Roundup: Release the Mandate Tracker!

The government unveiled their “mandate tracker” website yesterday, put out by the Privy Council Office, which aims to track the progress of commitments made in ministerial mandate letters, which the government (rightly) touts is the first time these kinds of things are being publicly tracked. But the grousing immediately began – that these are not campaign commitments being tracked (and really, it would be inappropriate for PCO to be tracking those), that some of the progress is subjective, and that it’s a “propaganda tool” for the government.

That’s fair criticism, and sure, it’s cute that the government calls promises they no longer intend to keep as “not being pursued” (rightly in some cases, like electoral reform – because it was a stupid promise), and yes, there is some subjectivity to some of the measures like how they’ve improved Question Period – and if anyone wants to compare how it’s being run right now as compared to the zoo that it was in the Harper era, with the jeering, hooting baboons and the reading of non-sequiturs, they can go right ahead, but it is different, and I would argue, better most of the time. (Yes, many of the government’s responses are pabulum – but given how mendacious and disingenuous most of the questions are, that’s not a surprise either).

Suffice to say, it’s a step. The Conservatives never put anything like this out for public consumption, and had a habit of retconning some of their own promises (remember the promise around wait times? And how they tried to recast it as a different promise among the five that they made and supposedly kept? Good times). And while sure, it looks like they’re grading their own homework, you don’t have to take their word for it. You the public, and We The Media can fact-check these things, and hey, there’s something in the window for us to fact-check against. Great. I’m failing to see where the downside of any of this is.

Meanwhile, here is some more informed analysis:

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Roundup: A cynical membership ploy

Oh, Alberta politics. For the place where I first got cut my political chops, you continue to fill me with such…outrage, particularly with how you’ve so bastardized the way in which leadership contests are supposed to run. The former Progressive Conservative party was a good example of how our system could be so debased as to turn those leadership contests into quasi-primaries that they became a direct election of the premier through instant party memberships, and usually block votes to groups such as teachers, for whom leaders like Alison Redford became indebted to. This time, it’s the antics of the upstart Alberta Party that has me fuming.

For those of you who don’t know, the Alberta Party is a centrist party of mostly hipsters and academics that aims to try and find the sweet spot of the province’s political pulse, while also not being associated with the heretofore tainted Liberal brand. (Disclosure: I was friends with one of the leadership hopefuls in the previous contest, and am friends with a previous candidate for the party in the last election; both, incidentally, are academics). And with the demise of the amorphous PC brand and its quasi-centrism in favour of Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party and its decidedly more right-leaning brand, there is optimism within the Alberta Party that hey, maybe they can attract some of the former PC types fleeting for greener pastures. And so with that in mind, the current leader (and up until a week ago, holder of their only seat in the legislature, until an NDP defector joined the ranks) decided he was going to resign.

But – and here’s the catch – he just might run for the position again. And admitted yesterday that his resignation is a ploy to drive party memberships. And this is the part that makes me crazy, because it reinforces this sick notion that has infected our body politic that the only real reason that the grassroots membership exists any longer is for the purpose of leadership contests. And while sure, that’s important, it continues do drive this growing push that makes these contests into quasi-presidential primaries that centralises power in the leader’s office because the selection (and subsequent ability to remove said leader) rests outside of the caucus – though I will grant you that for Greg Clark, that was a caucus of one until just now.

And I get that at this point, the Alberta Party is one that isn’t as centrally-driven as other parties, and where there is trust in candidates about policy matters that they’re not just parroting talking points (so says my friend who ran for them), and that’s great. But it’s also indicative of a party without seats (which they had none until the last election), and without a taste of power. But it nevertheless follows the pattern that memberships – which Clark is trying to drive – is all about the leadership, and not about the nominations, or the grassroots policy development, or being the interlocutor between civic life and the legislature. And if they do manage to attract a bunch of former PCers, that could be either great for them, or their own demise as that party’s former culture takes over the party (which isn’t necessarily a great thing). It’s a risky move that Clark made, and it may present a change for the political landscape…or it becomes one more cynical exercise in bastardizing the meaning of grassroots party memberships. I guess we’ll have to see.

