Not that it’s a big surprise, but Senator Patrick Brazeau has vowed to fight the order that he repay those living expense in the wake of that Senate audit. While he does have a point that he was cooperative and that he met all four residency requirements, unlike the other two Senators, but that doesn’t change the fact that he spent a mere ten percent of the time. Government leader in the Senate has threatened that if Senator Brazeau and Harb don’t repay their expenses – with interest – immediately, the Senate will garnish their wages, which they can do. It’s also not clear with which court they can try to challenge these audit results and the orders that the Senate itself will be voting to enforce, seeing as Parliament is actually the highest court in the land. Meanwhile, Charlie Angus wants the legal opinion that LeBreton solicited regarding Senator Mike Duffy’s eligibility to sit in the Senate based on his residency – which told LeBreton that everything was fine – made public. (As an aside, one does wonder just how many legal opinions on the Commons side are made public.) LeBreton replied that Duffy owns property and maintains a residence in the province he represents, so case closed. Ah, but perhaps not, as it was revealed last night that that there appears to have been a deal struck between Harper’s chief of staff to help Duffy with his repayment two days before he announced it, and while the PM’s spokesperson has said on the record that no taxpayer funds were used, that likely means party funds. I suppose the party may consider it fair compensation after Duffy did all of that fundraising for them, but yeah, this is totally not helping his case any more than Brazeau and Harb’s fight is helping their own. But seriously, the rest of you – the behaviour of three individual Senators is not actually indicative of the institution as a whole, and shouldn’t undo the good work that the other hundred Senators are actually doing, within the rules. The Senate’s strength as an institution is stronger than the damage caused by a couple of bad apples, and people need to be reminded of that.
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.
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.
The House has risen, and the MPs are all headed back to their ridings. Not the Senate though – they’re still sitting, and I’ll be heading up their for Senate QP later today.
Okay, so now the big news from yesterday – the KPMG report on the F-35 procurement process. With a cost now pegged at $46 billion over 42 years, the government says that it’s officially pushing the reset button on the process – or is it? The former ADM of procurement at National Defence, Alan Williams, says that it’s meaningless unless the department redraws the Statement of Requirements to make stealth a “rated feature” with a point value rather than a pass/fail and it then goes for open tender. There’s also the problem of attrition and the additional costs of buying replacement aircraft, which is outside of the $9 billion procurement envelope being set. John Geddes rips apart Peter MacKay’s remorseless performance yesterday, and notes that the officials noted that it will be difficult to keep the aerospace contracts for supplying F-35 parts if we don’t end up going with that plane. John Ivison goes through the process and finds that if the Conservatives still end up going with the F-35s, it will look like incompetence. Andrew Coyne takes offence that the government continues to spin the numbers and calls bullshit – it’s not 42 years, but $46 million over 30 years, and that the government tacked on those extra 12 years to cover “development and acquisition,” which costs a few hundred million, but by making it look like a little over a billion dollars a year, the government is trying to make it look more palatable. Paul Wells notes the Conservatives’ tendency toward hubris when they should be listening to their critics, who do have a point. Of course, the US “fiscal cliff” may end up killing the F-35s as it would slash their defence spending.
Barak Obama has been re-elected as President of the United States. Hopefully we can now stop obsessing about this and get on with our lives. Incidentally, Thomas Mulcair was first out to offer a congratulatory press release, Harper’s was a little later, while MPs from all parties are shocked and dismayed at the ridiculous $6 billion spent over the campaign.
During Harper’s trip to India, a deal has been signed to sell Canadian uranium for their nuclear reactors and they promise not to make bombs out of it this time. The government there also gave Harper a pointed warning about Sikh extremists back in Canada.
Peter Penashue, during his brief and flustered moments in QP yesterday, said he’d been travelling around the country. Kady O’Malley looked into that, and found that almost all of his travel has been to his riding to make government announcements, and that as Intergovernmental Affairs minister, he hasn’t even visited a number of provinces. Meanwhile, he did also briefly speak to the media, and promised that he won’t quit, but he will address campaign financing questions on Tuesday next week.
