Roundup: Opposition day mischief

Party leader for less than a week, and Justin Trudeau decides to get up to a little bit of (well-intentioned) mischief. When the Conservatives decided that Monday was going to be a Liberal opposition day, Trudeau and company decided to put it to good use – to debate a motion that would see the Standing Orders changed to that Members’ Statements would be put into a strict alphabetical rotation in order to guarantee that every single MP would get their turn to deliver one (note: this would not include ministers, as they get their own allotted time for statements after QP daily), and that the whip’s office couldn’t deny them that spot if they disagreed with the content of their statement. For the Liberals, it’s no big deal because it’s pretty much what they do already in their own caucus, but more importantly, if they can get the ten Conservative backbenchers who have now added their voices to Mark Warawa’s privilege motion about being muzzled with regards to those statements to add just a couple more MPs to their numbers, well, it could embarrass the government. Not that the government couldn’t conceivably whip such a vote – it is an opposition day motion and not private members’ business, after all – but it would make them look even more foolish in light of the privilege motion, and would increase the pressure that it faces from its own backbench. (Note: Yes, I will add my customary finger-wag that this is not an opposition day motion that demonstrates why the government should be denied supply, which is the point of opposition days in the supply cycle. And the Liberals, with their cudgel of the tariff increases, could very easily do a proper opposition day motion, but they didn’t).

But then things got more interesting. Not long after the Liberals announced that this was to be their motion, the government turned around and decided to reschedule the opposition days for later in the week, under the cover that they decided that Monday and Tuesday would be dedicated to passing the anti-terrorism bill instead, given the whole Boston drama that was the backdrop of this week – never mind that they four other days this week that they could have turned their attention to that, or that said bill did not come up during the Thursday Question, where the projected order of business is discussed. And predictably, everyone went a little bit insane because the government “cancelled the day” (untrue – they postponed it) and were somehow “afraid of democracy” (because there’s nothing like abusing the term “democracy” in order to make your point extra hyperbolic), and Conservatives reminded the Liberals that Paul Martin used to move opposition days around in order to avoid confidence votes (which is a legitimate tactic, like it or not), and the Liberals shot back that the government was using Boston as a political football for the second time in a week. It was also pointed out that postponing it until Wednesday means it’s right after the weekly caucus meetings, where everyone will be filled with the spirit of party unity and/or threats about stepping out of line from the boss himself.

This all having been said, let me just make a couple of points – the breathless hyperbole of how dare the government exercise its legitimate powers to control the parliamentary schedule to suit its own needs is really overblown and unnecessary. Not everything is an assault on democracy, and saying that starts to make you look like the boy who cried “wolf.” If it’s an important topic, it can keep for a couple of days. The world is not going to end. Consider it two extra days in order to build up media attention in advance of the debate and the vote, assuming that they can play their cards right (and Trudeau’s media team is savvy enough that they could probably pull it off). Also remember that Peter Van Loan is an incredibly inept manager of House business, and yet as Government House Leader, he is in charge of making up the schedule. Not everything he does is sinister – some of it is just clumsy and, well, inept. And hey, Trudeau and his team can now boast that they have the government on the run. That’s not bad for someone who’s been in the job for a week and who has shrugged off the first round of attack ads (which were also clumsy and inept, according to the punitocracy). And before you ask, no, this will have no effect on the privilege motion before the Speaker. None. The Standing Orders and privilege are very separate beasts, and there is almost no chance that the Speaker would rule before Wednesday anyway, considering that MPs continue to speak to it. This may take the pressure off of the Speaker if it passes, mind you, but even if the Speaker were to rule and find in favour of the government, it still would have no effect as the House is the master of its own destiny and MPs can change the Standing Orders whenever they so choose.

Meanwhile, Andrew Coyne writes that after a day of people trying to figure out the “root causes” of the Boston bombers after their identities were revealed, Justin Trudeau’s comments were not objectionable. Clumsily worded, perhaps, but not objectionable, especially as he avoided most of the traps of the post-9/11 “root causes” debate. Andrew Potter, meanwhile, laments the stupidity of the debate, where the obvious needs to be spelled out – that trying to understand terrorism doesn’t mean excusing it.

Jim Flaherty continues to make nonsensical arguments in favour of the new tariff increases that don’t bear out – things like most of the countries where the new tariffs are being applied aren’t part of organisations like the TPP that we’re trying to access – and they fail to say how the changes don’t punish Canadian consumers.

After all of the equivocating on Thursday, it seems that Senator Mike Duffy did indeed pay back some $90,000 in claimed living expenses, but is still awaiting the release of the Deloitte and Touche audit. But it leads one to wonder why he didn’t tell Global that he had paid the money back, or whether he misunderstood what they were asking (such as the question of primary residence overall – maybe?). Regardless, there remain questions, and we all await the release of that audit.

Here’s a look at how the Liberals crafted the rules of their leadership contest in order to avoid major campaign debts – unlike the last time. It looks like Deborah Coyne and Karen McCrimmon still have a lot of fundraising to go, however, in order to pay off their entry fees.

And here are the three things you need to see from last night’s political shows, including some interesting discussions on Chechnya and radicalisation.