The RCMP has confirmed that they are looking into those Senate audits to see if criminal charges are warranted, which Liberal Senate leader James Cowan is encouraged about, as he wants to ensure that due process is being followed. Cowan also noted on CTV’s Question Period that one particular sentence was missing from Senator Mike Duffy’s audit – that the Internal Economy committee said that the guidelines were perfectly clear and that the language was “unambiguous” in Senators Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau’s reports, but somehow not in Duffy’s. In other words, it looks like Senator Tkachuk – who heads the Internal Economy committee – is protecting Duffy, as in two cases they said the very same forms and guidelines were clear and unambiguous. Curious indeed.
In the fallout from those Senate audits, the Conservatives have taken to calling Senator Duffy “a leader” for proactively paying back his expenses – even though it appears that he was tipped off that the finding was likely to go against him. But it also needs to be pointed out that the audits also showed that Duffy was not cooperative with Deloitte, as the other two Senators in question were. So there you have it, folks – “leadership.” Wow. Meanwhile, the opposition parties are calling for the RCMP to take a look over those expense claims, which the RCMP are reportedly set to do. Amid this, the government spent QP yesterday blaming the Liberals in the Senate for stonewalling the attempts to reform the spending rules – to which Senator Dennis Dawson later explained that they were being asked to debate audits and proposed rule changes they hadn’t yet seen yet, even though it seemed that certain Senators on the government side had already seen them in advance. Dawson gave the assurance that when the Senate is back – next week Parliament is not sitting – they will debate the audits and rule changes, as they will have had time to study them. (And it does make the government look dickish for trying to paint them as obstructionist).
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.
Apparently it’s important that we keep being exposed to Economic Action Plan™ advertisements ad nauseum because Canadians have confidence in the economy – or so says Stephen Harper. Which begs the question – do they have confidence in the economy because of the ads, or are the ads to showcase that they have confidence? At which point it all starts getting circular and resembling a tautology. Scott Brison, meanwhile, wants you to know that for every $95,000 the government spends to air one of these ads during the hockey playoffs, 32 students could get a summer position for that money. But – confidence!
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.
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.
Because it seems that the NDP haven’t had their fill of amateurish stunts yet, they have decided to try to haul the Speaker of the Senate and the Leader of the Government in the Senate to a Commons committee to discuss the Senate’s budget allocations. Apparently they think that the Senate isn’t actually a separate institution of Parliament, but just an arm of the government. Err, except that it isn’t. Here’s the thing that the NDP doesn’t seem to be grasping – aside from the basic constitutional position that the Senate holds within our system of government – and that’s the fact that two can play that game. While the Senate may not be able to initiate money bills, they can certainly amend them, or hold them up in committee indefinitely. And if the NDP wants to get cute and try to make the Senate put on a little dog and pony show for the committee in order to justify their spending, well, the Senate can do the very same thing, and question the basic budget allocation for the Commons and MPs expenses. While the NDP might bring up the few cases of improper residency expenses and travel claims that took to the media spotlight a couple of months ago, Senators could do the very same thing, and in fact, have a better case than the MPs would. You see, the Senate’s expenses are far more transparent than those of the Commons. Senators submit their travel claims to quarterly reports, have their expense claims posted publicly, and even their attendance is recorded and publicly available. That’s how all of this came to light in the media – because journalists checked it out. (Well, a certain Senator who shall remain nameless also leaked a number of things because of internecine warfare, but that’s another story). But MPs are not subject to the same levels of public scrutiny that Senators are, and if the NDP really want to down this route, then I don’t see why the Senate shouldn’t call Speaker Scheer and the various party leaders before the Senate’s national finance committee to justify their own expenditures. After all, they’re not public, and these are public funds that they’re expecting to spend, so it would be in the interest of sober second thought that these Senators very closely examine this spending and ensure that it’s in the public interest for the Commons to get these allocations. And it was only a couple of years ago that improper housing claims by a number of MPs were brought to light, and well, the Senate may need to ensure that this kind of thing isn’t going on again. You know, for the sake of the public. You see where I’m going with this? There’s a word that the NDP should learn – it’s “bicameralism.” They may not like it, but it exists for a very good reason, and they should educate themselves before they decide they want to get cute.
The day after a major terror bust in Canada, it was a question as to how this would play out in the Grand Inquest of the Nation. And so, when QP got underway, Thomas Mulcair began by reading off a congratulations to the RCMP and the members of the Muslim community who tipped them off. Harper got up to similarly offer his thanks and congratulations for those who helped to foil the plot. Mulcair then moved onto the testimony of the Bank of Canada at committee, where they were told that there was little else they could do to stimulate the economy, and the warnings about household debt. Harper responded by saying that they have been urging caution on debt levels and to try take what measures they can. Peggy Nash was up next, and asked a rambling question that ended up on the topic of the possible border fee the Americans are considering charging, to which Maxime Bernier assured her that they were going to vigorously oppose it. Nash was back up and returned to another rambling question that ended up on the increases in tariffs. Jim Flaherty was up to respond, and while he got sidetracked by heckles a couple of times, and pointed to the many tax hikes the NDP supported. Justin Trudeau was up next for the Liberals, and asked about the decline in youth summer employment. Harper responded that the Liberals voted against their plans to help them. And yes, Trudeau was still half-reading his questions, but could ad lib a little.
It was another day of gross partisanship yesterday as Stephen Harper decided to begin the day by, apropos of nothing while attending the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, calling out Justin Trudeau for not being equivocal enough in his condemnation of terrorism and saying that trying to understand the root causes – so as to prevent it – was somehow “rationalizing” or “excusing” it. And then, just before Question Period, one of his faithful backbenchers repeated the same point for the benefit of the House. Well, that went over well, and after Trudeau called him out over the politicisation, the NDP decided to pile on during the evening political shows and moaned that Trudeau didn’t focus enough on the victims and the first responders. No, seriously. Because apparently a tragic incident can’t escape the narrow partisanship on either side of the aisle. The various statements that were made are collected here. Susan Delacourt, meanwhile, has a fantastic blog post about where narrow partisanship and sarcasm meet over Twitter, and all reason is lost.