By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 - 0 Comments
A tribute dinner was held to honour Conservative Senator Doug Finley at the War…
A tribute dinner was held to honour Conservative Senator Doug Finley at the War Museum. Proceeds went to the Scottish Society of Ottawa.
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 - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 5:24 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. And so the House returned to the drama, intrigue and tragedy of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Oh if only the Marquess of Lorne—John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll and fourth governor general of Canada—had known what he had wrought when he signed into law “an Act respecting Bridges over the navigable waters, constructed under the authority of Provincial Acts” on May 17, 1882. One wonders if he would have hesitated to put his signature on the bill if he’d known that one day its reform would be used to mercilessly mock the president of the Treasury Board.
“Mr. Speaker, members opposite must be getting dizzy from all the spin around their talking points on the Navigable Waters Protection Act,” the NDP’s Megan Leslie sighed this afternoon. “First, they claimed that the changes had nothing to do with environment. They were just reducing red tape for cottagers. However, even Conservatives knew that this law actually did have a role in environmental protection, although they did try to deny it by rewriting websites, and history.”
It is to the Macdonald government’s eternal shame that it did not enact a proper FAQ when it passed the act in 1882. So much of this month’s confusion might’ve been avoided.
“Yesterday, the finance minister changed his tune again and he said that these changes were actually about austerity,” Ms. Leslie claimed, feigning confusion. “So, what is the real answer here? Why is the government gutting environmental protection from the bill?”
Transport Minister Denis Lebel stood and, in his deliberate English, lamented for the great blight that the old bill had become over the last 130 years. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 5:10 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Of the Petronas decision, Thomas Mulcair stood and suggested Christian Paradis had behaved like a “thief in the night.”
This was most certainly unfair. For one thing, most thieves, even in this age of social media, do not advertise their actions with late night news releases.
Mr. Mulcair wondered if Mr. Paradis might explain himself, but Mr. Paradis’ first attempt in this regard did not satisfy the NDP leader.
“Is this the kind of transparency we are going to get?” Mr. Mulcair wondered aloud. “The criteria for evaluating foreign takeovers are not clear or transparent. Conservative ministers make multi-billion-dollar decisions in the dead of the night. No wonder investors are left in the dark.”
Whoever came up with that turn of phrase no doubt feels immensely proud of themselves this evening.
“It is not good for business and it is not good for the economy,” Mr. Mulcair continued. “Without clear criteria, we do not know whether these decisions are influenced by cronyism or by partisan political purposes. The Conservatives promised reform of the Investment Canada Act but have not delivered. Why can they not make the net benefit desk clear for investors, Canadians and for all to see?”
Mr. Paradis stood up straight and recounted the events as he understood them. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 11:01 AM - 0 Comments
Tony Clement’s director of communications lamented last night that this post did not recognize the estimates reforms Mr. Clement did support (for awhile this weekend that post was missing the link to the CP story in question).
I said I’d be happy to post Mr. Clement’s response to the government operations committee in full and you can now view his full response here.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 1:41 PM - 0 Comments
The committee had also asked that each department’s annual spending plans, tabled in the House each spring, include details on the value of tax breaks provided to corporations and individuals. Currently, the Finance Department produces an annual report on these so-called tax expenditures but the information is difficult to link back to departmental programs. Clement rejected that proposal as well, saying it would make other ministers responsible for tax breaks that are solely the purview of the finance minister. ”This would not be appropriate as it would not be consistent with the principle of ministerial accountability,” Clement wrote.
Committee members also wanted a study on whether the parliamentary budget officer —currently Kevin Page, who regularly bumps heads with the Harper government — should be given independent powers as an officer of Parliament rather than working under the Library of Parliament. Clement noted that the issue had already been studied by Parliament and that the job was considered a “natural extension” of the library’s work.
The committee included five Conservatives, including Mike Wallace, who, in July, said, “we will be keeping the government’s … feet to the fire on it to see if we can implement some of these changes.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 5:54 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Two-thirds of the way through Question Period this afternoon, Megan Leslie rose to table a conundrum—to present to the House the foundational dissonance upon which rests so much nonsense. Here was the bare farce, exposed for all to see. After some weeks of merely referring to it, the New Democrats were apparently now prepared to confront it.
