Poor Senator Mike Duffy. Poor, poor Senator Duffy. So poor, in fact, that he had Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff write him a personal cheque for $90,000 to cover his housing allowance repayment. And how did the dear Senator repay Wright for his very generous gift? By bragging around town that Wright had done it, enough that those emails found their way to one of Duffy’s former journalist colleagues. Oh, and such a “gift” would also be against Sec. 17(1) of the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. Oops. (And apparently the Ethics Commissioner on the Commons side is now looking into Wright’s actions). Now, there is some ambiguity in those regulations, predicated on what constitutes a gift and just how close of a friendship the pair have – and that came as the bombshell later in the day. After an afternoon of Conservative talking heads peddling the story that the pair were very close, and that Wright helped Duffy out because he was concerned about his financial situation given his health and all, comes the revelation that Duffy tried to say that he got a loan from the Royal Bank and that Wright had no part in this, and more than that, insiders say that Duffy and Wright barely know one another. This despite PMO’s assurances to the contrary, although they tried to paint this in that altruistic light, while simultaneously trying to shift the attention to Senators Brazeau and Harb instead. They were also trying to peddle the line that Harper knew nothing about this – that his own chief of staff cut a cheque to make a noisy and embarrassing story go away, and yet the boss was kept in the dark? Yeah, that’s totally plausible. Tell me again how this is going to end well for any of the parties involved.
In a rather surprising announcement at the end of the day yesterday, the government has named the Parliamentary Librarian as the interim Parliamentary Budget Officer until Kevin Page’s replacement can be found. That process is internal to the Library, and Page has expressed concerns that the makeup of the committee charged with the search is being kept secret, but I do get concerned when opposition parties want input into those processes, because it ultimately erodes the accountability for those appointments. Look at the questions surrounding Arthur Porter these days, and how Vic Toews skirts accountability by pointing out that the opposition leaders were consulted on his appointment. That’s why the prerogative power of appointment should rest with the Governor in Council – because it keeps the executive as the sole resting place of accountability. Meanwhile, the job criteria for the next PBO have been posted, and they include qualities like “discreet” and “consensus seeking” – perhaps not too surprising after the battles that Page had with the previous Parliamentary Librarian over his role.
The shocking news last night was that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty resigned suddenly – and prorogued the Legislature to let the dust settle. His party was facing contempt proceedings, and prorogation collapses them, but he did just resign, which is the ultimate accountability measure. Meanwhile, a team has been assembling to try to encourage him to run for federal leader for a while – not that it’s likely to happen. Here is reaction from Stephen Harper and Bob Rae. Paul Wells looks back at McGuinty’s career, and the situation his party now finds itself in.
Incidentally, I’m really not that outraged about this prorogation, possibly because I actually know what a prorogation means, and I’m not of the belief that it’s illegitimate for a government to exercise its Crown powers. He wasn’t facing a confidence motion, and it was well within his right as premier to do so – especially to allow time for the dust to settle from his resignation. I’m a little less keen if he plans to keep it prorogued until after his party’s leadership contest, but they’re planning on a quick one, so I wouldn’t expect it to be out for six months. And if anyone can tell me what exactly the piling on by opposition parties would contribute at this point when the premier has already taken that ultimate step and resigned, well, be my guest.
In advance of the Francophonie summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pauline Marois has beaten Harper to the punch by meeting with opposition and civil society groups first, even though Harper has also promised to meet with them and to speak to the country’s leadership about some of the major human rights problems there, like using rape as a weapon of war. Harper’s trip to Senegal was also in large part about encouraging trade with the region, and making Senegal into a hub for investment. And in advance of the Harper/Marois meeting, the National Post’s Steve Murray offers some suggestions for things they probably should and shouldn’t say to one another.
The Russian ambassador said the scandal over this navy spy will fade away, and that “even friends spy on each other.” Because we want to forget that the danger of old-fashioned spying still does exist, despite our current preoccupations with counter-terrorism and hacking.
So those army trucks that got cancelled at the last minute? It seems their costs escalated when DND kept adding in new capabilities to the “off-the-shelf” models, and the price tag went up. Just like with those Chinook helicopters, if you recall. But no, our procurement system isn’t broken.
Shawn Atleo has been re-elected as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He won on the third ballot, but the fact that nearly a third of the chiefs voted against him, he has some work ahead.
Aww, Julian Fantino thinks it’s “unfair” that the Toronto Star dares to go to Afghanistan and dares to print that our aid efforts haven’t lived up to expectations, because apparently that doesn’t fit his party’s narrative.
