By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 0 Comments
At 2pm, the Speaker’s parade—a ceremonial photo op, a silly show of hallowed tradition—proceeded down the West corridor of Centre Block toward the House of Commons. Preceded by one marching guard and flanked by three more—To protect the Speaker from what? A sneak attack by the Queen?—strode the sergeant-at-arms, carrying the large golden mace that must be in place for the House to conduct its business, and the Speaker and his clerks in their three-cornered hat and robes. Once the official party was safely inside, the large wooden doors were shut and the official business of the nation began for another day.
Something like a dozen reporters had gathered at the gallery door, anxiously waiting for the House to be called to order. This was something like four times the usual attendance—the larger crowd here in anticipation that one of the duly elected adults sent here to represent the people of this country might stand up in his or her place without having first obtained the permission of the party leader he or she is supposed to support. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:30 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski says Conservative party director of operations Jenni Byrne is responsible for the “deceptive” robocalls in Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, Leslie MacKinnon goes through the boundary commission’s report to check the public backlash that the Conservatives say they’re representing.
The Saskatchewan commission, in its final report issued in December, noted that it heard 230 public submissions, far more than it had expected, and found that “a majority opposed the proposal.” However, it said, a “significant minority supported it,” without giving any figures. The commission also reported it had been sent 3,000 emails, including many identical postcards and petitions. It concluded, “Clearly, a large number of contacts were inspired by the encouragement of members of Parliament opposed to the abolition of rural-urban hybrid districts.”
The report went on to say, “The Commission has little doubt that the general public accepts the new electoral districts,” without giving any reasons why it believed this to be true. However, it said, it had ignored contacts it considered were attempting to gain political advantage for any party.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber considers how to improve the House of Commons.
But since removal of the Cameras in the House is similarly not a viable option, perhaps the methods of covering proceedings should be modified. By allowing the cameras and the microphones to be live only on the person recognized by the Speaker, the result is a highly sanitized version of what is actually going on. Wide angle or even random camera shots would certainly give the public a more realistic display of proceedings including questionable behavior. The advent of camera phones means that a public official’s behavior may be recorded and scrutinized in any public location. Yet, off camera conduct in the House of Commons allows bad behavior to occur with virtual impunity.
But a better solution to improve decorum in the House would be to change the significance of what actually goes on there. A lawyer in a Court of Law would never goof off because he must intently listen to the proceedings in order to prepare his next line of questioning or closing argument. But overreliance on Talking Points in Parliamentary proceedings has made following the previous debate unnecessary and formulating one’s argument essentially non-existent. Reading a prepared text (often prepared by an official) means literacy skills have supplanted actual debating skills.
Moreover, since the votes, almost without exception, break down strictly on party lines, there is even less need for non-participants in the actual debate to follow along. The Whips Office will happily advise them when to stand and how to vote.
Changing the rules that govern TV coverage is within the purview of the House of Commons: although Mr. Rathgeber might have to convince the government side’s deputy House leader, Tom Lukiwski, who, tabling possibly the saddest argument in the history of parliamentary democracy, fretted last year that the current camera angles were showing too many empty seats.
The reading of speeches wouldn’t be so offensive if what was being read wasn’t so seemingly scripted. And scripts would likely be less prevalent if what was being said actually mattered. And the words spoken might matter if the result of the debate wasn’t already determined. And free votes might be more prevalent if party leaders didn’t hold so much power over MPs.
Sooner or later, some MP is going to have to take a real run at the current system and table a bill that amends the Elections Act to remove the requirement that a candidate have the signature of the party leader to run in an election.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 12:13 PM - 0 Comments
The ideas, amendments and complaints raised are likely all worth consideration, especially for fans of such stuff, but various matters of general interest came up: including time allocation, Question Period, petitions and statements by members.
Below, some chosen highlights. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Tom Lukiwski, the government’s deputy House leader, is worried that TV cameras might show you too much of the House of Commons.
Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski suggested on Tuesday that the House of Commons broadcasters avoid using wide shots on days when attendance in the House is meagre, in an effort to keep viewers in the dark on how many MPs are actually present. “It concerns a lot of members, and it frankly doesn’t look good for Parliament,” he told the Procedure and House Affairs committee, which is reviewing the broadcasting guidelines.
It was almost exactly a year ago that I wrote this piece.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 10:37 AM - 25 Comments
Last week, Tom Lukiwski rose to express the government’s side shock and dismay at a demonstration that had taken place in one of the visitors’ galleries during a vote on the Canadian Wheat Board. In particular, Mr. Lukiwski was disturbed that opposition MPs would be anything less than appalled by the disturbance.