“Mr. Speaker, here is what the Prime Minister said in a speech on May 29, 2008 in London, England,” Ms. Leslie prefaced. ” ‘I should mention that while our plan will effectively establish a price on carbon of $65 a ton, growing to that rate over the next decade, our government has opted not to apply carbon taxes.’ ”
Various Conservatives applauded. A couple dozen were so moved they stood to applaud. Even the Prime Minister, who had been busy filling out paperwork at his desk, looked up to applaud Ms. Leslie’s reading of his previous sentiment.
What were these men and women cheering? It was certainly not the first part of the sentence: that Mr. Harper once sought to establish a price on carbon runs directly counter to everything these men and women have been saying of late. And it was certainly not the sentence in its entirety: no, taken as a complete sentence, this exposes everything they’ve been saying to be completely ridiculous. No, these grown men and women, all of them in business attire, each of them adults entrusted by their fellow citizens with no less a responsibility than public representation, could only have been applauding the third clause of that sentence. They were apparently suggesting it was possible, in the moment, to separate the final nine words from the rest of the statement. Here they were apparently venturing not simply that it was possible to take something out of context after the fact—anyone can do that—but that the human memory is so limited and the human mind so easily confused, that words can be taken out of context as they are being spoken.
Megan Leslie waited for the applause to finish and then continued. ”Mr. Speaker,” she asked, “why does the Prime Minister want to put a tax on everything?” Continue…
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 11:13 AM - 0 Comments
The National Post‘s John Ivison, who was tipped to yesterday’s deputy minister shuffle and is very happy about this deputy minister shuffle, has an interesting line in passing in today’s column that’s worth pausing to consider.
John notes that Tony Clement “has been named head of a Cabinet sub-committee looking at further efficiencies across all departments, described as ‘a strategic review on steroids’ by one senior Conservative.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 3:41 PM - 0 Comments
In addition to yesterday’s entreaties, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has now apparently heard from, and granted extensions to, the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission, Health Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat, the RCMP, the National Parole Board, the Canada Border Services Agency and Correctional Service Canada.
All this less than a week after Tony Clement maintained that the Parliamentary Budget Officer was out of line in requesting this information.
Update 4:41pm. I asked Mr. Clement’s office if there was any comment on the apparent decisions of several departments in the last day to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with the budget information the PBO has been seeking. Here is the response I received.
The government has always provided the PBO with data that falls within his mandate, and will continue to do so.
Rather than spending resources tracking money that won’t be spent, the PBO should be focused on his mandate: providing analysis to Parliamentarians concerning money that will be spent.
Since this post first went up, the PBO has posted correspondence with the National Film Board, Library and Archives Canada, the CRTC, Heritage Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
To review: Several months ago, Kevin Page requested information on the government’s budget cuts. Some departments complied, while most did not. After months of back-and-forth between the PBO and the Harper government over this request, Mr. Page threatened to pursue legal action, if necessary, to procure the information. He then set yesterday as the deadline for disclosure. In his interview with the CBC on the weekend, Mr. Clement said the Harper government was prepared to defend in court its position that the Parliamentary Budget Officer was not entitled to the information Kevin Page was seeking. Now various departments have come forward to say they’ll provide information. But Mr. Clement still seems to think Mr. Page is operating outside his mandate.
Amy Minsky summarizes the latest events, including the NDP’s call for full independence for the PBO and Mr. Page’s response.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Harper government’s argument for not cooperating with the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s review of budget cuts rests on the idea that budget cuts are not part of the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s mandate.
In an interview that aired on CBC Radio’s The House, Tony Clement, the Treasury Board president, told host Evan Solomon “I’m making the argument that [Page] is outside his mandate. There’s lots of work for him to do inside his mandate and he should stick to that.” … ”When you look at the words in his mandate — the finances, the estimates and the trends in the national economy — it’s not about money not spent, it’s about money spent,” Clement said.
As Stephen Neil notes, the PBO’s mandate covers “the state of the nation’s finances.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
Stephanie Levitz discovers how many officials are required to help a minister demonstrate his support for open government and social media engagement.
The two 45-minute chats — one in English, one in French — took more than a month to organize. Three dry runs were held ahead of the main event, with staff even creating bogus Twitter accounts in order to practise using the service.
