The Auditor General released a report yesterday, and it was a bit of a doozy, at least with regards to the revelation that some $3.1 billion in anti-terror funding is not properly accounted for. Not that it’s actually been misspent, but the recordkeeping is a bit sloppy, and some of it was victim to a “whole of government approach,” according to Tony Clement. Among other issues the AG cited – that our search and rescue infrastructure is headed for total systems failure, that they need to crack down on EI overpayments, problems with expense claims by the Old Port of Montreal, and that there are problems with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as it is beset by conflict with other federal departments over documents. John Ivison says the report is like ‘manna’ for the NDP, and I can hardly wait for the number of times that Thomas Mulcair gets to say “failure of good public administration” over the next several days.
At long last, the budget implementation bill was tabled yesterday, and at around 125 pages, it’s far less of the omnibus bills that the government was so fond of last year. Not that it’s too unexpected, given that the budget itself was a pretty thin document, and so Flaherty’s joke is that this one is a “minibus.” It does have a number of measures including the tariff changes, the attempt to revive the National Securities Regulator, integrating CIDA into Foreign Affairs, and taking things like Winterlude and Canada Day back from the National Capital Commission.
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.
So, it’s the NDP’s policy convention. So far, there’s been discord with the party’s socialist caucus, who has been agitating against changing the party’s constitutional preamble, and others who want them to forgo hearing from US Democrat speakers in favour of keeping the focus on their policy discussions, of which they only managed to pass six of the 102 on the docket yesterday. John Ivison writes more about that crack in the party unity, and how Mulcair has taken to quoting Joseph Stiglitz (who addressed the convention yesterday, and spoke about inequality – in America). Chantal Hébert writes about the leap of faith it will take for some party members to follow Mulcair’s path to what they hope will be electoral victory.
As the NDP policy convention draws closer, Jim Flaherty sends out a scathing missive about the negative economic impact of their proposals. But this totally isn’t a way to distract everyone from the assault that Flaherty is under for things like the “iPod tax” debacle or anything, right? (Speaking of, the Finance department is doubling down on its insistence that there’s no tariff on MP3 players – despite the all evidence to the contrary). Economist Stephen Gordon takes issue with some of the NDP’s underlying misunderstanding of profit in the modern economy – which they are largely against in their constitutional preamble – and how profit benefits everyone, especially those who live on investment income, such as pensions. The party also looks set to release a “get to know Thomas Mulcair” video at the convention as part of the new charm offensive to head off Justin-mania that is about to sweep the nation.
In a rather surprising announcement at the end of the day yesterday, the government has named the Parliamentary Librarian as the interim Parliamentary Budget Officer until Kevin Page’s replacement can be found. That process is internal to the Library, and Page has expressed concerns that the makeup of the committee charged with the search is being kept secret, but I do get concerned when opposition parties want input into those processes, because it ultimately erodes the accountability for those appointments. Look at the questions surrounding Arthur Porter these days, and how Vic Toews skirts accountability by pointing out that the opposition leaders were consulted on his appointment. That’s why the prerogative power of appointment should rest with the Governor in Council – because it keeps the executive as the sole resting place of accountability. Meanwhile, the job criteria for the next PBO have been posted, and they include qualities like “discreet” and “consensus seeking” – perhaps not too surprising after the battles that Page had with the previous Parliamentary Librarian over his role.
Because no move is too crassly populist, Stephen Harper announced yesterday that he was unrolling a federal programme to put defibrillators in every hockey arena in the country – never mind that healthcare is a provincial jurisdiction. Because you can’t do something that’s not too feel-good for the hockey-and-Tim-Horton’s crowd that this government has targeted as the key to its continued political future. On a related note, here’s a look at how the overt Canadiana of the Tim Horton’s brand is preventing its expansion in the States from taking hold – without it, it’s just another donut shop.
Academics are reacting to the appointment of Dr. Andrew Bennett as our religious freedom ambassador, and it’s none too flattering – it seems that he doesn’t really have the academic credentials for the post, as his PhD is in politics, and he’s really more of a glorified civil servant than an expert in theology or religious issues. Ouch.
Senator Brazeau made an appearance in a Gatineau court yesterday morning, facing charges of assault and sexual assault. Aaron Wherry sets the scene here. Later in the day, Stephen Harper called the situation appalling and disappointing, and said he was feeling let down. When the Senate reconvenes on Tuesday, Brazeau will be put on enforced leave, and while he still draws a salary (remember, nothing has yet been proven in court), he won’t get the usual range of office and travel budgets he normally would have. And if he is found guilty, then in all likelihood, he’s out of the Senate. And no, the lesson here is not that the Senate is inherently bad, but rather, it’s that Stephen Harper should make better appointments. John Geddes reminds us why Harper appointed him in the first place, what’s changed since, and the feasibility of Senate reform (hint: not at all).
As for those three Senators facing questions about their expense claims, they’re being referred to an outside auditor, and additional legal advice is being sought on Senator Duffy’s residency. Could this be enough to trigger him as not being eligible to sit in the Senate as a PEI senator? There are a couple of questions about Pamela Wallin’s residence as well, but seeing as she doesn’t own a home in Ottawa, it doesn’t seem as much of an issue. The NDP seem to think that the RCMP should be called in – but perhaps they should wait for the external auditors to complete their work first.
In another stunning bout of knee-jerk populism, Jason Kenney has seized on the story of a Canadian dual-citizen blowing up a bus in Bulgaria, coupled it with a dubious Private Member’s Bill about stripping the citizenship of dual-citizens who engage in acts of war against the country, talked about amending it to include terrorism, and viola – ready for the media. How predictable, and how so very, very flawed. For one, it’ll never stand up to the Charter, because Canadians, no matter where they may have been born, are all equal under the law. Also, it shows contempt for process because he’s trying to hijack a PMB that probably shouldn’t have been voteable in the first place. It’s worse that Kenney wants to try and ram through unconstitutional measures into the PMB process, which would get a mere couple of hours of committee study before heading back to the Chamber for a mere two more hours of debate. Yeah, he may need to rethink this whole proposition.
Like clockwork, Nathan Cullen unveiled yet another new idea for improving decorum in the Commons – giving the Speaker the powers to suspend misbehaving MPs and dock their pay. You know, something that’s unlikely to get signoff from everyone, while he ignores the name-calling that his own caucus engages in, or the fact that the Speaker has plenty of powers already but doesn’t wield them because it becomes a very slippery slope to determine what constitutes “misrepresentation of facts.” And, like MP Michelle Rempel tweeted in response, “Here’s a thought – we’re all adults, maybe we could take personal ownership for how we conduct ourselves in the House.” Because that might be too novel of an idea in an era where we infantilise MPs to the extent that they can’t even speak for themselves without being handed a script. (Aaron Wherry wonders about the question of incivility based on yesterday’s QP here).