Roundup: One is less than five

As the whole Bill Morneau issue continues to run on outrage fumes, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson’s office has been unhelpful in the least when it comes to trying to put this issue to bed. Two days ago her office said that “fewer than five” ministers held assets indirectly, and when this came up in QP on Wednesday, Trudeau confirmed what certain journalists had noted from the public disclosures – that it was Morneau and Jody Wilson-Raybould, who had since divested those shares. End of story. But no, then Dawson’s office responded to reports in the Globe and Mail that they were somehow “at odds” with the PM over just how many ministers were in such a situation (The Globe? Sensationalize something? Unbelievable!), and that one – Monreau – qualified as “less than five.” And that set the Twitter Machine ablaze, and turned QP in the gong show that it was of demanding to know which five ministers it was, despite the fact that this had already been answered on numerous occasions.

Yes, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics legislation is a mess that MPs refuse on a continual basis to do anything about when the issues are pointed out. Yes, Mary Dawson herself has largely been seen as unhelpful because she has had a tendency to read her mandate so narrowly that issues brought before her are deemed out of her purview. But as I’ve stated before, it’s rapidly turning into a job that nobody else wants, and given the very narrow criteria for a new one, it’s no wonder that the government is having a hard time filling the post, and we may be stuck with Dawson forever as a result.


Good reads:

  • The US commerce department has said that they will reduce the tariffs on softwood lumber by a little, but this will still likely end up in litigation.
  • The government has given more indications that they are open to amendments on their Access to Information reform bill.
  • First the Conservatives complain that Bill Morneau belittled Lisa Raitt, and now Alice Wong says that Adam Vaughan was trying to intimidate her.
  • Conservative Karen Vecchio says that she was harassed by a Liberal MP at one point, but the matter was resolved through mediation, which she’s happy with.
  • Karina Gould is keeping an eye on the US hearings into Russian election interference and may amend Canadian laws to better regulate digital election advertising.
  • Jane Philpott is calling for an emergency meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts to get faster action on reforming Indigenous child welfare.
  • Federal lawyers are fighting at the Federal Court of Appeal over the release of Senate expense scandal documents, and whether they were misclassified.
  • Scott Brison says the government has to overhaul how it plans and buys new IT, and that they have to learn from failures in the past (like the Phoenix pay system).
  • Oh noes! The PMO’s expenses have gone up for what looks like perfectly ordinary reasons.
  • Government consultations show that women don’t report workplace sexual harassment for fear of retaliation.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that Indigenous freedom of religion wasn’t being violated by a development proposal given the consultations. More from Carissia Mathen here.
  • The ISG has agreed to an equal number of committee seats and chairs as the Conservatives in the Senate.
  • Here’s a deep dive into Jason Kenney’s conservative ideology.
  • David Moscrop and Aaron Wherry each weigh in on the Julie Payette non-controversy (and neither appears to have watched the whole video).

Odds and ends:

Veterans affairs minister Seamus O’Regan had emergency surgery for a non-life-threatening issue, and plans to be on his feet again for Remembrance Day.

Warren Shepell of Morneau Shepell (who sold his company and didn’t want the current one to use his name) donated to Morneau’s NDP rival in the last election.

3 thoughts on “Roundup: One is less than five

  1. It’s “purview”, actually.

    I wonder whether these constant “ethical” battles are, in part, the result of trying to codify ethical behaviour as a set of often picayune rules – rather than letting the House or the public be the judge of behaviour.

    Also, seems to me that the Brits do this way better than we do (see resignation of Michael Fallon).

  2. On November 2nd, Routine Proceedings [RP] noted that Governor General Payette’s November 1st comments at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa were “not actually a crisis.” Since no credible commentator had said that they were, I assume that this observation was just the usual construction of a straw man so that it could be knocked down.

    RP loses it today, however, in claiming that the matter is a “non-controversy.” Her remarks clearly were controversial or they wouldn’t be the subject of such, well, controversy.

    In my view, where the GG went wrong was in conflating religious/spiritual faith in the “divine” with subjects of scientific inquiry such as climate change. Faith is not science and, at its best, doesn’t claim to be. Note that her remarks did not mention “creationism” — which might have been a legitimate target as it lays claim to being a “science,” which it is not. Rather, the GG cast a wider net that sought to position faith in any aspect of the divine as equivalent to, for example, medical quackery. She may believe that, but it is a false equivalency in that medical claims can be tested by the scientific method, whereas a belief that a spark of divinity rests within humankind is a faith concept. It was an apples and oranges argument.

    That she got it wrong, suggests two things. The first is that unless the GG possess some heretofore unacknowledged doctorate on comparative region, she should stick to talking about science, not theology or religion. The second is that, whether she likes it or not, a very large proportion of the Canadian population have some form of religious belief. Making statements that gratuitously make fun of those people is incompatible with her role as GG. Her dig at religious faith was unnecessary in the context of her larger point about fake news and science-based knowledge. That she couldn’t see this is a point of some concern and suggests a narrowness of thought that, if not remedied, could be an impediment to her success in her current role as Governor General, representing the Crown in Canada to all Canadians.

    • With respect, I didn’t find her comments derisive of religion in general, and I find most of the people making a controversy out of this to be overblown. But that’s my own analysis. Your mileage may vary.

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