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.
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.
As it happens, charities like World Vision and Engineers Without Borders have been using their funds to send MPs on trips to regions that they’re assisting. Rather than, you know, spending those thousands of dollars on their projects to help the poor and needy in developing countries. This isn’t to say that the MPs are being improper, or that they’re using the trips as some kind of vacation because let’s face it – nobody could argue that case at all. But it does remind us that there are reasons why we should give MPs travel budgets so that they can do trips like this in the service of their duties, rather than forcing charities to pay for it, or for them to take trips from foreign or corporate interests. Of course, any travel that does happen gets people like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in a big twist because OMG taxpayers’ hard earned dollars are supporting MPs on foreign travel isn’t that just horrible and awful! Erm, except that if we expect them to learn about their files and the policies they’re legislating on – and that can mean more than just the MPs on the foreign affairs committee – then we should also realise that we should be able to pay for it too.
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.
After what appeared to be a breakout of actual debate during the Orders of the Day relating to the NDP’s opposition day motion on climate change, no eruptions of MPs trying to catch the Speaker’s eye during Members’ Statements, and a moment of silence for workers killed on the job, it was time for QP. Tomas Mulcair started things off by reading a condemnation of Joe Oliver’s trip to Washington and his insulting of a climate scientist. James Moore, the designated back-up PM du jour, insisted that the NDP doesn’t understand economics, and that the government was fighting to create jobs. Mulcair then switched topics and read a question about the concerns the Conservative premier of New Brunswick has about the EI changes. Moore assured him that they were working with the premier as they were helping get people back to work. Yvon Godin then asked the same thing in French, turning puce with outrage as he read his script. Diane Finley responded with her stock assurances that they were helping Canadians get back to work. Bob Rae was up for the Liberals, and after making a reference to Harper’s admonition about “committing sociology,” he turned to the party’s topic of the week — youth unemployment. Moore assured him that they had created programmes to help youth and were addressing the problem. For his final question, Rae asked about the growing number of reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, to which Deepak Obhrai assured him that they were monitoring the situation, which they found unacceptable.
The press gallery was full at the very start of Members’ Statements, hoping that MPs would take the Speaker’s advice yesterday and start standing up to catch his eye, in order to bypass the dreaded Whip’s list. And no, nobody tried to catch the Speaker’s eye, and the list carried on unabated, with Warawa on said list to talk about a local talent show. Breathless anticipation, all for naught. When QP got underway, Thomas Mulcair read off a gimme question about meeting with Rehteah Parsons’ parents, and the need for cyberbullying legislation. (Funnily enough, the NDP voted against a bill to do just that by Liberal MP Hedy Fry, ostensibly because it was poorly drafted, yet not offering amendments). Harper agreed that there was a problem that needs to be addressed, and that they need to make it clear that the Internet was not a free pass for criminal behaviour. Mulcair moved onto the topic of the Federal Court decision regarding the Parliamentary Budget Officer, to which Harper replied with the implication that the previous PBO, Kevin Page, was partisan. Mulcair changed topics again, and moved onto the issue of privacy breaches, to which Harper assured him that they take those issues seriously and have developed action plans when breaches happen. Charmaine Borg asked the very same again, to which Tony Clement gave her the same reassurances, but with an added gratuitous shot at the former Liberal government. For the Liberals, Joyce Murray asked about the topic of the week — youth unemployment. Harper assured her that they had all kinds of programmes in place to help youth find jobs. For the final questions the round, Bob Rae asked whether Canada would try to get the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting moved here, and to take over the chair from Sri Lanka given their human rights abuses. Harper agreed that they were concerned about the Sri Lankan situation, and would be monitoring the situation. Elizabeth May and Bruce Hyer stood up for pretty much every question in this round, trying to catch the Speaker’s eye, to no avail.
Apparently it was security and intelligence day yesterday. An anti-terrorism bill being debated, shuffling the Director of CSIS, appointing a new member of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee (which the NDP are opposing), and oh yeah – a foiled terror plot on Canadian soil. So yeah – busy day. And in case you’re wondering, no, there was no prior knowledge of the terror charges before today, so it was nothing more than a coincidence that they were made on the day that the government set aside to deal with the anti-terrorism bill.
The government announced yesterday that it will unveil its “comprehensive” election rules reform bill on Thursday to deal with things like misleading robocalls, and possibly the utter dogs breakfast that are the rules around leadership race financing. That said, the Chief Electoral Officer has not yet been consulted on said legislation, which you might think is a big deal (not that this government is big on consulting, as much as they might claim that they are). And before anyone says it, no, I don’t actually think that the Conservatives are trying to cover up activity in the last election done under their name. I’ve heard enough from the Conservatives that they are just as concerned about the issue as anyone else – despite some of their workers or volunteers feeling otherwise – and this will likely be a genuine attempt to crack down on the problem.
Economist Stephen Gordon has taken a second look at the budget, and declares that with higher tariffs on more countries, and tighter restrictions on foreign investment in Canada, the government is really more anti-trade than it lets on. He also calls out the logic about how the “preferential tariff” was some kind of a subsidy if its elimination means Canadian taxpayers end up paying more. Over in Hong Kong, Jim Flaherty says that the issue of the increased tariffs have not yet been raised, but closer to home, his plan to return to the issue of a single national securities regulator is still not getting a lot of traction from the more recalcitrant provinces. The NDP, meanwhile, have decided to call in the RCMP about the budget “leaks” that appeared in the media in the lead-up as part of the government communications strategy.
Budget Day — or Economic Action Plan 2013™ Day if you’re following the propaganda — and the House was a bit thin in the ranks. Thomas Mulcair was absent, and so Megan Leslie was up first, asking about the “witch hunt” against the unemployed. Stephen Harper assured her that EI was there for those who need it, and that they wanted to make sure it would be there for everyone who needed. For her last question, Leslie took jabs at “disgraced candidate” Peter Penashue, to which Harper said that Penashue had a record of achievement to run on. Peter Julian was up next, asking about how an oil spill response ship ran aground on the way to a photo-op. Joe Oliver was having none of it, and accused the NDP of rejecting science because they didn’t like the State Department report on the Keystone XL. Bob Rae was up for the Liberals, outlining the timeline between Elections Canada’s letter to Penashue and his resignation. Harper erroneously accused the Liberals of being against the seal hunt and Lower Churchill, and then praised ALL THE THINGS that Penashue did for Labrador. For his final question, Rae asked about Flaherty’s calls to banks about mortgage rates, to which Harper assured him that mortgage rates are the lowest they’ve ever been,