So yesterday, Bob Rae rose after QP to note that the night before there had been demonstrations in the visitors’ galleries again, only this time the disturbances were encouraged by the government side (which, in this case, applauded itself throughout another vote on the Canadian Wheat Board). I wasn’t in the press gallery, but apparently there was some degree of clapping from the spectators. Whatever the precise volume of that applause, visitors are not allowed to put their hands together in any way for any reason.
Either way, Mr. Rae posited that fair should be fair and that all sides should be equally opposed to all disturbances. In response, the Prime Minister dismissed the complaint and commended Monday night’s spectators as “peaceful, law-abiding people, which is all one would expect from people seeking their basic freedom and rights.”
The Speaker promised to come back to the House with an analysis of recent events.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 25, 2011 at 10:29 AM - 20 Comments
On Wednesday evening, during a vote on the government’s Canadian Wheat Board legislation, a protestor in one of the visitors’ galleries began shouting his objections. He apparently held a sign that read “lies” and yelled out that “this government does not represent me.” One way or another, the individual was removed from the chamber.
Yesterday after QP, deputy government House leader Tom Lukiwski rose on a point of order to say that this individual’s protest had been facilitated by the NDP’s Niki Ashton and to complain that various opposition MPs had not shown sufficient disapproval when the disruption occurred. This led to a discussion about the extent of Ms. Ashton’s involvement and the justification one might have to protest. And that then segued into a general debate over decorum.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 1:07 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after the clock passed midnight, a dozen Conservatives sang happy birthday to their colleague, David Sweet. His birthday had actually just passed—he was born on June 24, 1957—so the gesture was a bit belated. But perhaps owing to the pizza party the Prime Minister had apparently been hosting, the government side seemed a jovial bunch, eager to find fun wherever it could be found.
As luck would have it, they had all been summoned to the House of Commons at this late hour for a vote—specifically on an NDP-authored motion to delay moving forward with Bill C-6 for another six months. The official filibustering of this particular piece of particularly contentious legislation had commenced some 27 hours earlier. What began on Thursday was now moving into Saturday. Except that, so far as the reality within these four walls is measured, with the House having not yet adjourned for the day, this was still Thursday. Indeed, there in the middle of the room sat the four-sided calendar, reminding all who could see it that here they remained trapped in June 23. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 18, 2011 at 6:14 PM - 62 Comments
By her own reckoning, Bev Oda was here to address “the confusion.” ”At the outset,” she said, “let me state that I take full responsibility for the confusion my initial answers created—and I apologize for that.”
Of course, this was not quite the “outset.” Depending on when one starts the clock on this matter, Ms. Oda’s present predicament could be said to date back months, perhaps more than a year. Indeed, were this really the “outset,” she would not have had to show up here this morning to read from a prepared statement that, when distributed to the reporters present, included 12 footnotes and three appendices.
“I’m here today,” she continued, “to explain to this committee, and to the public, why, initially, I did not understand how my answers were creating confusion.”
Here was a tribute to the qualified statement—a four-page monologue that could plausibly qualify as an experiment in post-modern poetry or at least a brilliant satire. ”There was no intention to mislead the committee members,” she said of her appearance before the foreign affairs committee in December. “I now realize that from someone else’s perspective it was confusing … People listening to my answers might have thought that I signed the document and then after that someone added the word “not.” That didn’t occur to me because I knew that wasn’t what happened. At the time I did not see the confusion that my answer would cause, and I apologize for creating confusion.”
By way of conclusion, she offered a sentence so beautifully crafted that it should be immediately hammered onto a plaque and hung above the entrance to the House of Commons. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 14, 2011 at 9:04 AM - 22 Comments
Stephen Harper, explaining Bev Oda’s situation. “Mr. Speaker, once again, the reality is that the minister took a decision that was contrary to the recommendations of her officials. In a democracy, the elected ministers are the ones who make decisions. That is what democracy means.”
Tom Lukiwski, explaining how the government failed to supply various documents requested by Parliament. “The information we had originally submitted to Parliament was on the advice of many of those within the public service who told us that this information should be able to satisfy the request … I suspect this is a situation where the public servants who were responsible for gathering the information were the ones who advised the ministers that the information that they’d provided was adequate and satisfactory.”
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 11:02 AM - 50 Comments
Tabatha Southey listens to Tom Lukiwski.
This week in the House, Tom Lukiwski, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, offered up a 20-Questions-rules defence of International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda. Ms. Oda’s failure to answer questions properly regarding the now-infamous “NOT” led House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken to rule that she may have misled the House.
“Specifically,” as Mr. Lukiwski explained it, the questions that should have been asked were, “Madam Minister, if you did not insert the word ‘not’ and you do not know who did, how did it happen? How did it occur?” If only the right question had been asked, you see, Ms. Oda would have been obliged to say “very clearly,” as no doubt she was dying to do … “That would have answered everything right there, a pretty simple follow-up question,” Mr. Lukiwski chided. What? Is he going to have to explain the rules to I Spy next?
