NDP leader offered, “and start by admitting they have a problem.”
This drew some desk-thumping from the New Democrats. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 10, 2012 at 5:49 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. “Will the Minister of National Defence finally admit that the jig is up,” Matthew Kellway asked, “admit he was wrong and hold an open competition?”
So the latest in jet fighter technology was damned with the language of Elizabethan times. Alas, the Defence Minister did not stand here to proclaim himself besmirched. Instead, Rona Ambrose stood to impart the talking points.
“Mr. Speaker, as you know, the National Fighter Procurement Secretariat has been set up to ensure transparency and due diligence is done before the decision is made to replace our CF-18s,” she explained. “We are committed to completing its seven-point plan and moving forward with our comprehensive and transparent approach to replacing our aging CF-18 aircraft.”
For good measure, Ms. Ambrose added a pre-emptive explanation for the decidedly larger price tag that is still to be released publicly. “When including more years in operations and maintenance cost estimates,” she said, “it goes without saying that the dollar figure will be proportionately higher.”
That such stuff went without saying seems largely to be problem here.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 5:39 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. In succession, Susan Truppe, the parliamentary secretary for the status of women, Bloc MP Jean-Francois Fortin, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Conservative MP Shelly Glover stood in the moments immediately preceding Question Period to mark the anniversary of the massacre at l’École polytechnique de Montréal. At the conclusion of Ms. Glover’s remarks, all members stood and a moment of silence was observed.
The Speaker then called for oral questions. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 7:52 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The NDP’s Matthew Kellway, blessed of the deadest of pans, seemed typically unimpressed.
“Reset and refresh are the new spin words, Mr. Speaker, but not so long ago the Minister of National Defence was unwavering,” Mr. Kellway recalled. “He stated, ‘This is the right plane, this is the right number, this is the right aircraft for our Canadian forces and Canada.’ Now he has lost that loving feeling.”
The New Democrats chuckled.
Throughout the fall this matter of the F-35 has lingered in the air, not quite at the forefront of the discussion, but not quite forgotten. And in the eight months since the auditor general’s report, the government’s position has not improved. Now, apparently, there are other options to consider. Now, apparently, the phrase “fifth generation” is “not helpful.” And soon, assumedly, there will be confirmation of a decidedly larger price tag for a plane the Conservatives once insisted the country absolutely had to have.
Here Mr. Kellway stood to mock the Defence Minister. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 3, 2012 at 4:54 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair charged into the afternoon with a litany of concerns.
“Mr. Speaker, last quarter, Canadian economic growth slowed to a rate of just six-tenths of one per cent,” he reported. “Conservatives have now missed their own economic growth targets three quarters in a row. They have had to downgrade their economic growth forecast for 2012 by nearly a third and it is now widely expected that the Bank of Canada will have to downgrade its own economic forecast as well. The Minister of Finance announced new economic numbers just three weeks ago. Does the minister still stand by those numbers today, or will we have to downgrade his economic projections yet again?”
The Minister of Finance was not in the House, so John Baird stood to handle this one. But first, a nod to the expectant royal couple.
“Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not first stand up and extend our congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the announcement coming from Burn’s House earlier today,” enthused the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Conservatives duly applauded.
At the far end of the room, Bob Rae leaned forward and put his head in his hands. Ralph Goodale patted him on the shoulder.
A mostly—particularly—dull and witless afternoon proceeded with little or no progress to report on much of anything. There was though at least one reasonable question. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. For as long as humans have possessed language it has been generally true that few good conversations involve the phrase “fecal contamination.”
Perhaps that’s why the Prime Minister stepped aside this afternoon to let Gerry Ritz respond to the bulk of questions; of the six questions he might’ve otherwise been expect to take, Mr. Harper rose to respond to only two. Or maybe this was some attempt to make up for Mr. Ritz’s initial absence when last the House was seized with the matter of suspect beef.
At issue today was how we handle our cow carcasses: specifically whether our attitude toward the presence of “spinal cord/dura-mater” depends on whether Canadian or Japanese citizens are expected to ingest the resulting hamburgers.
“Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the CFIA has confirmed that meat sold in Canada is as safe as that is exported to other markets, including Japan,” Mr. Harper attempted to reassure the House. “Indeed, it is the Canadian law in this regard.”
