The people of Labrador have spoken, and by a rather large margin have decided that Liberal Yvonne Jones should represent them in the House of Commons, rather than forgiving Peter Penashue and giving him another chance. The wisdom on the ground is that this was entirely a local race and had almost nothing to do with the national scene, Justin Trudeau’s leadership and whatnot. Penashue said he accomplished more in two years than any other MP anywhere, which is the kind of hyperbole we’ve come to expect from the guy who apparently did ALL THE THINGS for Labrador, and hence this defeat will be Labrador’s loss. The Conservative Party also issued a graceless statement which nevertheless tried to turn it into some kind of indictment of Trudeau’s leadership, claiming they lost twenty points since his leadership win (though no one has seemed to find any polls which had them over seventy percent), and claiming that majority governments don’t normally win by-elections (which is also not exactly true, considering how many they’ve won to date). Jones’ win means this is the first time that the Liberals have increased their seat count at the ballot box in over a decade (the only other time they’ve increased their count, of course, being when Lise St-Denis defected from the NDP).
With the March For Life having left the lawn outside the Hill, and Mark Warawa having won his little victory by making a statement on female “gendercide” in the House, Question Period got started with Thomas Mulcair reading a question on whether the government would back the NDP’s opposition day motion on the improperly reported $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funds. Harper got up and calmly reminded him that the Auditor General himself said the money was not misspent, and they will follow through on improving their reporting on the future. Mulcair then turned to the issue of the Senate audits and made a number of scurrilous accusations about the character of the Other Place. Harper said that the external auditors found ambiguities in the rules but that the Senate expected better of its members and they would be repaying the money owed. For his final question, Mulcair asked about a woman who was denied benefits while she received treatment for breast cancer while on maternity leave. Harper said that they recently changed the rules in order to ensure that these instances wouldn’t happen again. For the Liberals, Dominic LeBlanc asked about the government’s wasteful spending on ads and media monitoring instead of youth summer jobs. Diane Finley rose to take that question, and rejected the premise, and touted the launch of the Canada Summer Jobs programme. Ralph Goodale was up next, asking the same in English — and got the very same response. For his final question, Goodale asked about the demise of the long-form census, noting that some small towns were wiped out because of insufficient data. Christian Paradis responded with the red herring about a larger sample size ignoring the actual statistical invalidity of much of the data.
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday, caucus day, and the benches were mostly full, except for Thomas Mulcair’s seat. Well, that’s not entirely true — one of the backbenchers from the nosebleeds was filling the seat while Mulcair was on a plane to Labrador, headed there directly after the morning’s caucus meeting. That left it up to deputy leader David Christopherson to get things off to a shouty start, yelling about cuts to Elections Canada amidst the report that showed the magnitude of problems during the past election. Harper assured him that Elections Canada recommended their own cuts and their legislation to strengthen their powers was forthcoming, based on their own recent report. Nycole Turmel was up next, asking about the improperly tracked $3.1 billion identified in the Auditor General’s report. Harper reminded her that the Auditor General himself pointed out that nothing pointed to any misspending, and that Treasury Board had already accepted his recommendations. For the Liberals, Justin Trudeau was up to decry Harper’s lack of understanding of the plight of the middle class. Harper assured him of all the great programmes they had for everyday Canadians, and look at how great the country is doing compared to other OECD countries.
The Auditor General released a report yesterday, and it was a bit of a doozy, at least with regards to the revelation that some $3.1 billion in anti-terror funding is not properly accounted for. Not that it’s actually been misspent, but the recordkeeping is a bit sloppy, and some of it was victim to a “whole of government approach,” according to Tony Clement. Among other issues the AG cited – that our search and rescue infrastructure is headed for total systems failure, that they need to crack down on EI overpayments, problems with expense claims by the Old Port of Montreal, and that there are problems with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as it is beset by conflict with other federal departments over documents. John Ivison says the report is like ‘manna’ for the NDP, and I can hardly wait for the number of times that Thomas Mulcair gets to say “failure of good public administration” over the next several days.