On the anniversary of the very first sitting of the Canadian parliament in 1867, it was a somewhat heated day in the Commons today during QP, and Vic Toews gave another gob-smacking performance. When the PM’s away, the ministers will balls everything up – or something like that. Thomas Mulcair started off by reading out a question on our impending nuclear agreement with India would include independent verification that the materials were used only for peaceful purposes. John Baird, once again acting as back-up PM du jour, assured him that the government takes nuclear non-proliferation seriously. Mulcair then asked why China was getting better briefings on agreements than Canadians were, to which Baird talked about how the FIPA was signed on the margins of another trade conference, and for his final question, Mulcair recounted his doomsday scenario of China buying up Alberta’s natural resources with nobody to stop them. Baird suggested that Mulcair was wearing his tinfoil hat, and touted the safe environment for Canadian investment that the FIPA would create. Peggy Nash was up next, trying to wrap the PBO’s latest report on spending cuts with the issue of Harper’s armoured limousines in India, but Baird deflected it with a defence of the RCMP’s recommendations. Bob Rae was up next, asking a pair of questions on whether Harper would meet with provincial premiers, given how he likes to travel abroad to meet other world leaders. Baird responded that he regularly meets with premiers of all stripes, and hey, look at all the good work they did together with the Economic Action Plan™! For his final question, Rae quoted the trade minister about the “opaque investment climate” in India, and wondered what we told them about the opaque climate in Canada, given that there is no clarity on what constitutes “net benefit.” Baird instead used the opportunity to recite a bunch of trite talking points about the jobs and the economy, and the fictional NDP “carbon tax.”
Are you ready? The Supreme Court hears the Etobicoke Centre appeal today. This is going to be one to watch, considering how much attention is being focused on the way Elections Canada runs elections, and their training and operations are as much under the microscope here as any particular voter impropriety.
There is talk that the new seat redistribution in BC and in New Brunswick will disproportionately be beneficial to the Conservatives, in large part because new ridings in BC are going to the lower mainland suburbs, while in New Brunswick, Dieppe moves into a new riding, but on balance there shouldn’t be any loss of seats to Liberals or NDP even if the vote spread changes. I’m a bit torn on this assumption that these new ridings in the suburbs of BC will automatically go Conservative. Given that much of the redistribution has reduced the influence of rural ridings (which were over-represented to begin with), and that rural ridings were far more likely to vote Conservative than anything else, one could argue that it makes the ridings more volatile – especially as the “rurban” phenomenon of small urban area at the narrow end of a large rural riding is being blunted in a lot of places. This will create more representative urban and suburban ridings that might actually see their issues addressed rather than swamped by rural concerns. This could put those ridings into play far more, now that the more conservative rural population can’t be relied upon to carry the votes.
NDP MP – and chair of the Public Accounts Committee – David Christopherson, has launched a broadside at Liberal MP Gerry Byrne because Byrne raised the alarm that the Conservatives were trying to shut down the inquiry into the Auditor General’s report on the F-35 procurement, and because Byrne raised a question to Christopherson in QP – like he has a right to. And so Christopherson went out to the media and called Byrne a “dishonourable crybaby,” accused him of making personal attacks (ie – the question in QP), and said that Byrne was complaining the rules weren’t fair. You know, the way that Christopherson – while sitting as chair of the committee – launched into one of his trademark tirades about how unfair the rules he was supposed to enforce were when the whole inquiry was getting started. Seriously. But given that Christopherson is apparently so thin-skinned that he can’t accept a question in QP without taking it personally and then running out to the Foyer to the media, perhaps the crybaby may be a little closer to home. Just a thought.
Meanwhile, over at the Finance committee, there are accusations of McCarthy-esque witch-hunts abounding after Conservative MP Randy Hoback went after United Steel Workers economist Erin Weir for once running for the NDP. But wait – Peggy Nash’s own questioning of Vivian Krause went into pretty much the same kind of behaviour.
Lisa Raitt wants CP Rail employees to voluntarily return to work before the back-to-work legislation passes, seeing as that awful Senate won’t violate all of their own rules in order to bend to her whims. How horrible is it for Parliament to have rules to be follows? Why do Parliament’s rules hate the economy?
It turns out that the severed hand found at the Canada Post depot in Ottawa yesterday was bound for Liberal party headquarters – not that there was any political motive. It looks like the suspect in this case was just a deranged and narcissistic individual, and nothing attracts the crazy like politics. More about the increasingly bizarre and gruesome tale can be found here.