Nycole Turmel was unconvinced. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 5:52 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The Finance Minister should at least feel chuffed that the Leader of the Opposition feels it important to pay very close attention to what he has to say.
“Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Finance Minister said that Canada is ‘not in need of a contingency plan’ to deal with the threats facing our economy,” Thomas Mulcair recounted this afternoon. “That was quite a surprise because just two weeks ago the same finance minister said, ‘we have contingency plans not only with respect to the fiscal cliff, but with respect to the European situation.’ Which is it? Facing the real threat of another recession, do the Conservatives have a contingency plan or not? Canadians deserve a straight answer.”
Perhaps Jim Flaherty was merely a bit too cute with his response yesterday. But he surely couldn’t say so now. And anyway, he was elsewhere, so here came Jason Kenney to offer the government side’s official explanation.
“Mr. Speaker, of course, this government is and will continue to be prudent in our fiscal and economic planning,” Mr. Kenney explained. “That is why we have the best fiscal position in the G7. It is why we have the best job creation record among the major developed economies. It is why the OECD says we will have the best economic growth for many years to come.”
With that much sort of clarified, Mr. Kenney moved to segue. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Libby Davies rose to list a series of complaints about the Harper government’s general and to take note of a new proposal for child care services. “Now that even the big banks are challenging Conservatives’ priorities, when will the Prime Minister rethink his shortsighted budget choices?” she wondered.
The Prime Minister was obliged here to stand and offer the official assurances. “Mr. Speaker, the policy of this government has been to gradually balance the budget over the medium-term while not raising taxes as the NDP would like us to do and while preserving our payments for vital programs like health care, education and, of course, pensions for our senior citizens,” he reported.
And, in light of yesterday’s news, there was apparently another reason to brag.
“With that approach, Canada has record leading job creation among major developed countries and policies that are highly emulated around the world,” Mr. Harper continued, “one of the reasons I think that somebody like Mr. Carney can be recruited to serve in another country. Canada has a lot to be proud of.”
So apparently Mr. Carney has Mr. Harper to thank, at least in part, for his new job. Perhaps David Cameron might’ve saved himself the expense of hiring a new bank governor and simply renamed his budgets as “economic action plans” and started yelling about how the opposition’s plans to introduce a carbon tax imperil the monarchy. (Oh, the British government has proposed putting a price on carbon? Well, I suppose Mr. Carney’s cause is hopeless then.)
For whatever reason, Ms. Davies thought she saw an opening to turn this around. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 26, 2012 at 5:30 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Ralph Goodale stood with right hand in pocket, a piece of paper in his left hand, to read the indictment against his former assistant.
“Mr. Speaker, the government’s decision to deny health care services to certain refugee claimants faces very stiff opposition. Doctors, nurses and every significant health care organization in Canada says the decision is wrong. Media editorials say the immigration minister has dropped the ball. Most especially, provincial governments are universally critical, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba. Saskatchewan’s premier describes federal refugee cuts as ‘unCanadian,’ ” the deputy Liberal leader reported to the House.
This much seemed inspired by the case of a man from Pakistan who arrived in Saskatchewan and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer. The man received chemotherapy, but, apparently as a result of the Harper government’s changes to the refugee health care program, the man’s anti-nausea medication was not covered. The Saskatchewan government has said it will cover the costs, but the Premier is unimpressed. This just a month after Conservative MP Kelly Block was criticized for celebrating the new policy.
“Before this gets worse and people die,” Mr. Goodale asked, “will the government correct itself and reinstate sensible health coverage for refugee claimants?”
Jason Kenney was perfectly passive aggressive in response.
“Mr. Speaker, we continue to provide health coverage to refugee claimants,” he assured. “We provide the same package of basic hospital and physician services that are typically available to Canadians. Not every province funds all of the same services precisely the same way. However, if provinces want to provide additional insurance for certain services to asylum claimants, they are more than free to do so.”
The issue seems rather more contentious than Mr. Kenney’s reading here might otherwise suggest.
