Roundup: Del Mastro facing charges

Elections Canada has now charged Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro with four breaches of the Elections Act stemming from the 2008 election, and charged his official agent with three of those offences. Within a couple of hours, Del Mastro was out of the caucus (he says voluntarily, but we all know what that means), which also means that his parliamentary secretary position was also out the door. And of course, Del Mastro insists that he’s innocent and plans to prove it – because Elections Canada just spent the past four years gathering evidence because they’re part of a Conservative-hating conspiracy, apparently. Oh, and if convicted, Del Mastro and his official agent could be sentenced to up to five years in jail plus a $5000 per offence – now multiply that by four, and you’ll see the stakes of Del Mastro’s situation.

The government has settled the labour dispute with foreign service workers. The agreement raises their base salary, which was the key demand, though they have to give up on severance if they voluntarily leave their jobs, which is a change other public servants made over the past couple of years as well.

Stephen Harper told an audience in New York that he “won’t take no for an answer” on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Um, that’s cute and all, but you realise they’re a sovereign country, right? Just checking.

Julian Fantino has announced that they will be doing a review of the New Veterans’ Charter, which is an about-face from their position that everything was fine with it, even though there are coming reports that will show that it doesn’t work for all veterans.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer’s annual long-term fiscal sustainability report shows that the downloading of health care spending to the provinces may make the federal finances more sustainable, but will strain the provinces – not that I’m sure it can really be termed as downloading since it was a readjustment of the transfer formula that wasn’t unwarranted. Plus, I think the consensus is rapidly becoming one that simply pouring more money into the healthcare system isn’t fixing any of its ills, and that other solutions need to be found.

The Public Safety department has put out a tender to revive a programme to map flood-prone areas, which is probably a smart thing to do considering the devastating floods over the past year.

Yet more drama in the Brandon-Souris Conservative nomination, as the disqualified candidate now claims that the tracking number that Conservative insiders provided was not for the right package, but a different one of the five he’d sent over those few days. But he also appears to be ready to support the acclaimed candidate, which is all the more curious.

Paul Wells writes about the lessons learnt – or not learnt – by political losers, as demonstrated by the recent writings of Brian Topp and Michael Ignatieff.

The new Parliamentary Budget Officer wants you to know that he’s his own person, not the next iteration of Kevin Page. Just in case you were wondering.

Prorogation is delaying the “tough new spending rules” being implemented in the Senate. Why? Because with prorogation, committees are dissolved and can’t meet to get the ball rolling on getting the rules put into place. And for what it’s worth, Senators are aware by now of what’s coming.

As part of his upcoming piece on the battle for the middle class in Canadian politics, John Geddes talks to two economists about some of the issues at play, be it social mobility and how we’re defining the “crisis” in the middle class, which doesn’t seem to be the real trend in Canada, as opposed to the States. But this wouldn’t be the first time that American economic arguments that don’t reflect the Canadian reality were ported into our political discourse.

Duncan Hood debunks the myth that tuition rates are rising out of control – especially as funding is also increasing for students along with inflation.

Kady O’Malley writes about Senator Don Plett casting himself as the avenging angel of aggrieved politicians as he continually calls security on reporters who have every right to be there.

And here’s a fantastic look at LGBT surrogacy in this country, and some of the hurdles that need to be scaled – like restrictions on gay sperm donation because of concerns over HIV (though it is not an outright ban as with blood donation).