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 10:09 AM - 41 Comments
During debate yesterday following the Speaker’s ruling, Conservative Tom Lukiwski, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, expressed his reverence for our parliamentary system.
On his first point, does the member believe that bringing the question before this House would have a fair and judicial response? Of course not. This would be nothing more than a kangaroo court.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 18, 2011 at 3:42 PM - 5 Comments
After John McKay, Paul Dewar and Pierre Paquette rose on points of privilege yesterday, several more points were made after QP today, including the government’s response via Tom Lukiwski, the parliamentary secretary to the Government House leader.
As in the Foreign Affairs committee’s report, the government’s claim is that Ms. Oda was unaware of precisely who added the “not” and as she was asked “who” (and not, say, “how”), she did not mislead the House.
After the jump, some of today’s discussion. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:54 PM - 75 Comments
A survey of recent government prioritizing.
Jim Flaherty, December 7. Mr. Speaker, Canada’s economic recovery remains our government’s number one priority.
Leona Aglukkaq, December 7. Mr. Speaker, we continue to make health care a priority.
Stephen Harper, December 7. Mr. Speaker, the priorities of this government, beyond national defence and criminal justice, are pretty obvious. It is preserving jobs; it is making sure Canadian families do not pay taxes that are too high; and it is making sure that we fully fund transfers for health and education to the provinces…
Stephen Harper, December 7. That is why, as this government has looked at its budgetary priorities, maintaining the growth of those transfers for our health care system has been the number one priority of this government.
Peter Kent, December 6. I must emphasize that the safety of Canadians and all people travelling on Canadian roadways remains our first priority.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 6, 2010 at 12:54 PM - 25 Comments
Despite not having done anything with the bill since April 1 and despite anonymous government sources saying the initiative was doomed, the government sent up Tom Lukiwski last week to affirm that there is a commitment to moving forward, at some unspecified date, with Bill C-12, an act to amend the constitution to add more seats to the House of Commons.
For the record, the Liberals (in the form of Ralph Goodale) professed on Friday a desire to see the bill advanced to committee hearings for due scrutiny and witness testimony, while the NDP (in the form of Joe Comartin) expressed a desire for a debate. Only the Bloc Quebecois (in the form of Pierre Paquette) stated outright opposition to the bill.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 4:18 PM - 0 Comments
It was Mike Lake, the Conservative backbencher doing his best to seem the humble servant simply conveying the wishes of the people, who seemed to give the game away. He was relating his consultations with the electors of Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont. And here he noted that when some of his constituents were informed, by him, that not filling out the census could result in financial penalty or imprisonment they became, in his words, “quite agitated.”
It was Charlie Angus, the NDP member seated kitty corner to Mr. Lake, who pointed out what appeared a rather crucial sequence of events in this telling. It was here that the chain of causation seemed to become tangled. And it was here that this whole sorry affair found an epitaph. For if we can say anything about the quinquennial census, perhaps it is this: not until it was made an issue, did it become an issue.
This morning of hearings, an industry minister and two former chief statisticians summoned to Parliament Hill to discuss the nature of data collection in a democratic society, was often so profound. And if the 2011 census is destined to be rendered useless to future generations, at least our descendants will have these two hours to tell them all they need to know about the state of this nation’s management as it embarks on the second decade of the 21st century. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 4:25 PM - 186 Comments
Below, the full English text of Speaker Peter Milliken’s ruling, delivered in the House over the last hour.
The Justice Minister has just now breathlessly read a statement that includes the phrase, “We welcome the possibility of a compromise.” Official Liberal reaction is here. Derek Lee’s reaction is here. Official NDP reaction is here.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 23, 2010 at 2:03 PM - 87 Comments
By the time the last Liberal leader was disposed of, his full name was Stephane Dion Notaleader. The Conservatives have attempted to do the same with Mr. Notaleader’s successor—first it was Just Visiting, until that was neatly turned into an attack on immigrants and expats, now it’s Just In It For Himself.
And so now, perhaps having taken the last few years to observe the effectiveness of this phenomenon, the Liberals have finally decided to respond in kind. At Wednesday’s QP there were 12 references to a Conservative “culture of deceit.” At Thursday’s session there were 14 references. This morning there were a dozen.
And all of this has quite upset Tom Lukiwski, the parliamentary secretary to the government’s house leader, who rose with the following point of order after QP on Thursday. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 12:32 PM - 16 Comments
Richard Colvin is in Ottawa today to testify at hearings of the Military Police Complaints Commission. The morning was mostly a repeat, with some added detail and commentary, of his testimony at the special committee last year. Early reviews are in from the Globe, Canadian Press, CBC, Canwest, Star and Sun.
