Wednesday, caucus day, and the benches were mostly full. Thomas Mulcair started off by reading a pair of questions about the improperly reported $3.1 billion in anti-terror funds, and showed just how with it he is by making an Arrested Development reference, asking if the money was in the banana stand. Harper ignored it and once again assured him that the Auditor General said that the money was not misspent. Mulcair then turned to the issue of Treasury Board taking an active hand in the collective bargaining of Crown Corporations. Harper reminded him that the government backstops these Crown Corporations, and with some of them in financial difficulty, they had an obligation to ensure that taxpayer’s money was being treated responsibly. For his final question, Mulcair brought up the demise of the mandatory long-form census, as the National Household Survey data was released today. Harper responded with congratulations to Statistics Canada for the data release and praise for how high quality the data was. Justin Trudeau was then up, and after paying mention to the long-form census, he turned to the question of those Economic Action Plan™ ads, and how each spot they run during the playoffs, it costs the same as 32 student summer jobs. Harper first repeated his congratulations to Statistics Canada, before he moved onto the necessity of informing Canadians of how well the economy is doing by way of those ads.
Apparently it’s important that we keep being exposed to Economic Action Plan™ advertisements ad nauseum because Canadians have confidence in the economy – or so says Stephen Harper. Which begs the question – do they have confidence in the economy because of the ads, or are the ads to showcase that they have confidence? At which point it all starts getting circular and resembling a tautology. Scott Brison, meanwhile, wants you to know that for every $95,000 the government spends to air one of these ads during the hockey playoffs, 32 students could get a summer position for that money. But – confidence!
Another hot day in the Nation’s Capital, but unlike yesterday, all party leaders were in the House. Thomas Mulcair once again began by reading questions about the improperly tracked $3.1 billion in anti-terror funds, but he was restraining himself from the kinds of wild gesticulations of yesterday. Harper stood up to assure him that the AG has indicated there was no sign that the funds were misspent, but that there were discrepancies in reporting between departments. Mulcair then turned to the topic of temporary foreign workers, and the warning that there were approvals being given in places with high unemployment. Harper assured him that while they were making changes to ensure that Canadians got first crack at those jobs, the NDP were voting against the changes and writing to ask for more approvals being granted. For the Liberals, Justin Trudeau boasted of his travels to Winnipeg, Edmonton and the Ottawa Valley over the past week, and decried the money spent on advertising as opposed to helping the struggling middle class. Harper assured him that they were moving forward on economic measures, which Harper insisted that the Liberals opposed — while Trudeau shook his head.
Some Conservative MPs are grumbling because they’ve been good little soldiers and submitted their names to the speaking list, and when those “rogue” MPs stand up and get recognised instead, they feel put out. Aww, the poor dears. Never mind that we should abolish the lists entirely and make MPs stand up and actively participate rather than follow up and read prepared speeches into the record in faux debate like good little drones, as what our parliament has degraded to. If the poor dears have something that needs to be said, they can stand up too and hope to be recognised.
It was a gorgeous — and hot — Monday in Ottawa, but there were few leaders present in the House. Thomas Mulcair was present, however, and started off by reading off questions about the AG’s report on the improperly tracked $3.1 billion, gesticulating a little more wildly than usual today. Jason Kenney, the designated back-up PM du jour, reminded him that the Auditor General said there was no evidence that any money was misspent, and that Treasury Board had accepted his recommendations. Mulcair carried on, taking the entire leader’s round, and asked about the changes to the collective bargaining for the CBC, wondering if they were going to ensure that Peter Mansbridge wasn’t paid any more than Ezra Levant. Kenney hit back by reminding him that when he was in the Quebec government, they had control over collective bargaining for their Crown Corporations there too. For the Liberals, Ralph Goodale asked about the tax changes in the budget, and how it was affecting the hard done-by middle class. Jason Kenney insisted that the total share of the federal tax burden was at its lowest level since 1965, thanks to the Conservatives. Marc Garneau closed out the round, asking about the tariff changes, but Jason Kenney gave the very same talking point as before.
As it happens, charities like World Vision and Engineers Without Borders have been using their funds to send MPs on trips to regions that they’re assisting. Rather than, you know, spending those thousands of dollars on their projects to help the poor and needy in developing countries. This isn’t to say that the MPs are being improper, or that they’re using the trips as some kind of vacation because let’s face it – nobody could argue that case at all. But it does remind us that there are reasons why we should give MPs travel budgets so that they can do trips like this in the service of their duties, rather than forcing charities to pay for it, or for them to take trips from foreign or corporate interests. Of course, any travel that does happen gets people like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in a big twist because OMG taxpayers’ hard earned dollars are supporting MPs on foreign travel isn’t that just horrible and awful! Erm, except that if we expect them to learn about their files and the policies they’re legislating on – and that can mean more than just the MPs on the foreign affairs committee – then we should also realise that we should be able to pay for it too.
In the wake of the rather damning internal report at Elections Canada about the problems that have plagued the last election (but which no doubt have been cumulative over successive elections), the agency has agreed with its recommendations but says that it will likely take political cooperation from all sides in order to implement the needed changes – especially as it will cost more to hire more staff and get additional resources. The former Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, doesn’t see that as a problem because everyone knows that the system needs to be fixed. Elsewhere, the Conservatives are gloating while a Liberal campaign worker from the 2008 election was charged with failing to file election returns. Meanwhile, it seems that the party’s treatment of Michael Sona has created a rift in the local Conservatives in Guelph.
In a somewhat surprising move, the Bank of Canada has named Stephen Poloz as its new governor, and not Tiff Macklem, as had long been speculated. Poloz, who was most recently the head of Export Development Canada, has worked at the Bank of Canada in the past, but at the press conference yesterday, Mark Carney stressed that it’s a team effort at the Bank, so Macklem will still play a role, and so on. Maclean’s gives you the ten things you need to know about Poloz, John Geddes writes about what we’ll miss about Carney, and John Ivison writes about Poloz’s challenge of working with the government’s agenda.
Despite it being only a Thursday, Elizabeth May was the only leader in the House. Harper wasn’t even present for the many self-congratulatory Members’ Statements about the second anniversary of the “strong, stable, national majority Conservative government.” In the absence of Thomas Mulcair, it was up to Libby Davies to read off a pair of questions about the improperly tracked $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funds, to which James Moore, the designated back-up PM du jour, read off the Auditor General’s assurances that the money was not actually misspent. Davies moved onto the topic of search and rescue and threw in a mention for the need to reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. Moore insisted that they were making investments and changes to the system as evidenced by this morning’s announcement. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe repeated the same in French — without a script — the twist being about the Quebec City substation (MacKay: We are making these necessary investments; Clement: The AG stated that there was no evidence of misspending). For the Liberals, Bob Rae led off — and got a round of applause from the Conservative benches for it — and asked about the “stealth campaign” of raising taxes, be they payroll or tariffs. Moore insisted that it was a ridiculous question, and lauded the many ways in which the government has lowered taxes. For his final question, Rae asked about withdrawals from the Interparliamentary Union, to which Moore replied that there was no withdrawal on the world stage.
Business groups are referring to the somewhat ham-handed way that Jason Kenney is responding to the outcry over temporary foreign workers as a political solution that will hurt the economy. And it is a political problem that is divorced from the actual problems that exist within the labour market. Tim Harper lays out the way in which the government is once again engaging in poor policy around this issue because of the way in which it has played out to its anxious base.