So, yesterday was a busy day. Bit of a gong show really. But let’s start with the more shocking news – that NDP MP Claude Patry crossed over to the Bloc. Okay, well, it’s actually not all that shocking. Paul Wells has predicted this since 2011, and it could very well be the first of many. A rather shamefaced Thomas Mulcair took to a microphone and rather sulkily declared that Patry had voted in favour of an NDP PMB that would require MPs to resign and run in a by-election if they wanted to cross the floor – not that said bill passed, and Patry indicated that the vote was whipped, and has let it be known that the rigid party discipline of the NDP is one of the reasons that he decided to take his leave. And I’m going to be a bit counter-intuitive here, but I say that Patry is under no obligation to run in a by-election. He was elected to fill the seat, and that means that voters have put their trust in him to exercise his judgement, and if his judgement is that the NDP was no longer where his values lay, then he should be free to exercise that judgement and leave the party. Despite what people may think, seats are not filled based solely on the basis of party affiliation – yes, it is a major part of the decision on the part of many voters, but we are also voting for a person to fill that seat – not a robot wearing party colours to recite the speeches prepared for him by Central Command and vote on command. And guess what – the accountability mechanism is that if those voters don’t believe he made the right choice in his judgement, they can vote him out in the next election. Michael Den Tandt writes that Patry’s defection is a mess of Mulcair’s own making.
Item two yesterday was the news that Stephen Harper’s former mentor and chief of staff, Tom Flanagan, made remarks about child pornography that were found to be out of bounds, and one could almost get whiplash by how fast everybody – the Conservatives, the Wildrose, the CBC (where he has been a frequent panel guest), the Manning Centre – all abandoned him. And it was also announced that he would be retiring from his post at the University of Calgary when he comes back from scholarship leave in June. Flanagan later apologised and tried to explain the context of the remarks, to little avail.
Item three was the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report into the Joint Support Ship tendering process – that it was under-budgeted by a couple of billion dollars based on the capabilities the government is currently demanding, and that if they want to keep it within the current budget envelope, then they’re going to have to start sacrificing capabilities. The Liberal defence critic pointed out that if the government had sucked it up and built the ships in 2008 – when they hit the reset button because of escalating costs – then we would likely have all three planned ships built, rather than a planned two on the drawing board for more money, as costs continue to escalate. Professor Steve Saideman gives a few pointers as to just how broken the procurement system in this country really is.
And item four of big news was that the initial report on Senate expenses was released, and 98 Senators were cleared, with only four – Wallin, Duffy, Brazeau and Harb – being sent to the external auditors. They also made some recommendations on future changes to keep the system more accountable, but there remains the larger issue of whether those Senators should be eligible to sit in the Senate for their provinces if they’re not really resident. Marjory LeBreton seemed to indicate that because those Senators signed a declaration to say they were resident, and because they owned property there, it was enough. We’ll see if everyone in the Senate agrees with that definition and whether or not it’ll go any further.
Meanwhile, Montreal-area Senators also don’t take the train for free either, mostly out of convenience. OH NOES! Still no word on whether we’re going to harangue MPs from the same travel corridor for their choice of transport either.
The government announced it is looking for a private sector partner to run the experimental nuclear research reactor at Chalk River to produce medical isotopes until 2016, when the reactor is due to be retired.
The Prime Minister downplayed concerns around Dr. Arthur Porter, once his choice to head the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, who is now facing an arrest warrant for corruption allegations. Porter is currently in the Bahamas, and says that he is too ill with stage-4 cancer to travel back to Canada to face said charges. And yes, Harper’s choices in making appointments again come to the fore.
Conservative backbencher Brad Trost (also known as he who complained to the religious press when Diane Ablonczy funded Toronto Pride and posed with drag queens) is putting forward a Private Member’s Motion around making it that committee chairs are elected by ranked ballot, rather than the current pro-forma elections where only one candidate is put forward. Here’s the full list of new Private Member’s Business being put into the House’s rotation.
Aaron Wherry dissects the CMHC’s weighing into the debate on the now-defeated NDP bill on a national housing strategy, and how the $5.5 billion figure that was never actually demanded came into being.
Law professor Carissima Mathen weighs in on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Whatcott case, and what it means both for hate speech laws and how the debate gets moved to the political sphere.
Over in the Liberal leadership race, Justin Trudeau says his challenge is to get people – especially the cynics – to get to know him and see that he does indeed have substance. Marc Garneau, meanwhile, is calling for a Canadian-led mission to Mars.
And here are the three things you need to see from last night’s political shows, including Bloc leader Daniel Paillé expounding on all of the sovereigntists in the NDP.