Roundup: Kevin Page’s final battle

After two days of arguments at Federal Court, the judge there will deliberate on whether he should be providing clarity to the mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer – and no, it’s not a cut-and-dried question. As lawyers for the Speaker asserted, it is a matter for Parliament to decide upon – and remember, Parliament is actually the highest court of the land – and Parliamentarians should not be going to the courts every time the government doesn’t turn over its numbers. And while Page’s request for clarity was just that – clarity – there are some inescapable and fundamental issues at the heart of the matter, and that is that MPs themselves have abdicated their role as guardians of the public purse. While journalists and the public hail Page as being a hero, what’s missing is that he has been saddled with the role of “watchdog” because MPs have decided they’d rather have him do their homework for them, because math is hard, and they can then invoke the magical talisman that is his independence to prove that the government is in the wrong with its numbers. That Thomas Mulcair sent along his own lawyer as an interested party is part of what muddies this issue and makes it look partisan – because Mulcair and company want Page and his successors to do the dirty work for them. This is not really an issue about the government arguing against the fiscal oversight position that they created, but about Parliament itself, and whether or not MPs on both sides of the aisle can take their own jobs seriously. That they are placing all of the emphasis on Page and his office to do their work for them is an indictment that they continue to refuse to.

In additional “budget” fallout – and it is with quotation marks because it was noted that there was a conspicuous dearth of numbers in said “budget,” especially for departments like National Defence, which only further signals that it was really just a political document and not an economic one. So where do the numbers come into it? Good question. One supposes that some semblance of a spending plan can be cobbled together from Estimates, but that’s really not the same thing – and one more example of how financial oversight by the House is sliding into oblivion, and why MPs themselves need to put their foot down and stop the decline. Meanwhile, as the government lowers tariffs on hockey equipment, they are raising a bunch of others from places like China and India, which will likely raise prices on a whole range of other products. So, way to go consistency. It also seems that Harper’s transition team advocated merging CIDA in with DFAIT back in 2006, so this is something that is a long time coming. Experts doubt that the government can really recoup $7 billion in revenue by closing tax loopholes and compliance measures – especially if CRA is cutting back on staff. Andrew Coyne decodes some of the more cryptic pronouncements wrapped up in bland language made to look innocuous.

An editing mistake in the ACOA comms shop today saw a press release go out with the title “Harper Canada” – after “Government of Canada” and “Harper Government” were elided. Hilarity ensues. In the wake of this, Glen McGregor crunched some numbers and found that the phrase “Harper Government” is used about eight times per weekday.

The government is planning on changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers programme to make it tougher for employers to use them instead of Canadians, which means things like ensuring that the employer can’t mandate that a language other than English or French be an essential skill (as with that mine in BC that wanted people who could speak Mandarin).

Government MPs have taken to asking Order Paper question to cost out proposals in NDP private members’ bills and motions. No doubt these will be added into the total cost of their “high tax, high spending agenda.” Meanwhile, an Order Paper question from John McCallum reveals that Public Works spent $60K in legal fees related to the Ethics Commissioner – but  the department refuses to say why.

Pundit’s Guide walks us through Peter Penshue’s election returns, shows where things went wrong, and how it may be tough to throw the book at him.  Meanwhile, Elections Canada is hiring six new investigators. Make of that what you will.

Thomas Mulcair, not surprisingly, considers his first year as leader to be a resounding success. It’s also surprising the number of things he takes credit for that really he had nothing to do with. Colby Cosh looks at the state of the NDP in Saskatchewan, and their attempts at reforming the party structure to a more one-member-one-vote system, and how that may leave them vulnerable to sabotage.

Speaking of changed voting systems in parties, the Liberals only managed to register less than half of the “supporters” they signed up in order to vote in the leadership. But hey, they got to populate their database with all of that information, which was really the point of the whole exercise, so that counts as a win – right? (Never mind that the whole “supporter” idea was boneheaded and will deliver them the least accountable leader in Canadian political history, but those are just details, right?) Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau has managed to raise over $1.3 million over the course of the leadership to date – triple what Mulcair raised in his successful bid.

Here are the three things you need to see from last night’s political shows, including an interview with Shawn Atleo – who doesn’t seem to appreciate Thomas Mulcair telling him how he should feel about the budget.

And Susan Delacourt contrasts the happy version of politics presented in the CBC biopic Jack with the much darker picture presented in Stephen Maher’s novel Deadline, and how neither really presents a true picture of reality.