Senate QP: Infrastructure questions

The first Senate ministerial Question Period of the fall was the return of Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, his third time before the Senate in such a manner. Senator Larry Smith led off, raising the government’s financial reports and the PBO report talking about delays to Infrastructure spending rollout, and wondered why things were so slow. Sohi noted the approval process and the lag time that was part of it, and that they will pay invoices as they are forwarded to the federal government. Smith noted the Senate national finance committee study on infrastructure spending, and Sohi noted that they had streamlined some of their processes and eliminated some of the the paper burden, but they were still working toward simpler bilateral processes with the provinces based on four funding streams.

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Roundup: A couple of thoughts on the BC situation

Given the (likely) minority government result in British Columbia last week, a number of people have been trying to game out various different scenarios for how this all might happen. Meanwhile, media everywhere are flocking to hear what the Green Party has to say, with their apparent balance of power, while Elizabeth May in Ottawa keep spouting this laundry list of things that apparently 57 percent of British Columbians voted for, despite the fact that there is no actual proof that those voters all voted for those very things, be it electoral reform or stopping the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Nevertheless, when UBC economist Kevin Milligan asked my thoughts, here is what I told him:

I do think the fact that the legislature won’t sit until October is a key factor. BC has always been a bit weird about this, and there has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from some political scientists over social media that there is a pattern of cancelling the spring session of the BC legislature and few people seem all that bothered about it, while Christy Clark seems to make it sound like it’s such a terrible imposition that they have to bother sitting at all, which is weird and uncool for a democracy.

There is a burgeoning convention that if it’s been six months, that it’s more likely that the GG or the lieutenant governor will call an election rather than entertain an attempt by the opposition to form government. And what I meant by how leaders perform in the meantime is whether there are any temper tantrums (particularly from the NDP leader, who has been fighting a reputation for being a hothead throughout the campaign), and that will weigh on how the public perceives any kind of government arrangement – we did live through this in Ottawa in 2008, and the fact that Harper mostly kept his cool while Stéphane Dion went apoplectic certainly helped Harper’s case with the general public. As I also mentioned, I have a suspicion that the Greens will try to overplay their hands in trying to get a bigger share of the governing pie, and making a list of demands that may not be saleable to Clark. Of course, the moment that happens, she has ammunition to go back to the voters to say “look at how unreasonable these people are, and they want to destroy the economy, so you need to give me a real majority mandate.” We’ll see if any of this happens, but this is pretty much what I have to say on the matter for now.

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Senate QP: Rapid-fire Sohi

Fresh from a vote in the House of Commons, Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi headed over the the Senate for their own Question Period. Senator Smith led off for the Conservatives, asking him how the government is determining priorities for their infrastructure programme. Sohi acknowledged that when they formed government, there was a lack of data on the infrastructure needs around the country, which is why they put their initial focus on repairing existing infrastructure while they got the longer-term plan underway. Smith asked when they anticipated getting their data out to Canadians, and Sohi said that once the budget implementation act was approved, he would sit down with provinces to work with their reporting to match federal standards, given that it was all a series of bilateral agreements.

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