It was another bitterly cold day out in Ottawa, and the Hill was buzzing with news of Senator Brazeau’s arrest and removal from caucus. Thomas Mulcair was off at an event elsewhere, which left it up to Megan Leslie to lead off by asking about the Saskatchewan push-poll, but once again fell into that basic trap of asking about party business and not government operations. Harper reminded her that while the party position was well known, the commission had its work to do. Leslie then turned to the question of Senate ethics, and Brazeau’s arrest. Harper assured her that Brazeau was removed from caucus, and that it was of a personal nature and not with regards to Senate business. Peggy Nash was up next, asking why the government wouldn’t extend Kevin Page’s term until his his successor is chosen — unless they had something to hide in the budget. Clement simply repeated that there was a process in place to find his replacement, and they were respecting that process. For the Liberals, Ralph Goodale was up asking about possible gerrymandering of the Saskatchewan boundaries, to which Harper assured him that the process was underway and included Parliamentary input, before insinuating that Goodale didn’t care about rural communities. Dominic LeBlanc was up for the final question of the round, asking about household debt, for which Shelly Glover read off some good news talking points.
Despite a fall on the ice earlier in the morning, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was in the House, perhaps a little tender, but ready to take on Harper nevertheless. He began by reading off accusations about the Conservatives’ Saskatchewan push-polling. Apparently it bears reminding that party business is not government operations, and therefore not the domain of Question Period. Harper rejected the accusations, and said that the party explained their actions and the boundary commissions were independent. For his final question, Mulcair wanted assurances that the next budget wouldn’t be another mammoth omnibus bill. Harper skirted around the answer. Peggy Nash carried on with questions about the future budget, to which Shelly Glover assured her that the 2012 budget was focused on jobs and long-term prosperity. For the Liberals, Bob Rae wanted assurances that there would be no partisan legislation to gerrymander the boundaries in Saskatchewan, to which Harper assured him that boundary commissions were independent and that he respected that. For his final question, Rae inquired after press reports that dairy was on the table in the CETA negotiations. Harper assured him that he was committed to protecting supply management, unlike a certain Liberal leadership candidate. *cough*Martha Hall Findlay*cough*
The federal government has imposed a December 2013 deadline on the environmental panel review of the Northern Gateway pipeline. Which is all well and good, provided that the proponent – Enbridge – has their files together and doesn’t delay their own paperwork so that other respondents can get their reviews done in time, as has happened with other panels. In fact, the government should stipulate that Enbridge should face a penalty if it engages in such behaviour, for what it’s worth.
Rumours of Katimavik’s demise may be exaggerated. It seems that with the starvation of federal funds, they are picking up sponsorship from elsewhere for programming that they offer, and may be able to carry on in some capacity after all.
Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber continues to do his job as a backbench MP and hold the government to account, this time on the policy of Supply Management. More backbench MPs should follow his lead.
The Commons has risen for the summer, and MPs have all fled the oppressive, muggy heat of Ottawa for their ridings. The Senate will still sit for another week, possibly two, depending on how long it takes them to pass the three bills that have been identified as their current priorities – the omnibus budget bill (which they’ve been doing extensive pre-study on for the past several weeks), the refugee reform bill (which the government needs passed before June 30th, lest last year’s refugee bill comes into force before this one does), and the copyright reform bill (which is an issue with the forthcoming TPP negotiations). During the end-of-sitting press conference yesterday morning, Senate opposition leader James Cowan noted that the government has made the unusual step of bringing in time allocation on those bills (which is actually a rarity in the Senate), which limits the role that Senators are supposed to play in our system, which is of course more in-depth study of legislation and the “sober second thought” of being a step removed from partisan and electoral politics. Not that these traditional considerations have stopped the current government, but what can you do?
A new Commissioner of Elections has been appointed amidst the various robocall investigations and the spending irregularities of Dean Del Mastro. But before anyone gets any particular ideas about how this is really a surprise or some Harper conspiracy to silence those investigations, his job was posted back in February, so no one should really read too much into it. On the subject of Del Mastro, it seems that his claims that he knew nothing about the investigation into his spending have been contradicted by further affidavits by Elections Canada officials. Oops.