Roundup: Myth, folklore and intellectual dishonesty

So, yesterday was…enlightening. If you call the “debate” on Senate abolition, using incorrect facts, intellectual dishonesty, and treating the constitution as a suggestion to be informed debate, that is. It boggles the mind that the NDP, who claims to champion decisions based on things like science, to turn around and use myth, folklore and figures pulled entirely out of context to back up an ideological and civically illiterate position. For example, they claim the Senate only sits an average of 56 days per year – never mind that the figure aggregates election years (of which we’ve had quite a few of late) with non-election years, and only counts days in which the Chamber itself sits. Never mind the fact that committees sit on days when the Chamber itself doesn’t, that Senate committees often sit longer than Commons committees, or the additional days of committee travel for studies that they undertake, and that the Senate sat 88 days last year – being a non-election year. But those are mere details that get in the way of a good quip. And then there were Thomas Mulcair’s interviews – while he avoided directly answering whether or not he would theoretically appoint NDP Senators were he to form a government in the future, he neglected to figure that in refusing to do so, he would be in violation of the Constitution. You see, it’s one of the duties spelled out that must be done – the GG shall appoint Senators, and that is always done on the advice of the Prime Minister. It’s not a may appoint – it’s a shall, an instruction or command. To refuse to appoint Senators is an abrogation of constitutional responsibilities, but hey, it’s not like wanton constitutional vandalism isn’t the whole backbone of the discussion in the first place. And then Mulcair skated around the question of how he would deal with regional representation if the Senate were to be abolished. He gave some vague response about discussing it with the provinces, neglecting that one of the founding principles of the Senate was to balance out the representation-by-population of the Commons so that smaller provinces wouldn’t be swamped. And if Mulcair thinks that simply tinkering with the Commons seat distribution formula to somehow protect the smaller provinces, well, he’s further overcomplicating the principle of rep-by-pop that the Chamber is founded on. But once again, let’s just let constitutional vandalism slide with some pithy slogans. It’s not like it’s important or anything.

The government tabled a bill yesterday to implement mandatory minimum sentences for tobacco traffickers – but then refused to answer questions about it.

The NDP are blanketing Claude Patry’s riding with robocalls following his defection to the Bloc. Remember, robocalls are only evil when other people do them, but when the NDP does them, they’re a legitimate tool.

Colin Horgan takes apart the Jim Flaherty’s contention that Scott Clark and Peter DeVries are partisan Liberals – and the government’s assertion that the C.D. Howe report on their budget transparency was positive for them – because it wasn’t.

As it happens, Dr. Arthur Porter’s successor as Chair of SIRC said that the rules about partisan activities and political donations were laid out clearly. Of course, as we are seeing, it doesn’t seem like Porter was big on following rules.

Despite the Department of National Defence promising to curb the use of outside consultants as a cost-saving measure, the amount spent on them continues to climb.

John Ivison follows up his piece on the government plans to reclaim the $2.5 billion in EI training transfers to the provinces, and how the government will need solid data to justify the move, as the country deals with skills shortages and labour force mismatches.

Here’s a very interesting read about Donald Savoie’s latest work on parliamentary governance, which deals a lot with the failure of attempting to run the public service as though it were a business. His more interesting ideas are about reducing the power of watchdogs because they’ve actually weakened accountability – and he does have a point. MPs do longer do that job like they’re supposed to, and most of them outsource that accountability work to the AG or the PBO, and perhaps they need the reminder that they should be doing their jobs and their own homework.

Today’s Senate pile-on revelation is that Senator Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu, who is in the process of separating from his wife (and still claiming their shared condo as his primary residence), is allegedly now in a relationship with his assistant – which should be inappropriate if she is still his employee. And while I’m not excusing it – and indeed if she is still his employee and if they are dating, that needs to be stopped – one has to wonder if the papers made as big of a deal of this when Vic Toews was in similar circumstances, or if we treated it like his private life and didn’t say anything about it? Meanwhile, the Quebec Court of Appeal has rejected the Federal Government’s request to suspend its reference question on Senate Reform in order to defer entirely to the Supreme Court. More informed legal opinions – because that would be a travesty!

Remember the Conservatives on the Natural Resources committee voting to haul Justin Trudeau before them to explain his comments about Alberta? Yeah, it seems they’ve realised that it might not be wise to give him a soapbox to stand on, and they’ve quietly put that plan on ice. Trudeau tweeted his disappointment, as he was looking forward to explaining why Alberta’s natural resources are important to the Canadian economy.

On the topic of the Liberal leadership, the party will be vetting the new “supporters” signed up, right up until voting week to ensure that they are a) on the Elections Canada voters list, and b) that there are no suspicious “clumps” of supporters. Meanwhile, Marc Garneau talks about how space travel changed his conception of spirituality.

And here are the three things you need to see from last night’s political shows – especially Senator Baker schooling Evan Solomon about the utility of the Senate.

One thought on “Roundup: Myth, folklore and intellectual dishonesty

  1. I concur, Dale. I In 2011, I wrote about the New Dems’ unconstitutional plan to give Quebec a fixed percentage of seats in the Commons, which only an amendment under s. 42(a) could promulgate.

    I find the latest round of arguments against the Senate particularly troubling, because they came from the media narrative rather than a genuine impetus toward constitutional reform.

    You’ve brought up a good point on the nomination and summoning of Senators. You’re probably correct that the constitutional *requires* that the Prime Minister nominate Senators in order to fill up vacancies as they arise from time to time, which suggests that Harper acted unconstitutionally between February 2006 and December 2008 when he refused to nominate any Senators. He then made 18 nominations during the intersession of the controversial prorogation of 2008.

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