Roundup: The NDP get cute with the Senate

Because it seems that the NDP haven’t had their fill of amateurish stunts yet, they have decided to try to haul the Speaker of the Senate and the Leader of the Government in the Senate to a Commons committee to discuss the Senate’s budget allocations. Apparently they think that the Senate isn’t actually a separate institution of Parliament, but just an arm of the government. Err, except that it isn’t. Here’s the thing that the NDP doesn’t seem to be grasping – aside from the basic constitutional position that the Senate holds within our system of government – and that’s the fact that two can play that game. While the Senate may not be able to initiate money bills, they can certainly amend them, or hold them up in committee indefinitely. And if the NDP wants to get cute and try to make the Senate put on a little dog and pony show for the committee in order to justify their spending, well, the Senate can do the very same thing, and question the basic budget allocation for the Commons and MPs expenses. While the NDP might bring up the few cases of improper residency expenses and travel claims that took to the media spotlight a couple of months ago, Senators could do the very same thing, and in fact, have a better case than the MPs would. You see, the Senate’s expenses are far more transparent than those of the Commons. Senators submit their travel claims to quarterly reports, have their expense claims posted publicly, and even their attendance is recorded and publicly available. That’s how all of this came to light in the media – because journalists checked it out. (Well, a certain Senator who shall remain nameless also leaked a number of things because of internecine warfare, but that’s another story). But MPs are not subject to the same levels of public scrutiny that Senators are, and if the NDP really want to down this route, then I don’t see why the Senate shouldn’t call Speaker Scheer and the various party leaders before the Senate’s national finance committee to justify their own expenditures. After all, they’re not public, and these are public funds that they’re expecting to spend, so it would be in the interest of sober second thought that these Senators very closely examine this spending and ensure that it’s in the public interest for the Commons to get these allocations. And it was only a couple of years ago that improper housing claims by a number of MPs were brought to light, and well, the Senate may need to ensure that this kind of thing isn’t going on again. You know, for the sake of the public. You see where I’m going with this? There’s a word that the NDP should learn – it’s “bicameralism.” They may not like it, but it exists for a very good reason, and they should educate themselves before they decide they want to get cute.

Meanwhile, the government has given notice to the Senate that they want two private members’ bills passed before they rise for the summer, which would mean sitting well into July – but there’s no actual mechanism in the Senate to speed their passage, because they’re not government bills. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to this move, because prorogation wouldn’t kill them – merely reset their stage in the Senate, which is easily enough rectified with a couple of votes. One of the explanations is that this will be around the time of the Conservative policy convention and these two measures are good for the base – but again, with no actual mechanism to speed their passage, it begs the question why there’s a rush. Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan (correctly) noted that if the government was so concerned about these bills, they should have made them government bills.

This of course has become the crux of another argument down the hall in the Commons, as Bob Rae raised a point of privilege after QP yesterday about the way that the government has sought consent to expand the scope of a Private Members’ bill. Rae’s argument – that this is a problem because they can use their majority to push it through, and it would open up the possibility for them to do this with any number of Private Members’ Bills, which only get two hours of debate and committee study and don’t have the same kinds of checks that government bills do by the Justice Department (including Charter-proofing). And he’s got a very good point – if the government wants to champion these ideas, they can put forward government legislation. This as they announced they’re going to support yet another backbench “tough on crime” bill.

There are concerns that Harper may use the Rehteah Parsons case to reintroduce Internet spying provisions into the forthcoming bill on cyberbullying, thus exploiting her death for political advantage and reframing that debate. Kady O’Malley wonders the same thing here.

Stephen Harper’s big phrase yesterday was that “this is not the time to commit sociology” when it comes to looking into the root causes of terrorism, not only in the wake of the Boston bombings, but also with the arrest of terror suspects here in Canada. Because you know, finding out why people are being radicalised in order to prevent future occurrences would be a bad thing. Meanwhile, here are eight things to know about the anti-terrorism bill, which received Royal Assent yesterday.

The Conservatives spent Question Period today once again insisting that the former Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, was partisan, and cited cases where he refused to do analyses for government backbenchers. A search by CBC turned up this particular letter, in which he did not refuse, but simply asked for clarification for the methodology of his analysis. Oops. Of course, the question posed – about the costs of Private Members’ Bills – was spurious considering that they’re not supposed to impose a cost, lest they require a Royal Recommendation, but why should that get in the way of a swipe against his reputation?

What’s that? The centralising and message-controlling government has sent down orders that senior RCMP officers need to check with the minister’s office before they meet with MPs or Senators? You don’t say! Remind me again where it says the RCMP has to be concerned that they might embarrass the government?

Access to Information documents show that the Correctional Investigator was forced to put his report on Aboriginal incarceration out as a special report because the department dragged its feet for months on responding to it and didn’t appear to be taking it seriously.

The Liberal opposition day motion on alphabetising the order of Members’ Statements was defeated by a vote of 150-96. Apparently the backbench Conservatives were convinced that the Speaker’s ruling goes far enough (even though a much more substantial change needs to take place if we want our Parliament to return to any semblance of relevance).

Here is an exploration of the ways in which the Conservative attack ads are trying to question Justin Trudeau’s masculinity (and by extension his heterosexuality). Harper insists that the ads aren’t bullying – they’re “just politics.” Because sparkles and stars over a Tinkerbell font don’t scream “fairy!” apparently.

And here are the three things you need to see from last night’s political shows, including Pierre Poilievre’s clown eruption when he uttered the tautology that “the root cause of terrorism is terrorists.” OMG SUCH BRILLIANT ANALYSIS!