“I would remind the member that, for example, we have no federal insurance at all for people who are here illegally, for temporary visitors, for newly arrived permanent residents, or for Canadian citizens who are re-establishing themselves,” the Immigration Minister went on. “They get no federal, or for that matter, provincial coverage. However, provinces are always free to provide insurance to people where they think it is appropriate.”
Mr. Goodale was unconvinced, his right hand emerging from his pocket to jab at the air in front of him for emphasis. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 6:23 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Jason Kenney walked out into the foyer, towards the appointed microphone, perhaps appearing not quite as ashen as he was supposed to look.
“Why are you smiling, Mr. Kenney?” a TV reporter quipped.
“Because it’s lovely outside,” the Immigration Minister responded cheerfully. “And I’m always glad to see you, Bob.”
Then it was time to get very serious.
“I’m very disturbed to see comments that were made by Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau two years ago that have just come to light and completely contradict his criticism of his Liberal colleague Dalton McGuinty’s attack on Alberta and Albertans.”
He meant David, of course.
A generous member of the Conservative staff had just been by to hand out copies of Mr. Trudeau’s remarks—in the original French and helpfully translated into English—but in case anyone was unable to read, Mr. Kenney proceeded to reenact the instantly infamous exchange. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 6:03 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Oh how happy Conservatives must’ve been made last night to read the inflammatory remarks of Liberal MP David McGuinty. Oh how giddy they must’ve been at the prospect of hanging this one on the Liberal side. One presumes several backbenchers could barely sleep, so anxious to get on with today’s festival of shame.
Well, of course, happy and outraged. Deeply, terribly outraged. Yes, yes, incredibly outraged. Profoundly saddened even.
So immensely outraged, in fact, that the Immigration Minister was sent out after the meeting of the Conservative caucus to specially address the matter. And no less than four Conservatives—each of them an Albertan who could claim a personal affront—were sent up before Question Period to variously fume. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 5:23 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Peggy Nash had asked why the Prime Minister wouldn’t be in Halifax on Friday to meet with the premiers—”Since the Prime Minister is rarely here on Friday…”—and Jim Flaherty had duly enumerated all of the conversations the Prime Minister has had with the premiers these last seven years and now Ms. Nash was apparently done playing nice.
“Mr. Speaker, the fact is the premiers of this country are getting together to discuss, among other things, the economy, but the Prime Minister is refusing to join them,” she prefaced. “According to the IMF, we will have fallen behind the U.S. in growth by 2015. Greece’s economy is expected to grow faster than ours.”
The Conservatives across the way burst into laughter. The Speaker was obliged to call for order. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 5:36 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. With the benefit of a few days hindsight, Thomas Mulcair stood to review the week just passed.
One day last week, the NDP leader recalled, the Finance Minister had said a balanced budget would be delayed. But a few days later, Mr. Mulcair noted, the Prime Minister had said the budget would be balanced by 2015.
“So who is right?” he begged, holding out his hands and turning his palms upward.
This business of projecting the government’s future budgetary balance became officially silly somewhere between October 14, 2008 and October 17, 2008. And in that regard, Mr. Mulcair’s question is moot. Who is right? Conceivably, eventually, the Conservatives will be. It simply stands to reason that if you keep making predictions, you will eventually get at least one of them right.
Alas, promising that “the budget will be balanced at some point probably” does not project the sort of certainty we demand in our political leaders. And so here stood Tony Clement to convey the latest version of the official reassurances. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. It is not necessarily Peter Penashue’s fault that he is the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister. And it is not necessarily Mr. Penashue’s fault that the existence of the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister is something of a mystery. But so long as Mr. Penashue is the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister it is for him to justify that existence.
Indeed, to accept the job is to take on something of an existential crisis. To be the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister is to consider why we have an Intergovernmental Affairs Minister. It has been this way for some years. And it is something Stephane Dion—a former Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, but one who had an identifiable job description—began to ponder a year ago.
“Mr. Speaker, is there a Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in this Conservative government?” he asked last December.
“Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, if this government even has such a minister,” he sighed last March.
Mr. Penashue might’ve had only to contend with Mr. Dion’s fussiness were it not for the questions about the accounting practices of his election campaign. Such questions have now led to those larger questions. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 5:14 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Rosane Doré Lefebrve wondered if the Public Safety Minister, given yesterday’s tone, might like to apologize to the family of Ashley Smith. The New Democrats present stood to applaud this suggestion.