More than 40 stock responses were drafted so they could be quickly copied and pasted to reply to questions, while a ghostwriter was engaged to get Clement’s responses out faster. A spokesman for Clement called that a natural practice. ”Use of a moderator (what the department called a “ghost writer”) was a practical decision based on the fact that the minister could respond quicker verbally as the moderator simply typed out the response keeping it within the 140-character limit for Twitter,” Sean Osmar said in an email. ”I should point out too that the minister did take to the keyboard himself for a few responses — he does like to get hands-on sometimes,” he added. Clement was flanked at the Twitter table by two subject matter experts and two other communications staff, in addition to the one moderating the chat and the one acting as his ghostwriter.
By macleans.ca - Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
The political workweek of Sept. 17-21 churned up five stories the endings of which have yet to be written.
- Treasury Board President Tony Clement promised reforms to the lobbying laws. More public servants will be covered, Clement said on Sept. 17, not just the top echelon of mandarins. But he seems unwilling to close a key loophole: in-house arm-twisters for companies and interest groups who spend less than 20 per cent of their time lobbying still won’t have to publicly disclose their contacts with government. So, will Clement’s reform package, still months from being tabled, draw more critical attention to such gaps than positive reviews for any improvements?
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s about-face on China—from tough-on-human-rights to wide-open-for-business—arguably has been the key foreign-policy maneuver of his six years in power. And that shift seemed to pave the way for federal approval of a Chinese state-owned corporation’s bid to buy Canadian oil company Nexen. But on Sept. 18, Ted Menzies, a Tory MP well worth listening to as junior finance minister, bluntly stated that he’s heard “many concerns” about the deal. Does Menzies’ remark signal that rejection of the deal is more likely than many previously thought?
- The Conservatives have made enhancing Canada’s Arctic sovereignty a pillar of their political image-making efforts. Funding the search for Franklin’s lost ships fits the bill. But news on Feb. 19 from U.S. scientists of what one researcher called “a stunning loss of sea ice” in the Arctic this past summer, to record low ice and snow cover, should raise the stakes. After all, the Tories canceled funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. If the Far North really matters, they may need to rethink their commitment to understanding climate change.
- Also on Sept. 19, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said he would appeal an Ontario court ruling that struck down a Conservative criminal law reform from 2008, which put the onus on certain criminals to prove they should not be designated dangerous offenders, rather than requiring the Crown to prove they should be. This latest in a string of clashes between the Conservative government and the courts comes just after the Tories said they’d appeal a Quebec judge’s ruling that the province’s government should be able to keep the data from the scrapped gun registry. It’s a pattern of growing interest; battling the courts, rather than the parliamentary opposition, could emerge as the defining dynamic of Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda.
- The workweek ends with Statistics Canada reporting that inflation slowed more than expected last month, a sign of the economy’s worrying lack of vigor. This comes after recent news that factory sales are down, the trade deficit it up, and building permits—a key indicator of housing-market action—have slumped. Politically, the question is, Does Stephen Harper benefit by selling his Conservatives as reliable managers for uneasy economic times, or does Thomas Mulcair capitalize if voters decide things aren’t going all that well under current management? The politics of party brand strengths will matter if the economy doesn’t pick up in the months ahead.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 21, 2012 at 2:59 PM - 0 Comments
Among the Conservaties who stood in the House this week and criticized the NDP’s stance on cap-and-trade were Kyle Seeback, Peter Van Loan, Gord Brown, Leon Benoit, Shelly Glover, Chris Warkentin, LaVar Payne, Gerry Ritz, Pierre Poilievre, Christian Paradis, Rick Dykstra, Randy Hoback, Pierre Lemieux, Ed Fast, Tony Clement and Andrew Saxton. These individuals—like Phil McColeman, Joe Preston and Ed Holder, who attacked the NDP last week—were all Conservative candidates in 2008 when the Conservative party platform included a commitment to pursue a continental cap-and-trade system.
Here, again, is everything you need to know about the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 4:25 PM - 0 Comments
Again this afternoon, the Liberals asked the Conservatives to table a separate bill to deal with MP pensions. The Conservatives don’t seem interested.