A new parliamentary report says that arcane rules are keeping MPs from doing their jobs when it comes to scrutinising the estimates. It’s good that they acknowledge that, and I’m still working my way though reading the report, but some of those rules aren’t that arcane and were more recent additions in order to keep the opposition from bogging down the business of government (this being the “deemed” rule whereby estimates are “deemed adopted” if they pass a certain date on the calendar). And MPs have always had the ability to change those rules whenever they decided it was time to start taking the estimates process more seriously, so this tone of them being the poor victims of traditions dating back to the Magna Carta really reads hollow to me, sorry to say. There are also calls in the report to strengthen the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which is all well and good, but a) good luck getting this government to agree to it, and b) we should be careful not to make it tempting for MPs to simply fob off their responsibilities of scrutinising the estimates to him more than they already are.
Uh oh – when Christian Paradis was minister of Public Works, he had the department roll out the welcome mat for firms from his riding. Apparently the Ethics Commissioner have him a talking to about the fact that while it’s all well and good to represent your constituents, as a minister there are limits. But like Paradis said, these are all just learning experiences, right?
Vic Toews held a press conference yesterday to say that hey, that big explosion in prisoner populations didn’t happen, so here, let’s reallocate $1.48 billion from corrections back to the Finance Department’s fiscal framework. Except that Toews is being awfully disingenuous here. The provisions from Bill C-10? Most of them haven’t even come into force yet, and some of them won’t until oh, November. Add to that the time it will take the cases that the court sees after such rulings come into force to make their way through the system (since these laws aren’t retroactive), and then, two or three years down the road, we’ll see the effect. So one has to wonder – is Toews trying to manufacture a crisis in the corrections system? We know there is overcrowding and double bunking happening already, we know that there is a rise in prison violence, and we know that there is a time bomb on the way when it comes to that explosion in prison populations. And the endgame? Well, I suspect it may have to do with more private sector involvement in the penal system, as we’ve already heard they’re looking into. Something to consider anyway.
After those Enbridge hearings in the States, Thomas Mulcair says that we should pull the plug on the Northern Gateway pipeline entirely. BC Premier Christy Clark is putting Enbridge “on notice” about pipeline safety.
With it being Stampede time in Calgary, Stephen Harper has made a triumphant “homecoming speech” to the crowd there about how he wants to transform Canada to be one of the “next generation of economic powers,” and that even though all of his changes aren’t popular they are necessary. Note that he again takes credit for Paul Martin’s achievements and for resource prices. Also in attendance were Alison Redford and Danielle Smith, and Redford got more applause than Smith, even though that federal Conservatives tend to be more in the Wildrose Party camp.
As is typical at this time of year, journalists seem mystified that the Liberals are showing the flag in the heart of “enemy territory” – as if there are no Liberals in Alberta, which is not true. Bob Rae says that looking at the elections of Naheed Nenshi and Alison Redford shows that there is an appetite for centrist, progressive politics in places like Calgary – though traditionally this has been harder to achieve at the federal level, as Calgarians tend to vote increasingly conservative the higher level one goes. And add the obligatory Justin Trudeau leadership speculation as he works – and woos – the crowds there.
If you do plan on attending Stampede, here is some expert advice from stylists on how to dress without looking like a complete bumpkin.
Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, is taking a lead role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, as opposed to our actual international trade minister. Not unsurprisingly, it’s ruffled a few feathers. While everyone has plenty of praise for the minister, Ed Fast, it does seem that most of the federal cabinet is there purely for symbolic reasons and to reward well-behaved MPs these days. That said, it underlines the importance that this government is placing on trade deals as a large part of their economic agenda.
Harper is currently off at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. John Geddes explains the Euro bailout/IMF issue facing Harper here.
Happy Victoria Day, everyone! Be sure to raise a glass in honour of Victoria, the first Queen of Canada, as well as in honour of the official birthday of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, the present Queen of Canada. In case you didn’t realise, Victoria Day is actually a distinctly Canadian holiday not celebrated by anyone else.
Speaking of the Canadian royal family, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, have arrived and begin their brief royal tour in New Brunswick today, before heading to Toronto later on for the Victoria Day fireworks there.
Thomas Mulcair, digging his heels in on the “Dutch disease” issue, declares that this will be the defining issue for the next election. You know, not a scandal-plagued and incompetent government with heavy-headed and dictatorial tendencies, but something that the Conservatives can rouse their Western base about, along with any other region that is involved in resource extraction. That’s tactical genius at work.
Voter-identification robo-calls have already started in Etobicoke Centre, and the by-election hasn’t even been called yet. Because apparently it’s never too early to get started on this kind of work. Meanwhile, Pundit’s Guide breaks down the riding’s recent electoral history and the dynamics at play.
Peter MacKay indicates that we won’t be extending our current training mission in Afghanistan.
Instead of providing a reasonable explanation why Environment Canada was dumping a bunch of office furniture rather than recycling it, Peter Kent’s office decided to go the route of blaming the media and calling the story “false.” Transparency and accountability, everyone!
Here’s a strange little tale about mysterious Canadian bank accounts in Liechtenstein.
And Lisa Raitt is cautioning CP Rail to think twice about striking. Because she’s apparently not afraid to drop the hammer – again.