The Colvin encyclopedia is fully up to date with the latest relevant links and background.
Meanwhile, Derek Lee and Jack Harris responded yesterday to the government’s response to the opposition’s question of privilege on the House order to produce documents. Tom Lukiwski and Jim Abbott then commented for the government. The Speaker thanked all for their submissions and said he would now be considering the matter with a judgment to be delivered in due course.
The text of the discussion if available here.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 6:53 PM - 21 Comments
The Scene. Bob Rae sat with a great pile of paper on the desk in front of him. And after Michael Ignatieff and Lawrence Cannon had dealt with the question of what the government might say if the Americans were to ask about the possibility of Canadian troops staying a bit longer in Afghanistan, Ujjal Dosanjh stood to question the Conservative side about this pile of paper.
“Mr. Speaker, the government appointed Mr. Iacobucci at the last minute on a Friday morning, then took two weeks to release his terms of reference, and this morning, dumped some torture documents in the House without Mr. Iacobucci reviewing them,” Mr. Dosanjh reviewed.
Then the question. Or, more specifically, four questions, the last of which was actually two queries put together. “What was the government’s objective in hiring him? Was it just a stalling tactic? Why is Mr. Iacobucci being circumvented? Does he have a real job or is this just more cover for this government?”
The Justice Minister stood and shrugged and mumbled. “Mr. Speaker, quite the opposite,” Rob Nicholson said, though in response to which of the above questions it was unclear. “Mr. Justice Iacobucci is going to undertake an independent, comprehensive review of all the documents. The government has said that officials will make all relevant documents available, and the tabling today is part of that process.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:36 PM - 7 Comments
A week ago, when Derek Lee, Jack Harris and Claude Bachand raised their questions of privilege, Tom Lukiwski advised the House that “the government will want to respond in greater detail to these points.” Mr. Lukiwski apparently again promised today a “more fulsome response” to come.
A check with the Speaker’s office yesterday to determine when that response was expected was referred to the government House Leader’s office. A check with the House Leader’s office today was referred to the Justice Minister’s office. The response from the Justice Minister’s office is as follows.
The Government will be responding in due course.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:37 PM - 17 Comments
The government sent up Tom Lukiwski this morning to table some 2,500 pages of apparently redacted documents apparently related to the issue of Afghan detainees. The opposition parties are unimpressed.
The documents tabled today were not reviewed beforehand by Frank Iacobucci, the former Supreme Court justice seemingly mandated by the government to do just that.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 3:34 PM - 4 Comments
After Question Period just now, Navdeep Bains rose on a point of order to allege that Vic Toews, Conservative frontbencher and president of the treasury board, had used a “gun-like gesture” during QP.
Mr. Toews rose in response and accused Bob Rae of not sufficiently supporting Canadian soldiers.
Conservative Mark Warawa rose to accuse Mr. Bains of making the same gesture, a point Mr. Bains appeared to find ridiculous.
Mr. Bains repeated his assertion that Mr. Toews should apologize.
Mr. Rae rose to loudly refute Mr. Toews’ insinuation.
Mr. Toews rose to repeat his original insinuation.
A short while later, deputy government house leader Tom Lukiwski rose to apologize for a factual error contained in one of the government’s ten percenters.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 27, 2009 at 7:10 PM - 31 Comments
The Scene. Shortly before 2 o’clock, in the midst of the capital’s first truly sweltering afternoon this year, a man in a dark suit and plastic animal mask—depicting a sheep, it seems—stood outside the Centre Block entrance reserved for Members of Parliament, handing out copies of former MP Garth Turner’s new book. Said book, as the animal mask was apparently intended to relate, is entitled Sheeple, a term apparently applied to people who often take on the characteristics—curly white hair covering most of the body, fondness for grazing, tendency to do as told—of sheep.
This was conceivably done to make some point. Or poke fun. Or sell a few books. Or some combination thereof. And, for sure, there should be nothing to prohibit anyone from making points, poking fun, or selling books about all that is obvious and absurd and obviously absurd about this place.
But then, in fairness, so much has changed in the six months or so since Mr. Turner was unceremoniously voted out of office. For one, the party to which he was most recently a member has found a new leader, this one fluent in all sorts of English verbs and tenses. For another, that leader has insisted on Question Period being something other than an opportunity to try and convict one’s rivals of various moral crimes.
Today’s session, for instance and as coincidence would have it, began with several fine and reasoned exchanges of inquiry and information. For perhaps a full half hour—with a man in a suit and an animal mask sweating away outside—the proceedings were both graceful and informative, genteel and respectful.
Oh, and boring. Dreadfully, dreadfully boring. Continue…