Marc Garneau: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the government for a separate bill on MP pension reform so that Canadians could see how their MPs support this very important bill in a stand-alone fashion. I did not get an answer. Is the Prime Minister worried about a backlash from his own backbench members if he does not force this down their throats as part of a single budget bill? I have a proposition for him. How about a separate stand-alone bill, and the Liberals will co-operate in fast-tracking it? This is the kind of thing Canadians expect: transparency from their government.
Tony Clement: Mr. Speaker, we will not have a separate stand-alone bill when it comes to MP pensions or salaries. We will have a budget implementation bill that is focused on jobs, the economy and economic growth in this country, as we indicated previously. I am not surprised that the Liberals and the NDP on the other side have already voiced their opposition to this bill without even seeing it. That is how they operate. However, we are focused on jobs and economic growth for this country and we will continue to be so.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 31, 2012 at 12:36 PM - 0 Comments
Tony Clement makes a Clint Eastwood joke.
Studiously avoided conversing with the sidetable next to my podium at jobs for youth annct this morning… yfrog.com/h2cu8zwj
— Tony Clement (@TonyclementCPC) August 31, 2012
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 5:01 PM - 0 Comments
The ethics commissioner clears Tony Clement in the case of the promotional video, but suggests cabinet ministers exercise caution when identifying themselves in such circumstances. Below, the original CTV report.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 16, 2012 at 1:16 PM - 0 Comments
It’s no wonder people around Abernethy feel strongly about this National Historic Site. It costs less than $400,000/year to operate as a vital community asset, tourist attraction, educational tool, job creator, and living monument to a prairie hero. But none of that matters to Stephen Harper. Like that tree nursery at nearby Indian Head, the Motherwell Homestead got chopped in this year’s budget. It’s being drastically downsized and left to languish as a pale shadow of what it used to be.
This is a dumb decision. But worse still, it’s biased and discriminatory. While the Motherwell Homestead is being gutted, the Harper Conservatives are putting $2.5-million into the home-riding of Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement for a National Historic Site near Muskoka, Ontario. Remember “pork-barrel” Tony? He’s the Harper Minister who mis-spent $50-million without lawful authority on sheer waste (e.g., ornamental gazebos and sidewalks to nowhere) to puff-up his riding before the G-8 fiasco there in 2010. Now he gets yet another spending boondoggle, while Abernethy gets cut. Why?
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 16, 2012 at 11:04 AM - 0 Comments
Dean Beeby revisits the government operations committee’s report on Parliament’s ability to scrutinize government spending.
A new report says arcane rules are keeping MPs in the dark about the billions in government spending they should be scrutinizing. Members of Parliament receive conflicting, outdated information about how billions of tax dollars are being spent each year, and get little opportunity to review fiscal plans.
Just this spring, not a single House of Commons committee was able to report on its examination of some proposed spending because the information arrived too late — and the session clock ran out.
Within this report is the aforementioned suggestion that the Parliamentary Budget Officer might be made a full officer of Parliament. Tony Clement praised this report in June and Dean quotes Conservative MP Mike Wallace, who has previously called for estimates reform (see here and here).
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 4:59 PM - 0 Comments
In celebrating Norman Bethune, Tony Clement at least has company in the likes of Chuck Strahl, Michael Chong, Lawrence Cannon and Gary Goodyear. Last year, the Canadian Mint released a commemorative coin to mark the 75th anniversary of Dr. Bethune’s invention of the blood transfusion vehicle. In 2007, the Harper government created the Norman Bethune Health Research Scholarships Program that allows for Chinese students to pursue PhDs in Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 22, 2012 at 9:34 AM - 0 Comments
Yesterday’s QP exchange on the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
John McKay: Mr. Speaker, in November 2008 the PBO predicted a deficit, the minister a surplus. The PBO was right, the minister wrong. In December 2009, the PBO predicted a lapse in infrastructure spending. The PBO was right; the minister was wrong. In 2010, the PBO pegged cost overruns on the F-35 at more than $10 billion more than the minister. Again, the PBO was right and the minister was wrong. There seems to be a pattern here. The PBO is more frequently right than wrong, and the government appears to be more frequently wrong than right. If this is overstepping the mandate, maybe we need a bit more of the PBO, not less.
