Roundup: Ethics committee theatre incoming

We can look forward to a heap of bad political theatre next week as the Commons’ ethics committee plans to sit on Tuesday and Wednesday in order to demand that the PM appear before them to answer questions in regards to the Ethics Commissioner’s report into his Xmas vacation with the Aga Khan, and to hear from the now-former Commissioner on the report the following day. And you can expect that it’s going to be nothing short of howls of sanctimonious indignation. Oh, and there may be legitimate procedural roadblocks to their plans given that the report hasn’t been presented to the Commons yet, according to a former Commons procedural clerk.

Regarding the demands that Trudeau appear, it would be highly unlikely that the Liberals on the committee will let that go ahead (and they have the votes to block it if necessary). And if the Conservatives cry foul, they can turn around and point to the fact that they blocked an attempt by the committee in the last Parliament to have Stephen Harper appear before them to answer questions related to the ClusterDuff Affair, and fair is fair, besides which, Trudeau has answered in Question Period and the media on this issue. And really, why would a PM expose himself to an hour of MPs trying to play Matlock, asking questions that are all traps designed to get him to incriminate himself, and then baying at the moon when he refuses to answer. It would be worse than the performances we see in Question Period these days (which are generally terrible), and we’d get the same quality of answers from Trudeau, which will be some fairly pat and trite lines unless they trip him up (which is the whole point).

Oh, one might say (and Althia Raj did on Power & Politics last night), if they want to show that this is really a new era of accountability and transparency, they it might be in their best interests to go ahead and have him go before the committee, to which I remind people what happened when Thomas Mulcair appeared before a committee to answer questions related to the satellite offices issue. Mulcair blustered, obfuscated, and then proffered a fiction that Conservatives did it too (they didn’t – the “evidence” was a riding office and a party office in the same mini-mall but several doors down from one another, but hey, they were on the same sign by the parking lot), and as he did so, all of his partisans flooded social media praising that “this is what accountability looks like.” I’m not really sure that this is the kind of thing we want to revisit.

As for Dawson’s appearance, it’s “as an individual” since she will be officially retired by then, and we can imagine that it will be much the same – each side fishing for a media clip that fits their established narrative, which they will then flood social media with – assuming that she can answer, given the procedural issue identified. And we can imagine how many questions about Bill Morneau will be asked, followed by the Liberals asking how many investigations she conducted on Conservative ministers, and on and on it will go. It won’t be a constructive use of anyone’s time, but why does that matter when you’ve got cheap political theatre to perform?

Speaking of Dawson, here’s her exit interview with the Globe and Mail in which she defends how much time she took to write that report, confirms that she didn’t discuss Bill C-27 with Morneau (never mind that doing so would violate cabinet confidence and cabinet secrecy – funny how the Globe continually ignores that fact), and defends the advice she gave to Morneau about a blind trust (“You know what the hell’s in there. That’s a defect on a blind trust”).

Good reads:

  • Senator Lynn Beyak’s son thinks her removal is PC culture run amok, and it’ll hurt the Conservatives. Residential school survivors flagged her letters months ago.
  • AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde thinks that an ethics investigation should be launched against Beyak (but I don’t see how she’s actually contravened the Code).
  • Charlie Angus wants the PM to use his “moral authority” to encourage the Senate to remove Lynn Beyak, without, you know, actual valid legal ability to.
  • Several cabinet ministers are hitting the charm circuit down in the States to keep up the pressure over NAFTA talks.
  • Anti-abortion groups plan to sue the government for limiting them from getting summer job funds, calling the Liberals a “hate group against Christians.”
  • The military is studying how to deal with legalized pot (which I don’t get, because it’s not like this is just being invented).
  • The government has made more funding announcements than the Conservatives did in their majority mandate (but haven’t reached the same dollar amount).
  • There are questions as to why a Liberal MP was acting as an intermediary (read: delivered a letter to officials) for a Chinese-Canadian now charged with fraud.
  • Karina Gould talks about her impending new baby, and hints that she won’t be in Ottawa for March and April.
  • Andrew Coyne says that guaranteed minimum income is better for tackling poverty than hiking minimum wage (but doesn’t really address the cost of that).
  • Susan Delacourt writes about how Liberal governments in Ottawa and Queen’s Park are tackling income inequality in order to fight the rise of Trumpism in Canada.
  • My weekend column wonders if using Twitter as a diplomatic bullhorn is really the most effective way to help Iranian protesters.

Odds and ends:

Some of Jason Kenney’s new political staff in Alberta are his former staffers in Ottawa.