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Roundup: Commence the convention

The Liberals’ policy convention is now underway in Montreal, and while things started off with a bit of an oops – the feed from the main stage was live to the reporters’ room while Trudeau was practicing his speech, giving it away before he could make it, and it included his camera directions. He delivered his rah-rah partisan speech to kick things off, which included a couple of digs at Pauline Marois, and to Harper and Mulcair in which he said he wasn’t going to play their game of trying to make Canadians angry, and ended it with a Skype call to his family (as they stayed in Ottawa, his wife due to give birth any day now). A few Senate Liberals, but not many, are in attendance, for which the NDP are trying to get a social media shaming going. Mike Moffatt offers three questions for the Liberals to look at as they try to formulate economic policy during this weekend’s convention. Kate Heartfield notes the implicit populist tones in Trudeau’s economics video, and how it still creates an Us and Them in order to play that populist card, while still trying to look like he’s above tribalism. Michael Den Tandt writes that the broad strokes economic policy will be looking at ways to bring the Red Tories and Blue Liberals back into the fold and away from the Conservative coalition. Paul Wells writes about the Conservatives hoping that the convention will prove to be a gaffe-fest for Trudeau (and along the way, coins the best descriptor for the Fair Elections Act as being “Conservative-fair”).

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Roundup: Budget date set

Jim Flaherty has announced that the budget will be delivered on February 11th, in the midst of the Olympics. Because remember that Canadians would be too distracted by the last Olympic games to even have Parliament sitting? Apparently that’s no longer a concern, and Flaherty is confident that Canadians can pay attention to both the games and the budget at the same time. Well, that and he apparently has a few measures that are important to pass sooner than later. John Geddes notes that Flaherty’s tone has changed lately to one of striking informality of late, where he seems to be freelancing some opinions and hinting that others may be to blame if there is added spending in the upcoming budget.

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QP: A few lengthy detours

With the Rob Ford sideshow slowing down enough so as not to consume the news cycle whole, and with the leaders back in the House today, it was setting up to be a much more lively QP than yesterday’s rather sedate hour. Thomas Mulcair started off with giving the Prime Minister a chance to address the relief efforts for the typhoon in the Philippines, which Harper dutifully did to much applause. Mulcair then moved onto asking if Harper had any regrets of his role in the ClusterDuff affair. Harper rejected the premise of the question, and said that he was disappointed with Wright and Duffy when he found out. Mulcair asked which members of Harper’s staff have been questioned by the RCMP, even offering up names that have been mentioned. Harper insisted that this was all Wright’s responsibility, and both he and Duffy have been sanctioned. Justin Trudeau started his round off by congratulating the government for its typhoon response, and asked if they would extend the deadline for matching donations and visas for students and foreign workers in Canada. Harper said that moving forward, they would extend the needed flexibility as need be. Trudeau moved onto the topic of judicial obstruction by the Conservative staffers, some of whom are now in the PMO, and wondered why there were delays in the false robocall investigations. Harper hit back by pointing out that Trudeau’s lack of support for mandatory minimums meant that he didn’t believe in accountability in the justice system.

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Roundup: Unnecessary supplemental estimates?

The Parliamentary Budget Officer wonders why the government is looking for $5.4 billion in the supplementary estimates tabled yesterday, considering that they underspent $10 billion for each of the past three year. It’s another example of the lack of transparency that his government engages in when reporting to the House its fiscal responsibilities. And hey, maybe MPs should be scrutinising these estimates and asking questions, rather than the PBO doing their homework for them – once again. But math is hard, and so on.

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QP: Paul Calandra, once again

With the Rob Ford sideshow still sucking the oxygen out of the news cycle, and none of the leaders in the House, it was either going to be a quiet QP, or an utter gong show — rarely is it anything in between when the leaders are away. Megan Leslie stated off by asking a question about the relief efforts to the Philippines after the typhoon. Chrisitian Paradis stood up to laud the efforts of the DART, and that the government commitments to relief stand at nearly $40 million. Nycole Turmel was up next, and asked about the expedited immigration for those affected. Costas Menegakis reiterated some of the measures that the government was taking. Turmel and Leslie then returned to the issue of ClusterDuff timelines, but Paul Calandra responded with the usual lines about how the Prime Minister was unaware of what happened. For her final question, Leslie asked about the revelations about Michael Sona being in Aruba when he allegedly bragged about the robocall scheme — which isn’t actually government business — and Calandra didn’t really give an answer in any case. For the Liberals, Ralph Goodale returned to the topics of the staffers in the PMO involved in the ClusterDuff affair, but Paul Calandra told him to repeat the allegations outside of the Chamber. For the final question, Marc Garneau asked about a February 20th email that directed some PMO staff to assist Senator Duffy, and why were they still employed? Calandra insisted that the PM was clear that he wouldn’t have stood for these actions.

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