Tony Clement: Mr. Speaker, in 2009 this was said: “I’m quite concerned the Parliamentary Budget Officer sees himself as an independent practitioner who can report whenever he wants”. Who said that? It was the Liberal member for St. Paul’s. What the public can see through right away is that when the opposition members want to use the Parliamentary Budget Officer as an attack talking point, then they side with the Parliamentary Budget Officer; when they disagree because it does not fulfill their arguments, then they attack the Parliamentary Officer.
Meanwhile, last night on Twitter, Mr. Clement had praise for the committee report that includes a recommendation that further study be conducted into making the PBO a full officer of Parliament (including NDP and Liberal recommendations that he be given that status).
Kevin Pages says he’ll wait until the fall to see if the government responds to request for budget details before pursuing court action.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 6:00 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. It was just two years ago, Peggy Nash reported to the House, that a Conservative MP was heard to remark that the Parliamentary Budget Officer had “improved the decision making of Parliament.”
But just yesterday, Ms. Nash next recalled, the Foreign Affairs Minister had stood and suggested that the Parliamentary Budget Officer had “from time to time and on occasion … overstepped its mandate.”
Ms. Nash was confused. “Do Conservatives really think that Kevin Page has gone beyond his mandate?” she asked, shrugging and throwing up her hands.
Tony Clement stood here to try to clarify the record. Continue…
By Gabriela Perdomo - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
… and what about Tony Clement gig with Elvis?
The Sheepdogs break Hill protocol
Saskatoon band the Sheepdogs were in the capital to play a special concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa along with the Quebec rock band Karkwa. The event was part of an ongoing music series put together by Heritage Minister James Moore to help expose MPs to Canadian music. This was the second such night he organized. The first was in December and featured Jim Cuddy and Marie-Eve Janvier. The idea stemmed from the success of the special Canadian movie nights Moore has been hosting for some time. The concert series has no official name but the folks at Music Canada, who helped organize the evening, refer to it simply as the minister’s “Music Night.” Moore was unable to host the event at the last minute and asked Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose to step in to emcee. This infuriated Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who pointed out he actually bought the Sheepdogs’ music way back. Clement joked from his seat at the NAC concert: “I have a bone to pick with James Moore.”
In 2011, the Sheepdogs were the first unsigned band to grace the cover of Rolling Stone. All members sport signature long hair with serious facial scruff or full beards. At the concert’s pre-party, Ambrose joked: “They make my hair look small.” At the party, they met Tim Hockey, Canadian banking group head for Toronto-Dominion Bank, one of the evening’s sponsors. Hockey said he wanted to hug the band after bassist Ryan Gullen told him that TD was the only financial institution that would give them a line of credit. For years, said Gullen, the Sheepdogs lived off that credit, which helped fund the band’s creative endeavours like producing their CDs. Gullen said there was never a lineup in their bank and all the tellers knew them by name.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 5:47 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Page 11 of the Conservative Party of Canada’s campaign platform for the general election of 2006 contains no less than 11 individual promises. Three of those appear under the heading “Ensure truth in budgeting with a Parliamentary Budget Authority.”
“A Conservative government will,” the Conservative party promised, “create an independent Parliamentary Budget Authority to provide objective analysis directly to Parliament about the state of the nation’s finances and trends in the national economy; require government departments and agencies to provide accurate, timely information to the Parliamentary Budget Authority to ensure it has the information it needs to provide accurate analyses to Parliament; ensure that government fiscal forecasts are updated quarterly and that they provide complete data for both revenue and spending forecasts.”
It was on such vows that the Conservatives first formed government six years ago. And it was on this general idea that Thomas Mulcair rose with some concern this afternoon.
“Mr. Speaker, once again the Conservatives are trying to hide the truth about their Trojan Horse budget,” he reported. “The Parliamentary Budget Officer has told the Prime Minister’s Office that they are breaking the law by refusing to hand over information to Parliament. Now the PBO’s legal counsel, among the most respected in Canada have told the Prime Minister the same thing, saying, ‘The 64 departments that have not yet provided the requested information are not acting in compliance with the act.’ This is the Prime Minister’s own Accountability Act that we are talking about,” Mr. Mulcair clarified. “Why is the Prime Minister breaking his government’s own accountability law?”
The leader of the opposition stressed the word “own.”
In the Prime Minister’s absence, it was John Baird’s duty to stand and dance around the general concept of irony. Continue…