Roundup: No answers but a few red herrings

They might as well not have bothered. Harper invited the media in to watch his caucus speech, and gave a bland non-statement about how he was very upset (said in a monotone), “Yay Accountability Act!” and hey, the Senate needs to be reformed – err, except that absolutely nothing about his “reform” plans would do anything about this situation. And so, Harper said nothing about Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau, Wright, or the $90,000 cheque, and because he took no questions, some reporters started shouting them out before they were herded out. And then he got on a plane for Peru, which was planned at least a month in advance, but don’t let that stop Mulcair or the conspiracy theorists from trying to claim that he engineered the Clusterduff explosions to go off just as the trip was planned – as though there were enough competence in the PMO to pull that one off. John Ivison ripped Harper over the failure of the speech, and points to the unhappiness on the backbench that these events transpired and Harper appears to be taking it out on them, rather than looking at the events that transpired in the Centre. Michael Den Tandt writes about how this was a train wreck, and that it broke faith with Harper’s base.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Perrin, the PMO’s former special legal advisor, says that the claims that he was involved in the deal between Wright and Duffy are false. Former House of Commons law clerk Robert Walsh explains some of the implications for the allegations against Wright and Duffy here.

Over in the Senate, Liberal Senate leader James Cowan is raising this matter as an issue of privilege in that the allegations that Wright wrote the cheque to Duffy and arranged for the audit report to go easy on him means that the PMO was interfering in the independent operations of the Senate – which is a big deal. Remember, the Senate is supposed to act as a check on the power of the Prime Minister, and that kind of interference would be contempt of the Senate. If a prima facia breach has been found, it could mean that key members from the PMO and possibly the Prime Minister himself could be summoned by the Senate committee investigating the breach to testify. Meanwhile, proposed new spending rules for Senators are being debated, which would put the final nail in the coffin of the “honour system” that the Senate once operated under (but really hasn’t for some time now). There has been some contention around the proposed new travel rules because it would make the work of some Senators much harder as they do cross-country work on special projects or stakeholder relations on their committee work. As for the audits, the Senate has decided to adopt the report that says that Brazeau needs to issue repayments, and to send Duffy’s audit report back to the Board of Internal Economy – even though that’s where it was apparently whitewashed by the Conservative members of that committee. The Liberals tried to have it sent directly to the RCMP, but no dice. Senator Harb’s report is currently in limbo as he has argued that his privileges have been breached and that he has been denied natural justice by the secretive Internal Economy committee in their arbitrary determination of what constituted enough time spent at his primary residence.

Oh, and now questions are being raised about the cost and need for the Senate’s Selection Committee of two, which may prompt a revision in the rules governing it.

Back in the Commons, the NDP are proposing that the length of Question Period be extended to 90-minutes each day in exchange for agreeing to sit until midnight until the end of the spring sitting. Not that this is likely to pass, but really? I can stand 45 minutes of reciting scripts with the occasional burst of spontaneity or a good heckle, but 90 minutes, as the opposition gets down to giving painfully awkward questions to marginal deputy critics to fill time? It might be considered cruel and inhumane.

Thomas Mulcair tried to further explain the whole issue of the attempted bribe back in 1994, and why he say anything about it until 2011 – not that the Conservatives are buying his story.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Council tabled a damning report on our declining R&D investment in Canada. Gary Goodyear, the minister of state for science and technology, insists that the government’s focus is on track, nothing to see here.

A Canadian Press investigation found that some of the appointees to the soon-to-be-disbanded EI Boards of Referees were donating to the Conservative party (with one sole Liberal exception), despite the fact that such donations are barred for those kinds of office holders. The boards are being replaced by Social Security Tribunals, whose members will be appointed “based on merit,” the government assures us.

An email glitch was the key in helping to uncover the details behind a suspicious hire of a former ministerial staffer at ACOA, and it’s a sordid tale of close-knit Conservative friends working to game the rules in order to get a job for said former staffer. The punishment – ordering them to take ethics courses and barring them from hiring decisions for three years.

As he prepares for his retirement from the bench, it seems that Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish has been taking swipes at some of his junior colleagues for their legal analyses. Yikes.

And there’s been a breakdown in the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which was supposed to be a game-changer for the relationship between industry and environmentalists.  The particular issue is around a conservation area for caribou, and it does look like there’s blame to go around on all sides.