Things on the Attawapiskat file got even more interesting yesterday with leaks of the independent audit of the band’s finances – the full report going online later in the day on the Aboriginal Affairs website. The gist – there was almost no due diligence with spending on the reserve, little to no documentation, and no way to tell if any of the money has been spent effectively. And remember that Spence’s partner is the band’s co-manager, whose job it is to handle the money. Spence has also known the audit’s results since August 28th, and has refused to comment to the audit firm about it. While it was due to be released no later than the middle of next week, the PM’s spokesperson denied that it had been withheld deliberately. And Spence? Shut out the media from her Victoria Island campsite while her spokesperson said that the audit was wrong and wondered about the timing of the release. Paul Wells notes that of all the leaders, past prime ministers and would-be leaders who’ve visited Spence, Thomas Mulcair was conspicuously absent, which may have turned out to be a prudent thing. Jonathan Kay parses the lessons inherent in that year-old CBC report on Attawapiskat, and applies them to the current situation. John Ivison looks at the audit, and the context of Theresa Spence’s ever-changing goal posts, while Andrew Coyne looks at the tensions in the Aboriginal community between those looking to modernise with incremental advancements the way the current government is proceeding with, and those who consider those advancements “genocide.”
Admittedly I got to the Senate chamber late (and it was a bit of a miracle that I made it at all this morning), and when I made it, Question Period was already underway. After missing a question on a local Nova Scotia concerns from Senator Mercer, which Senator LeBreton took under advisement, I came in while Senator Dallaire was on his feet, asking about the government’s messaging on the issue of Syria, and Canada’s capacitor for peacekeeping operations considering the ongoing commitments in Afghanistan and the Canadian Forces currently “licking their wounds.” Senator LeBreton, answering for the government as is what happens in the Senate, responded with her usual derision and withering sarcasm, decrying that Dallaire — a decorated retired Lieutenant General — could “insult” the Forces by using the term “licking their wounds,” and then praised the work of John Baird as minister of foreign affairs.
After a much shorter voting marathon than we’ve become accustomed to, all of the amendments to Omnibus Budget Bill 2: The Revenge have been defeated, and it moves onto a one-day time-allocated third reading debate today. Remember when the government promised they’d be open to amendments and stuff? Yeah, good times.
The “temporary” measure of having prisoners in segregation double bunking – as in, two people in a small space for 23 hours a day – has been going on for two years in some prairie institutions. Yeah, this is going to end well.
Oh dear – it looks like the M-4 Unit – err, Julian Fantino didn’t get his duotronic databanks updated when he was given his new portfolio. As it turns out, he’s not familiar with the five principles of effective foreign aid that CIDA is committed to upholding.
With an expected eight-hour vote-athon looming, and with Harper off meeting the Prime Minister of South Korea, QP got underway with Thomas Mulcair reading off a question about implausible economic forecasting. John Baird, again the designated back-up PM du jour, recited his Economic Action Plan™ talking points. For his final question, Mulcair asked about the government fighting the release of Residential School documents, bringing up how Jack Layton worked with Harper on the apology. Baird assured him that all relevant documents would be released to the question – but one wonders if “relevant” was the key word. Jean Crowder followed up asking the very same thing, to which John Duncan reminded her that he answered those very same questions in committee yesterday. Bob Rae was then up for the Liberals, making the case for refundable tax credits so that they actually benefit low-income Canadians, but Baird wouldn’t actually acknowledge the issue. For his final question, Rae asked the issue the issue of OxyContin in northern Reserves and mechanisms available to the federal government, but Leona Aglukkaq decided to hit back and blame the Liberals for approving OxyContin in the first place. This caused some outburst from Carolyn Bennett, but I missed what she said.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! iPolitics has obtained documents that show that Corrections Canada is changing their policy to allow for double bunking to be normal policy, and to eliminate rules around maximum capacity. Not only does this violate our international agreements on corrections policy and it’s been proven to be bad for correctional behaviour period, but it’s like an invitation to a return to the era of prison riots. Well done, Vic Toews!
Here is your rough guide to the remaining stages of Omnibus Budget Bill 2: The Revenge in the Commons.
Ruh-roh! New documents show that the government was being briefed about the cost overruns of the F-35 fighters in advance of the Auditor General’s report. How much of this is just bureaucratic ass-covering is a question, but nevertheless, it looks like they knew more than they were letting on.
It’s Friday, and Stephen Harper is jetting off to Labrador to announce a loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls hydro project – a project that embattled minister Peter Penashue has family ties with, which means he’s back to the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Commissioner’s office.
When Omnibus Budget Bill 2: The Revenge returns to the Commons, it’ll face between 26 and 47 votes on amendments put forward by the Greens. Kady O’Malley explains why the Speaker’s hands were tied when Scott Brison tried to point out the improper procedure employed in order to get some of his amendments back.