Vic Toews stood and reported to the House as follows.
“Mr. Speaker, let me be clear on what I said,” he said. “This is a very sad case and our thoughts go out to Ms. Smith’s family. Some of the behaviour seen in these videos is absolutely unacceptable. Our government has directed Correctional Service Canada to fully co-operate with the coroner’s inquest.”
Ms. Doré Lefebrve was not impressed. ”Mr. Speaker, this is not really an apology, but that’s probably all he is capable of doing,” she scolded.
There were groans from the government side.
Hopefully Mr. Toews’ aim yesterday was not to scare opposition MPs away from this subject. It seemed, instead, to have had the opposite effect. Where on Tuesday afternoon, the case of Ashley Smith was not raised until the ninth opportunity, today it was the subject of five of the first eight questions. Continue…
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…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 5:28 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The House went quiet.
Thomas Mulcair had concluded a sharp exchange with John Baird and Peggy Nash had just needled the government side about the price of shipping armoured limousines and now Bob Rae was on his feet. And suddenly all was very quiet. Not so much because of Mr. Rae—though here he held the House—but of what he had to say.
“Mr. Speaker, in indicating on Friday that the government was doing a complete reversal of its previous position at the Ashley Smith inquest, the government did not tell us what exactly has changed in the government’s position,” the interim Liberal leader posited. “There have now been a number of reports from the correctional investigator, indicating that the Ashley Smith death was not alone, was not a singular act, and in fact there are dozens of people who have died while in custody and who have committed suicide. I would like to ask the government, can it please explain to the House what exactly has changed over the last few days that has caused the government to change its position at the coroner’s inquest?”
Horrible reality has a way of chastening the residents of this place. Suddenly all is solemn. It is as if everyone collectively recognizes that we are no longer joking around here. Indeed, there is no greater demonstration of how far this place can stray from the world beyond these walls than the difference in volume that is heard when something like death—the realest of matters—is invoked. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. And so the fate of the nation seems to be found in the fine print of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Partnership Agreement. In there is either our bountiful prosperity or certain doom.
“Mr. Speaker, under the Prime Minister’s new Canada-China investment agreement, the Chinese state would have the right to buy up new oil leases and expand operations in Canada,” Thomas Mulcair announced this afternoon, leaning in then for emphasis, “as if it were a Canadian company. Any effort to limit ownership by China could be challenged, under the law.”
Great amounts of our democracy have lately been devoted to the affairs of China. And on this FIPA there are demands for still more debate.
“Let us be clear,” Mr. Mulcair ventured. “The Prime Minister is exposing Canada to a scenario in which the Government of China could sue us if the Government of Alberta refuses to sell off its natural resources.”
Now the NDP leader turned to directly face and stare down the sitting Prime Minister.
“Is this how Conservatives stand up for Canada?” Mr. Mulcair begged.
Mr. Harper begged to differ. Which is to say he disagreed fully and entirely. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 5:59 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Of all the festive games to be played on Halloween, shaming committee chairs is somewhat less messy than leaving a bag of flaming dog poop on a neighbour’s doorstep, but decidedly less fun than bobbing for apples. Alas, under the stodgy rules of parliamentary decorum, it was the best the NDP could offer this afternoon.
The New Democrats have been occupying themselves these days with attempting to convince various committees to take up study of C-45, the government’s latest budget bill. The Conservatives, soon after tabling the bill in the House, had said that they would allow the bill to be studied at 10 committees. The Conservatives vowed they would move a motion at the finance committee to do just that. But the New Democrats were apparently keen to see those studies commence post haste and so have been proposing motions hither and yon. Each of those efforts seems to have been stymied. And so now the New Democrats get to claim great umbrage.
“Mr. Speaker, this is simple,” Megan Leslie explained this afternoon. “A motion was proposed, we went in camera, and the motion never came out again.”
Ms. Leslie wondered if the chair of the environment committee—Conservative MP Mark Warawa—might stand and confirm that he was going to be scheduling hearings on C-45. To respond though stood Transport Minister Denis Lebel, who assured Ms. Leslie of the validity of the budget’s changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Continue…