Ladies and gentlemen, the House has risen for the summer. Let us rejoice! The Senate, however, continues to sit, likely for another week or two, as they clear the remaining bills off their plates before the recess and likely summer prorogation. (And yes, I’ll be recapping Senate QP for the duration).
Marking the last day was the escalation of the transparency game, where the NDP finally unveiled their own transparency plan, which basically proposes to dismantle the Board of Internal Economy and replace it with an independent oversight body. The proposal was agreed to go to study by committee before the House rose. While the goal here is to end the practice of MPs policing MPs, there is a danger in that by absolving themselves of their responsibilities, they are on the road to a kind of technocratic system that has little accountability. It should also give one pause – if Parliament is indeed the highest court in the land (and it is), what does it say that those who make up its occupants cannot be counted on to hold themselves to account. It would seem to me that simply demanding a greater standard of transparency would have gone a long way to solving the issues inherent with MPs policing themselves than a wholesale overturning of the system.
One of the last acts of the Commons before rising was to pass Bill S-15 to turn Sable Island into a national park. It had been a paragon of inter-party cooperation until nearly the very end, when Elizabeth May denied unanimous consent to speed it along, causing a Twitter spat between her and Michelle Rempel. Eventually all was smoothed over, and it passed before the Chamber rose.
On the Trudeau speaking fees file, it seems that almost none of the groups he spoke to for a fee are interested in getting a refund. A couple are giving it some consideration, but so far the Grace Foundation is the only one demanding funds (and there we’ve seen there are questions about motivation as well as the indication of larger problems if they still would have lost money on the event even with the refund). The Conservatives are trying a new tactic of referring Trudeau’s taking fees from a union for a speaking engagement and then voting against Bill C-377 to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. The problem with that logic – probably half of the NDP caucus also couldn’t vote on the bill, seeing as many of them worked for unions at some point. Also, considering the aforementioned commissioner previously cleared his engagements, I think we can chalk this up to one more stunt. After the Barry Advancer outed the PMO’s peddling Trudeau speaking fees stories to them, Susan Delacourt looks at the ways in which these kinds of conversations with the PMO go, and to what level journalists have to decide they’ll go for that story. That said, it bears reminding that the PMO is a partisan office by its very nature, and we shouldn’t assume that it’s supposed to be otherwise as we have this discussion on their activities. Michael Den Tandt looks at the way the various “missteps” of Trudeau’s are playing out, and doesn’t believe they have much resonance outside of the Ottawa “bubble,” which could mean that Trudeau will remain high in the polls.
Since everyone is going after speaking fees, Glen McGregor looks to the other parliamentarians who declare that they accept speaking fees, though most of them are Senators from both sides. Conservative Senator Larry Smith said his fees are nobody’s business but his own, while his colleague Senator Demers did accept speaking fees from a literacy charity – and lo, his Commons caucus hasn’t yet demanded that this was some awful sin. Here is more of a discussion on secondary incomes for parliamentarians, and why it can be an issue.
On the subject of Shelly Glover and James Bezan’s dispute with Elections Canada, the Speaker finally gave his ruling yesterday and admitted that yes, there was indeed a prima facia breach of privilege to be dealt with, and that yes, it is up to the House to deal with MPs whom Elections Canada deem should be suspended until their filing issues are cleared up. At the same time, Glover has relented and submitted the corrected filing, though that would put her over her election spending limit, though it is likely that she could now enter into some kind of compliance agreement with Elections Canada. (It is also speculated that there was a desire to have this cleared up in the event that Glover is tapped for a cabinet post over the summer, as nobody would want this cloud over her should that happen).
It appears that the Senate clerk hired a couple of motivational speakers to help the embattled Upper Chamber get some perspective on their current situation. That didn’t go over well when it went public, and the speakers were cancelled. I will say, however, that a number of Senators are taking the various accusations lobbed against them personally, even though they haven’t done anything wrong.
Oh dear – Conservative MP Eve Adams has been fined $155 for failure to stop while she was using a cell phone while driving on Parliament Hill. I await the Conservative denunciations of her for her dangerous driving and disrespect for the RCMP officers when she informed them that she was an MP.
Here’s a look at the lukewarm outcomes from the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, though it should be noted that Putin did sign onto the call for a new government in Syria, so that is some progress on that file.
The Senate’s National Security and Defence Committee has completed a report on tackling harassment in the RCMP, and issues 15 recommendations including taking a page from the Canadian Forces, which has spent the past two decades tackling their own harassment issues and has seen a cultural change in their own organisation.
Robert Chisholm’s new Private Member’s Bill to combat cyberbullying would change the definition of voyeurism in the Criminal Code as an attempt to keep from “revictimizing” by means of social media.
Canada will soon be sending peacekeepers to Haiti for a six-month deployment.
The Canadian Press’ Montreal bureau offers a primer on the whole Quebec corruption issue, in order to get you up to speed.
Preston Manning demonstrates that he has zero clue about the Senate, its purpose and the work that it does. Senator Hugh Segal demonstrates that he doesn’t understand Crown Prerogatives when it comes to the deployment of the Canadian Forces, or the reasons why it remains as such (hint: If they do it by vote in the Commons, it launders the prerogative and means that the executive can’t be held to account when things go wrong).
And major congrats to Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, who won the Michener Award for their reporting on the illicit robocalls. Well done!