The time came once again for Senate QP, and this week the special guest star was Jean-Yves Duclos, minister for families, children and social development. Senator Larry Smith led off, asking about CMHC providing the government with a special dividend while raising insurance fees for young families trying to buy their first home. After the Speaker gave Duclos the option not to respond as it wasn’t really within his ministry’s responsibility, Duclos said that he would let the finance minister know and try to get him an answer.
Senator Maltais asked a double-header around the potential job losses at the Davie Shipyard, and also wondered about that Quebec City bridge in a dispute with CN. Duclos noted that these really weren’t questions for him, but that his counterparts were engaged in discussions on both files.
The Commons Board of Internal Economy has ruled, and the NDP have been determined to owe some $1.17 million for those improper mailings, $36,000 of which is owed to the House of Commons, the rest they need to work out with Canada Post for the abuse of their Franking privileges. The NDP, of course, are spitting mad, calling it the work of a hyper-partisan kangaroo court, and declaring that they will seek judicial review of this decision in the Federal Court. This is also before there is any decision made about their “satellite offices,” which could mean that they will wind up owing even more money, and I’m sure there will be even more threats of lawsuits and judicial review, none of which serves anyone’s purposes, though the NDP’s status as paragons of virtue is certainly being tainted by all of this. If nothing else, they are now sounding very much like another party that got in trouble for being cute with the rules – unless you have forgotten about the whole “In & Out” affair.
The Correctional Investigator is sounding the alarm as the number of isolation cases in prisons continues to rise, with solitary being used in cases that are increasingly inappropriate, and more mind-bogglingly, there are cases where they are double-bunking people in solitary. You know, the opposite of “solitary.” But hey, Vic Toews kept assuring us that there was no population crisis in prisons, and that all of the fears of a population explosion post-mandatory minimum sentence bill passing were all overblown. Somehow the numbers don’t seem to be showing that to be the case.
Thanks to government stonewalling, the Parliamentary Budget Office is now filing Access to Information requests in order to get information that they need, and paying for those requests out of their already meagre budgets. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund is giving former PBO Kevin Page high marks for his work while he was on the job.
Oh dear – it seems that things are not looking so good for Senator Patrick Brazeau. The RCMP have filed a Production Order in court, and among other things, it contains interview with staff and neighbours that paint a pretty convincing picture that Brazeau’s primary residence is not Maniwake, as his father owns the house there, not him, and it details his living arrangements before and after his divorce, and when he moved in with his then-girlfriend (whom he now faces the assault charges with), and that whenever he went to Maniwake, it was as a day trip, with the occasional overnight stay – at times in a local hotel, so as not to disturb his father. They are now pursuing Breach of Trust charges, which I will remind you is an indictable offence, and would be grounds for an immediate expulsion from the Senate upon conviction.
It was a much rowdier day in the House today, as a Conservative Members’ Statement on the fictional carbon tax as being the doom of Halloween got booed down just before the action got started. Thomas Mulcair was up first, reading a pair of questions related to the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s downgrading his fiscal projections, but John Baird – once again the back-up PM du jour – didn’t so much answer as chastised the NDP for voting against the previous budget bills. A question on youth unemployment merited more of the same. Libby Davies was up next, noting the report which said that food bank use continues to be up despite the economic recovery, and while Shelly Glover answered by saying that the PBO’s report also said good things about our performance relative to the rest of the world, while Diane Finley answered the supplemental and said that they were helping those who were suffering. Scott Brison was up for the Liberals today in Bob Rae’s stead, and he asked a trio of questions about the Conservatives not going after tax havens abroad while they cut the CRA, but Baird once again didn’t so much respond as made a bunch of non sequitur attacks about how the Liberals cut healthcare back in their day and so on.
With Members’ Statements getting rowdy before Question Period even started, Speaker Scheer warned, “let’s not have this again.” And really, we didn’t. QP was fairly listless overall. Thomas Mulcair started out reading a question on the $10 billion in cuts to Old Age Security, to which Harper said that no, there were no cuts but changes coming in 2023. Mulcair moved onto the topic of the Parliamentary Budget Officer not getting the information he requested, to which Harper responded that they wrote the Act that created the position, and they report that information to Parliament. Megan Leslie was up next wondering why it was that the FAQ page on about the Navigational Waters Act was pulled down from the government’s website, to which Lebel said that they were fixing “erroneous information” about that Act on the site. Down the memory hole it goes (excepting of course for Google cache and the Library and Archives Canada backup copy). Bob Rae was up next, asking if the changes to OAS were really worth it considering the negligible percentage of money that it affected, but Harper insisted it was all about future sustainability. For his final question, Rae asked why the government wasn’t prosecuting some HSBC tax evasion cases, to which Harper insisted that they don’t tolerate that behaviour, and that CRA was investigating.
In the fallout over the rejection of the Petrnoas deal, Stephen Harper stands behind Paradis, yet still insists we’re open for foreign investment. Economist Stephen Gordon calls bullshit on some of the excuses for turning down deals like Petronas. Andrew Coyne calls for the “net benefit” test to be abolished.
The Prime Minister of Jamaica visited Ottawa yesterday, to celebrate 50 years of friendship and our opening a Canadian Forces supply base in the country to serve the region. When asked about Jamaica’s plans to abolish their monarchy, Simpson said that while she loves and respects the Queen, and Jamaica will always be a member of the Commonwealth, she feels its part of her country’s evolution.
Lacklustre and listless – two words that could easily describe today’s Question Period. Harper was absent, which is not unusual for a Monday, and he’d just finished entertaining the Prime Minister of Jamaica before getting ready to head to Toronto to pay his respects to Lincoln Alexander, currently lying in State at the Ontario Legislature. Thomas Mulcair read off his first two questions, in French and English, about the rejection of the Petronas deal, to which Christian Paradis responded that he was not convinced that it would be of net benefit to Canada. And hey, at least it was Paradis responding and not a back-up PM du jour. Mulcair’s third question was about the rumours that the government wanted to privatise the CMHC, which Ted Menzies stood up to say that no, they had no plans to do so at this time. Peggy Nash then stood up and said “At. This. Time.” And then proceeded to read her two scripted questions on privatising the CMHC, where Menzies gave her the very same answer twice more. Bob Rae was up for the Liberals next, and first asked just what constituted “net benefit” with regards to the Petronas rejection, not that Paradis deviated from his message. Rae then asked about the Indian Act – the subject of his private member’s motion that was up for debate – and when the government would consult and head towards true equality with First Nations. John Duncan stood up and accused him of wanting more talk when the government was taking action. For his final question, Rae asked for a judicial inquiry in to the Jeffrey Delisle spy case, to which Peter MacKay told him that the issue was still before the courts.