The news yesterday that the Liberals on the Commons standing committee on the status of women walked out rather than vote on the Conservatives’ choice for chair, Rachael Harder, certainly had a bit of drama to it, but underneath that surface-level bit of excitement, so much of this story defies sense.
For starters, it makes no sense that the Conservatives would name their chosen critic for the portfolio to be the committee chair. Why? Because a committee chair is supposed to be a somewhat more neutral figure who presides over the meetings in order to maintain decorum, decide on questions of order and procedure, and only vote in the event of breaking a tie. These are qualities that a critic should be dealing with. No, a critic should be doing the work of leading the questions of witnesses and doing the work of holding the government to account. That is not the chair’s job. Furthermore, if Andrew Scheer is going to insist on calling his critics “shadow ministers,” then perhaps he should actually treat them as such which means not having them on committees at all – and yes, the semantic difference is important. If you want to implement a shadow ministerial system then start behaving like that’s what they are. Otherwise, changing their nomenclature is nothing more than a twee affectation that he shouldn’t get so uppity about (and he has been).
Now that you mention it, that IS an odd move. Generally, critics are the lead MPs, not chairs. (Don't even mention 'shadow minsters'.) https://t.co/v2KRMyvsZa
— kady o'malley (@kady) September 26, 2017
Meanwhile, for the rest of the day, the Conservatives tried to spin this as a distraction from the tax change proposals that they are otherwise getting hammered on when they put her up for the position of chair knowing full well that this would be an issue. The NDP were out on Monday afternoon in the Foyer decrying this possibility and they went ahead with it. They created their own distraction and then tried to spin it as the Liberals using it as such. The Liberals didn’t create this drama, so you can’t accuse them of creating something from nothing.
The Conservatives have three members on the committee – Harder, Karen Vecchio, and Martin Shields, and if it makes no sense to put the critic in the role of chair, then why not put Vecchio forward? Is it because she isn’t looked kindly upon by Campaign Life Coalition? I would have thought her more than capable of the role otherwise, which is why this mystifies me unless this is something that the Conservatives were looking to try and force a confrontation of some variety by putting forward a critic and then candidate for Chair that would deliberately offend the sensibilities of the other parties – something that you shouldn’t be doing in a committee setting because committees, as the lifeblood of parliament, are supposed to be less partisan and more collegial.
— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) September 26, 2017
This is just one more example of how the current iteration of the Conservative party doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing. Since Scheer took over the leadership, there seems to have been a sudden loss of know-how amongst the party’s senior staffers and they’re making all manner of really dumb tactical mistakes. You also have to wonder how much of this is also because the party had spent their nine years in power trying to burn down many of the norms of our parliamentary system and treating the institutions with utter disdain, and now that they’re back in opposition, they have simply lost the capacity to engage with them properly, leading to these kinds of mindless choices that just shoot themselves in the foot. It’s not promising for a party that is supposed to be considered a government in waiting.
- Justin Trudeau is planning trips to Mexico and the US next month as trade talks grind along.
- Here is a look at the “progressive labour standards” that Canada is pushing for in the NAFTA renegotiations. It sounds like those proposal are getting pushback.
- Not surprisingly, the Information Commissioner isn’t too happy with the government’s bill to reform the Access to Information Act.
- The government is expected to announce their cultural policy on Thursday.
- Murray Brewster digs into the potential problems with Ukraine’s bid to get peacekeepers into their eastern regions, and a role Canada might play there.
- The US Department of Commerce is proposing hefty duties against Bombardier’s C-Series jets, but a final decision won’t be made by the Tribunal until spring.
- The Boeing-Bombardier spat may not only scuttle the plans for “interim” Super Hornets, it may also hurt plans to upgrade our existing CF-18s.
- Some people are calling for remaining residential school buildings to be preserved as “sites of conscience.”
- Chatelaine had a conversation with Carolyn Bennett and Jane Philpott about their roles with Indigenous affairs and services.
- The government named Dr. Mona Nemer as the new National Science Advisor.
- Here’s a deeper look into why Chelsea Manning isn’t being allowed in to Canada, and whether she has an avenue of appeal.
- A former Legion president says he was fired for suspending eight members after they harassed a female staff member.
- Government spending on social media advertising is ramping up considerably.
- Kady O’Malley is having none of the Conservatives’ attempt to rebrand their critics as “shadow ministers.”
- Susan Delacourt thinks that Elizabeth May could be offering the Liberals a way out of the current tax proposal fight.
- My column looks at Senator Woo taking on the leadership of the Independent Senators Group, and my unanswered questions about what that means.
Odds and ends:
Gerry Ritz continues to prove that he retired in order to become a full-time Twitter troll.
If you’re fascinated by Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle, here’s more about how their relationship is breaking royal dating norms.