Roundup: Cullen’s plan to launder accountability

The NDP used their Supply Day motion yesterday to call for a new process to vet nominations for Officers of Parliament using a newly created subcommittee of Procedure and House Affairs that would have one member from each recognized party to vet the nominees. And while you may think on the surface that this is innocuous, there are plenty of problems with this proposal that go to the core of our system of Responsible Government.

For starters, the original motion was absolutely a veto, despite Nathan Cullen’s protests, and that’s not entirely appropriate given our system. They negotiated an amendment to remove that section, but the Liberals decided they weren’t going to agree to the motion in any case, which is fine because the veto wasn’t the bigger problem.

The problem is that a committee like this will not actually bring other parties into the process to make it “non-partisan,” but rather, it will launder the government’s responsibility for the appointments so that it becomes impossible to hold them to account when things go wrong. Remember when the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Christiane Ouimet, turned out to be a giant problem? Do you remember what the government said when it came up in QP? They said “We consulted and no one raised any objections then – not our problem,” which was untrue. Add this process in, and that “not our problem” becomes baked in. At least this government has enough of a shred of decency when it comes to our parliamentary system to not look to find a new solution to wash their hands of future accountability, because that’s all that this motion offers – aside from the ability for opposition parties to engage in shenanigans of their own on the nomination sub-committee. And this isn’t even mentioning the fact that for many of these Officers, they serve Parliament as a whole, so a process that excludes senators becomes even more problematic for the functioning of our system.

To try and tie this to what happened with Madeleine Meilleur is a bit of a red herring – through the established process, it became clear to everyone (except maybe Mélanie Joly) that Meilleur simply wasn’t suited, most especially after she managed to alienate Anglophone Quebeckers – an extremely difficult thing to do, and yet she managed, and with the Senate lining up to vote against her appointment, it pretty much proves that the existing system worked.

No, this is about this farcical notion that people like Cullen keep pushing about how this is all about “making Parliament work.” It already works when the players involved do their jobs, and creating new processes creates added complications and unintended consequences, like the laundering of accountability, which nobody thinks about or raises as an issue because few people bother to learn how the system works. This Americanized suggestion is flash in the pan, trying to capitalize on what was clearly a blunder that the existing system nevertheless corrected. And if people had any good sense, they’d stop listening to Nathan Cullen’s attempts to “improve” our democracy.

Good reads:

  • The official opposition is set to force a massive voting marathon (to the tune of 40 or so hours) if the government doesn’t back down on Standing Order changes.
  • Statistics Canada noted an uptick in hate crimes against Muslims in 2015 (but that could mean more reporting), while Blacks and Jews remain top targets.
  • There appears to be a time crunch around getting the bill to create the national security committee of parliamentarians passed.
  • It looks like some senators will be pushing ahead to split out the Infrastructure Bank from the budget bill.
  • Government officials are due to meet with fighter jet makers next week at the Paris Air Show to talk replacement fighters.
  • The Chief of Defence Staff says he’s horrified by images of torture by Iraqi forces.
  • The sale of diplomatic residences has continued apace under the Liberals despite their “Canada’s Back™” rhetoric.
  • The Bank of Canada has warned that our linked banking system could be vulnerable to a major cyber-attack.
  • Here’s a look at the thought process behind choosing a new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and why our court is not like the American version.
  • Here’s the tale of a single parent in the Navy who was given the choice between her career and her child.
  • There is an increase in the number of civil servants who feel harassed or discriminated against.
  • Liberal MP Arnold Chan says that despite what sounded like a farewell speech, he isn’t resigning his seat.
  • NDP leadership hopeful Jagmeet Singh’s policy chief is keeping his day job at the Broadbent Institute.
  • Martin Patriquin thinks the MMIW inquiry will simply wind up a well-meaning PR exercise.
  • My column this week says that MPs should heed Arnold Chan’s advice and offers guidance on how they can ditch their talking points.

Odds and ends: