QP: Energy East and Barbados

After the Energy East cancellation announcement this morning, you just knew that this would be the fodder for increasingly hysterical denunciations during QP today. Justin Trudeau was present, but Andrew Scheer was not, so it remained to be seen how this would play out.

Lisa Raitt led off instead, mini-lectern on desk, blaming the government for killing Energy East with their ideology. Justin Trudeau responded that it was a business decision, that the project was proposed when oil was $90/barrel and it’s now half that, but that his government had already approved three other pipelines. Raitt accused the government of playing to the interests of countries like Saudi Arabia, and Trudeau shrugged off that suggestion. Raitt then accused him of taking Atlantic Canada for granted with this cancellation. Trudeau countered that they had an Atlantic growth strategy and that it was the previous government that ignored them. Gérard Deltell then took over the condemnation of the loss of Energy East in French, and Trudeau reiterated that conditions have changed, also in French. Deltell then said that Trudeau was responsible for conditions changing, as though Trudeau controls the world price of oil, and Trudeau instead responded about the ways that they have been doing what the market has been asking for, including carbon pricing. Guy Caron was up next, pointing to the recent PBO report on fiscal sustainability, and demanded that healthcare be adequately funded for the provinces. Trudeau touted the investments that they made in mental health and home care. In English, Caron demanded a national strategy for seniors, to which Trudeau listed all of the measures that they have taken. Caron then changed topics to the Phoenix pay system, demanding a refund for it. Trudeau noted that they were working with the public service and the unions to fix the situation, and then there was another round of the same in French.

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Roundup: An involuntary nomination

The outcome at the Status of Women committee was not unexpected, had as much sulking and grousing as was to be expected. In a public and not secret vote, the Liberals and NDP members of the committee rejected the Conservatives’ choice of Rachael Harder to chair the committee, and when the Liberals nominated Karen Vecchio in her place, Vecchio tried to back out but was overruled, and those same Liberal and Conservative members voted her in.

And then the bellyaching began. A sour press release was issued about how this was somehow about “bullying and intimidation” of some poor young woman (which is a ridiculous characterisation), but that they would accept the democratic will of the committee. And the pundit class took to Twitter to decry how bizarre it was that a woman was being forced to take the chair of a committee that she didn’t want. I’m not exactly sympathetic to these cries, because this is what happens when you try to pull a stunt for the sake of being a provocateur, as Scheer is trying to do, but you don’t have the votes to back it up. Oh, and then they tried to wedge this into the frame of it being a distraction from the tax proposals, when it shouldn’t need to be said that this was a distraction of the Conservatives’ own making, owing to their particular tactical ineptitude.

Meanwhile, Liberals took to tweeting about how this would have made Harder Andrew Scheer’s “spokesperson” on the committee, which is bizarre and wrong – the chair is the committee’s spokesperson. It’s baffling that they would try to spin it in this fashion. Then again, one shouldn’t be surpised given how badly this whole affair has been for people describing how things work in Parliament. And it shouldn’t surprise me, and yet here we are, that not one journalist writing about this story, nor any pundit commenting on it, remarked about the fact that it makes no sense to put your critic forward as committee chair. None. The chair’s role is to be neutral, to run the meeting, arbitrate rules disputes and to ensure that witnesses and questioners stay within their timelines. They’re not supposed to vote unless it’s to break a tie, which shouldn’t happen very often given the numbers at play. Why would you want your critic – your point person in holding the government and in particular that associated minister, to account – to be hobbled in this way on committee, is baffling. It’s utterly incomprehensible if you follow the basics of how parliament is supposed to work. And yet nobody saw fit to call Scheer out on this fact. These details matter.

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QP: Statements for Edmonton and Vegas

In the wake of the installation ceremony for Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Justin Trudeau was not in the Commons for QP, leaving only Andrew Scheer as the leader of note present. Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, reading about shock and sadness for the terrorist act in Edmonton over the weekend, and asked for a minister to update the House on the situation. Ralph Goodale read a statement of condemnation for the action and congratulations to the Edmonton Police Service for their actions, and updated on the injured. Scheer then read similar sentiments for the shooting in Las Vegas — minus the part about condemning global terror — and Chrystia Freeland responded with condolences and notes that one Canadian was confirmed killed and consular services were working to help victims and their families. (A second Canadian was later confirmed as having been killed). Scheer then moved onto the proposed tax changes, and Bill Morneau assured him that they were listening and would make changes to the proposals. Maxime Bernier was up next, saying that Morneau was not listening, and then raised the Morneau-Shepell conspiracy theory, and Morneau insisted that they were listening, which was why they engaged in consultations. After another round of the same in French, Alexandre Boulerice railed about the situation in Catalonia, but rather than answer, Bardish Chagger got up to read a statement of congratulations about Jagmeet Singh’s leadership victory. Boulerice asked again, and this time Chrystia Freeland said that Canada was hoping that Spain would act in a democratic manner. Pierre Nantel was up next, railing about the Netflix deal as selling out Canadian culture amidst a rate hike, and Mélanie Joly insisted that it was a good deal and was the first stage in modernising our cultural policies. Nantel and Joly went another round in English, not that the question or answer changed.

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Roundup: A catalogue of ineptitude

Over in the weekend Ottawa Citizen, our good friend Kady O’Malley has a comprehensive breakdown of everything that went wrong with the electoral reform committee, and it’s pretty stunning once it’s all laid out before you. It starts with the Liberals’ relenting to allow the makeup of the committee to be more *cough* “proportional” than the traditional make-up of a parliamentary committee (which was not actually proportional, but merely gamed by the NDP to give the appearance of proportionality, and the Liberals relented for what I’m guessing was good faith). From there, it moves to the Liberals putting all newbies on the committee (with the exception of the chair) who didn’t have a clue what they were doing, and their lack of experience, combined with the fact that they no longer had a majority (despite having a parliamentary majority) meant that the opposition party gamed the witness selection in such a way that it meant they were able to self-select witnesses to get the outcome they wanted – namely 88 percent of witnesses preferring proportional systems, and furthermore, because they had motivated followings for their public consultations, it allowed them to self-select their famed 87 percent in favour of proportional systems and a further 90 percent in favour of a referendum. And almost nary was there a voice for ranked ballots. (Also a nitpick: ranked ballots have little to do with the proportionality that people keep trying to force the system into, nor are they about gaming the system in favour of centrist parties like the Liberals. Rather, ranked ballots are designed to eliminate strategic voting, ensure that there is a “clear winner” with a simple majority once you redistribute votes, and to make campaigning “nicer” because you are also looking for second-place votes. Experience from Australia shows that it has not favoured centrist governments).

In other words, this whole exercise was flawed from the start, in large part because the Liberal government was so inept at handling it. In fact, this cannot be understated, and they are continuing to be completely inept at handling the fallout of the broken process that they allowed themselves to be bullied into (lest they face charges of trying to game the system – thus allowing the other parties to game it for them), and rather than either admitting that this went off the rails (because it did) and that it was a stupid promise to have made in the first place (because it was) and trying to either be honest about cutting their losses, they’re dragging it out in order to find a more legitimate way to either punt this into the future, or declare that no consensus can be found (which there won’t be) and trying to kill it that way. But in the meantime, the daily howls out outrage of the opposition because of the way that they have completely bungled not only the committee response (and let’s face it – the report’s recommendations were hot garbage) and the further rollout of their MyDemocracy survey without adequately explaining it has meant that this continues to turn into an outrageous farce. I’m not necessarily going to lay this all at the feet of the minister, or call for her resignation, but this is one particular file where the government has been so clueless and amateurish that the need to pull out of the tailspin that they find themselves in, take their lumps, and then smother this in the crib. Enough is enough.

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Roundup: The ricochet into Canada

I had idly wondered how long the Trump victory in the United States would take to start showing ricochets in Canada, and apparently it was minutes, as in the middle of the night, Kellie Leitch’s campaign was already putting out fundraising emails drawing comparisons, particularly around their mutual bashing of “elites.” Because Leitch, you see, apparently isn’t an elite, never mind the fact that she’s a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon in Muskoka, a university professor, and former cabinet minister whose was the protégé of the finance minister. No sir, nothing elite about that, because she had to compete with the “biggest old boys’ club” out there, being surgeons, so there. Um, okay. (Incidentally, Leitch previously didn’t want to be compared to Trump, which she kept vacillating over during last night’s leadership debate). And that elite-bashing was quickly picked up by bother other leadership candidates, and others in the party like Tony Clement (who apparently also doesn’t think he’s an elite, despite all evidence to the contrary).

Michael Chong, however, rejected Leitch’s move as being antithetical to the “big tent” Conservative movement that the party is trying to become. Chris Alexander also sounded a cautious note, for what it’s worth, but Lisa Raitt’s tone is less decisive.

Michelle Rempel, however, seems cognisant enough about the trap of demagoguery when it comes to dealing with difficult issues and cautions against importing that ethos to Canada. Rempel also relayed some of her experiences of what she saw during her recent visit to the States, and the alarming levels of discontent among the populace.

Meanwhile, here’s Justin Trudeau’s statement on working together with a Trump presidency. Thomas Mulcair, on the other hand, wants Trudeau to call out Trump. And over in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is taking on that message of public anger about the “governing elite” and trying to make hay of it, so no, this kind of rhetoric is not endemic to the right.

In terms of fallout, we hear from prominent Canadian women like Kim Campbell, Elizabeth May and Michelle Rempel. Shannon Proudfoot writes about how brutally appropriate the end of the campaign ended up being. Bob Fife notes how the Trudeau PMO has had to scramble to adjust to this new reality. Robyn Urback looks at how the Democrats bungled the election, while the Guardian features a column about how liberals helped Trump’s victory. Anne Kingston writes about Trump winning his war against the media. Paul Wells writes about next steps for Trudeau, while Chantal Hébert wonders how much of Trudeau’s agenda is affected by this change, particularly in areas like climate change, or foreign policy (per John Geddes). Both Paul McLeod and Susan Delacourt saw similarities in the way Trump and Trudeau ran their campaigns. Here’s a look at how pundits and pollsters got things wrong, and Andrew Coyne writes a particularly poignant piece about how Trump’s ability to throw out the rules has vindicated some of the worst elements and impulses, and worries what this signals going forward.

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QP: Shifting focus to fighter jets

After the big “family photo” on the steps of the building this morning, and a speech marking the 150th anniversary of the legislature of Canada meeting on Parliament Hill, we got into the business of the day. While Trudeau was on the Hill in the morning, he was on his way to Toronto and absent from QP today. Rona Ambrose led off, mini-lectern on neighbouring desk, and asked about measures to bring Yazidi girls to Canada as refugees. John McCallum noted that refugees are prioritised based on need as determined by the UN, and that he was proud of their record. Ambrose turned to the question of fighter jets, and wondered why they would get new jets if they didn’t use the ones we have to fight ISIS. Harjit Sajjan noted that that he had received a briefing on the mission in Iraq, but didn’t really answer. Ambrose listed off the sins of Liberal procurement past, and wondered how this time would be different. Sajjan retorted that the previous government cut $3 billion from the defence budget. Denis Lebel was concerned about pulling out of the the F-35 programme and how that would affect the aerospace industry in Montreal, and Sajjan noted that no decision had been made. When Lebel tried to press about the other allies who had adopted the F-35, Sajjan noted that they were not fully operational and they were taking the time to make the right choice. Thomas Mulcair led off for the NDP, asking about a statement that Senator Pratte made about the need to pass C-10 quickly. Marc Garneau said there was no deal, but this was about avoiding future litigation. Mulcair wanted assurances that there was no deal, and Garneau plainly stated there wasn’t one. Mulcair turned to tax havens by KPMG, and Diane Lebouthillier noted that there were investigations and court cases ongoing. Mulcair said that if it was in the courts it would be public, but pivoted to the Super Hornets and sole-sourcing. Sajjan repeated that no decision was made.

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QP: Questions on last-minute funding

It’s a gorgeous Monday in the Nation’s Capital, but none of the major leaders were present in the House. David Christopherson led off for the NDP, shouting a question about the new funding for mental health funding for members of the Canadian Forces. Parm Gill responded, insisting that the government has continually increased support for veterans and soldiers. Christopherson, ever more indignant, focused on the lapsed funding to Veterans Affairs, to which Gill insisted that statutory funding was untouched. Nycole Turmel took over to ask in French, to which Gill praised the new funding commitment. Turmel switched topics to Thalidomide survivors who are struggling. Colin Carrie read that it was a lesson as to how Canada needs to take drug safety seriously, and that they would seriously consider any proposal coming forward from Health Canada. Turmel asked again in French, and Carrie repeated his answer in English. Marc Garneau led off for the Liberals, citing government “propaganda” spending over veterans and the last-minute announcement of new mental health funds. Gill returned to his insistence that support funds had increased. Frank Valeriote noted the contradictions in Julian Fantino’s assurances, to which Gill insisted that funding lapses under the Liberal government were even larger. One one last exchange, Gill dredged up the “Decade of Darkness” talking point while Carolyn Bennett shouted “sit down!”

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Roundup: Cheap diplomacy, symbolic loss

The Harper government’s shoestring approach to diplomacy, typified by an attitude of serving ginger ale and Ritz crackers as being “good enough” for hosting diplomatic functions, has not been without controversy, especially when it comes to the illogical sale of a number of diplomatic properties and residences around the globe in the name of fiscal austerity. Many of these sales have been controversial, and the looming sale of our diplomatic residence in Rome is even more so, because of the symbolic links to our troops liberating Italy during the Second World War, and the property was basically given to Canada as thanks. The government, however, denies that there are such links, and has spun a tale of how lavish the place is and how costly it is to maintain – never mind that the former Canadian ambassador to Italy is on the record disputing everything the current government says. But hey, it’s totally cool that we project an image to the world that we’re Mickey Mouse cheapskates who have the taste and class of backwater rubes right? Prestige isn’t our brand, according to this government, nor do we have any appetite for symbolic links to the past. Let’s just do it all on the cheap. Because that always works out well.

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