Over at the Natural Resources Committee, the Conservatives managed to work through the Liberal filibustering and have summoned David McGuinty and Justin Trudeau to appear before the committee to explain their “anti-Alberta” comments – not that McGuinty’s comments were anti-Alberta, and despite the fact that it offers both a platform to publicly denounce the job the government is doing in a public forum. But hey, it’s not like the committee has anything better to do than engage in a partisan witch-hunt.
There were almost a couple of surprising upsets in last night’s trio of by-elections. Almost, but not quite. The Greens were running a surprising close second in Victoria, while the Liberals were very competitive with the Conservatives in Calgary Centre, until finally the Conservatives pulled ahead. But while it was a hold in all three ridings, it did signal that there are rumblings in the political realm across the country. The Conservatives and the NDP did poorly in two of the ridings where they were incumbents, and nearly lost them. In Calgary Centre, the NDP were virtually non-existent, running a distant fourth to the Greens, who had strong showings in two of the three ridings. And for the Liberals to run a close second in Calgary, their best result in 44 years, is a signal that the Conservatives aren’t tending to their base, and that the Red Tories in the party are restless. And throughout it all, there will be the weird paradox of Justin Trudeau being both blamed for the loss in Calgary Centre, and praised for energising the voters and getting them that best-in-44-years result.
The big news from yesterday morning was that Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney has accepted the position as governor of the Bank of England to start in July. He’ll remain in his current post until June in order to ensure a stable transition. John Geddes sees the inevitability of the decision. Paul Wells looks at the growing phenomenon of the “international mandarin class.” Andrew Coyne looks at Carney’s ambition, and notes that when he returns to Canada five-and-a-half years hence, he’ll be far enough away from his old job that any political ambitions he may have will be more palatable. Stephen Gordon looks at some possible successors at the Bank of Canada. And here’s a look at what the British press is saying about Carney’s appointment.
With a news-packed morning passed and the by-election anticipation building, the House was absent of party leaders today. Megan Leslie took the lead for the NDP, asking about Omnibus Budget Bill 2: The Revenge and the government’s refusal to accept amendments, despite having made mistakes in the previous omnibus budget bill that this bill had measures to correct. Jason Kenney, the back-up PM du jour, went on about unnecessary regulations and ponds on farmers’ fields. When Leslie asked him about the “contingency plans” spoken of by Flaherty as he and Harper contradicted one another on the deficit numbers, Kenney touted the Economic Action Plan™ instead. Peter Julian was then up to ask about the yet-unreleased foreign takeover rules, but Christian Paradis accused the NDP of being anti-investment. Paradis went a little off-message by accusing the Liberals of opposing foreign investment as well, when the usual talking point is that they rubberstamped every foreign takeover that came before them. (Looks like someone’s handler is going to have to give him a talking to). Ralph Goodale was up for the Liberals, and pressed about the refugee health cuts, especially with the comments made by Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. Kenney said that the provinces can make any decisions they like about additional insurance for refugee claimants, and left it in their laps.
Our long national nightmare is over – or is it? Justin Trudeau apologised for his comments about Alberta, saying he meant Conservatives when he said Albertans. Well, then. And so we continue to obsess over it all. Trudeau’s camp tested the sincerity of the apology by immediately putting out a fundraising letter to help them counter the Conservative attack machine. Martin Patriquin dissects the pandering in fantastic style. Andrew Coyne examines the comments and apology alongside those made by David McGuinty, and concludes that in their proper context, McGuitny’s were downright admirable for calling out parochialism, whereas Trudeau’s makes one question the breadth of vision required to govern a country such as ours.
The Premiers concluded their meeting and are talking about collaborating on energy issues, skills training, trade, and infrastructure. Also, Redford and Clark didn’t get into a catfight, and Marois apparently acquitted herself well for her first time out, in case anyone was wondering.
Justin Trudeau said something a bit impolitic in an interview two years ago about how Quebeckers were tired of Albertan prime ministers and how having more Quebeckers in positions of power would be better for the country – all in the context of pandering to a Quebec audience while fighting for his seat against separatists, which is not wholly unexpected. But SunTV “revealed” it yesterday, and suddenly everyone lost their minds. Because we had nothing better to talk about, apparently. Also lost in the pile-on was the old Reform ad campaign about “no more prime ministers from Quebec, “ but hey, that’s all in the past, right? And it’s not like politicians in this country could ever be accused of regionalism, ever. Anyway, Trudeau refused to apologise, and simply declared it to have been taken out of context, for what it’s worth.
Over in the Commons finance committee, voting continues apace on the 3000+ amendments that Scott Brison introduced, and because the Conservatives and NDP on the committee voted to change their own rules, so that the amendments would be kept in the committee rather than going to the House once time elapsed, the voting continues in committee. Kady O’Malley has been liveblogging the proceedings diligently.