The audits on Senators Duffy, Brazeau and Harb came out yesterday and found against all three, and while Duffy had pre-emptively repaid all of his expenses, Harb was ordered to pay some $51,482 and Brazeau some $48,744 (both figures include interest). No word on Brazeau’s reaction but Harb is not going down quietly. While he did resign from the Liberal caucus, he has also retained a very prominent lawyer to represent him as he challenges the findings. Because part of the audit also found that there was ambiguity in the rules, and those ambiguities are were Harb really fell into. There was also news that Senator Duffy had improperly charged per diems while he was in Florida on vacation – but he blamed that on a temporary assistant while his usual one was on maternity leave, and that he repaid those expenses immediately upon finding out the error. Meanwhile, the Liberal Senate leader, James Cowan, has said he does want to see if these results can be turned over to the RCMP, the Senate has also adopted new rules that spells the end of the “honour system” that the Senate previously operated under. The Senators that I’ve spoken to have no problem with this, but this isn’t over yet. Susan Delacourt muses about the public reaction to misspending rather than egregious behaviour like these three senators’ entitlements, lying to the House or contempt of parliament, and what kind of signal that sends.
It’s time for census National Household Survey data! So many things to talk about – starting with the reminder that the quality of this data is not as good as that of other years thanks to the fact that it isn’t as methodologically sound and full of sample bias, they’re now going to charge for the data that used to be free, and a few other facts about how it was collected. Here’s a look at the top line numbers. A lot of the data in this release was about religious demographics – more people without religion (now the second-highest group in the country), more Muslims as they are the fastest-growing religious group, and fewer people who listed “Jedi.” There was also a lot of data on Aboriginals, who were one of the fastest growing segments of the population, but they are also losing touch with their native languages, and more of them are growing up in foster care. Our immigrant population has surged, and we now have the highest percentage in the G8. Some small towns in the Conservative heartland were pretty much wiped out of the reporting because people simply did not reply. Economist Stephen Gordon is less than impressed by the quality of the data, and questions who will find it usable.
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.
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.
Some Conservative MPs are grumbling because they’ve been good little soldiers and submitted their names to the speaking list, and when those “rogue” MPs stand up and get recognised instead, they feel put out. Aww, the poor dears. Never mind that we should abolish the lists entirely and make MPs stand up and actively participate rather than follow up and read prepared speeches into the record in faux debate like good little drones, as what our parliament has degraded to. If the poor dears have something that needs to be said, they can stand up too and hope to be recognised.
In the wake of the rather damning internal report at Elections Canada about the problems that have plagued the last election (but which no doubt have been cumulative over successive elections), the agency has agreed with its recommendations but says that it will likely take political cooperation from all sides in order to implement the needed changes – especially as it will cost more to hire more staff and get additional resources. The former Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, doesn’t see that as a problem because everyone knows that the system needs to be fixed. Elsewhere, the Conservatives are gloating while a Liberal campaign worker from the 2008 election was charged with failing to file election returns. Meanwhile, it seems that the party’s treatment of Michael Sona has created a rift in the local Conservatives in Guelph.
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.
Monday in the House, and most of the leaders were absent. Thomas Mulcair was present, and read off a pair of questions about the temporary foreign workers programme changes. Jason Kenney, the designated back-up PM du jour, stood up to insist him that Mulcair was wrong, and that these workers would be paid at the prevailing rate range, and only if Canadians were being paid at that same rate, and added that they need to ensure that the unemployed accept jobs in their regions. Mulcair transitioned the the lockout at US Steel, to which Kenney insisted that the question was pure demagoguery, and this was about a labour dispute. Chris Charlton stood up to ask the very same temporary foreign workers programme questions, to which Kenney gave her the same response, and brought up the many times that the NDP were begging him to allow more of said workers in their ridings. Marc Garneau led off for the Liberals, asking about the “payroll tax” of EI premiums. Kenney stood up to insist that the Liberals wanted more benefits without the increase in premiums, and that they wanted to repeal the GST cuts. For his last question, Garneau revisited last week’s theme of youth unemployment, to which Kenney insisted that no government has done more than theirs to help youth employment.
Vic Toews is all over the news right now, and quite possibly all over Question Period later today. Yesterday morning Toews was on The West Block and basically said that the RCMP “communications protocol” was put into place so that he doesn’t get ambushed by opposition questions in the House after the parliamentarians who had those meetings bring up things they discussed. Aww, muffin! Access to information documents also show that Toews tried to limit the RCMP’s apology to the families of victims of serial killer Robert Pickton. The RCMP ended up rejecting said revisions, saying they came in too late, but it appears to be a case of overreach, and likely an attempt to forestall any attempts of legal action that an admission that the RCMP could have done more to stop Pickton is likely to generate.
After allegations were made that the Supreme Court of Canada somehow intervened during the patriation of the Constitution, the Court’s investigation has turned up no documents to suggest that this is the case. Not that there was anything that they could really be expected to find – phone records from 1982? And every justice on the bench at that time is now deceased, so it’s not like they could ask any of them. This, however, is not good enough for either the PQ government in Quebec, nor Thomas Mulcair, who seems to think that the Supreme Court is somehow covering something up. No, really, though one is left to wonder how much of this is yet another attempt to pander to nationalists in Quebec. And thus we can add another institution that Mulcair has “respect” for – the Senate, the Crown and now the Supreme Court. So much respect…