Roundup: Illegitimate workloads

MPs are starting to grumble that cuts to the public service are dumping more workload on their offices, while their own budgets are being frozen and scaled back. This is worrying for one very basic reason – that this kind of work isn’t actually an MP’s job. Yes, constituency work has evolved as a means of serving the community and basically showing that they deserve to be re-elected. But it’s not their job. Their job is to hold the government to account, and to do that by controlling the public purse. That means scrutinising the estimates and the public accounts. But along the way, this kind of public service ombudsman role became attached to them, until it’s become the norm for certain departments not to touch a file until the MPs office pushes it forward, and that, my friends is a big problem and it’s something that needs for the person up top to put their foot down, starting with the Clerk of the Privy Council. If, as Bennett alleges in this article, people are just being told to go to their MPs office, then it’s a gross breach of the duties of the public service, and it should be called out.

The government has decided to remove the internal auditors of at least four regional development agencies in favour of letting the Office of the Comptroller General do said audit work. The complication? That the Comptroller General’s budget has also been slashed. Oversight! Accountability! Transparency! Meanwhile, here is a look at the other departments being faced with cuts as of yesterday’s announcements.

Documents reveal that the government was considering selling off some of the art collection owned by the department of Foreign Affairs – Canadian works that have hung in our embassies abroad, all in the hopes of raising a bit of cash. Except that the department is now saying that they’re not planning on it, which may be a result of Baird’s change of leadership in the department.

Further to yesterday morning’s discussion on decorum, Kady O’Malley suggests they abandon the tactic of taking away questions, and rather institute the ability of MPs to ask even more questions by means of introducing UK-style “Urgent Questions.” From the archives, Carolyn Bennett in 2007 talked about how she became a heckler.

Marc Garneau has raised a point of privilege after an NDP MP signed for a package meant for him (as said MP has his old office), took the contents (toy space shuttles which were to be signed and auctioned off for a charity benefitting sick children in the North), and gave them away. But what really set Garneau off was that the MP in question – the Honourable Member for Warhammer, for the record – was flippant and didn’t apologise or offer to replace them. And when Garneau was raising said point of privilege, Tremblay sat there joking with his colleagues, and didn’t rise to speak to it at the end, but had Nathan Cullen, the House Leader, rise instead and try to indicate that there was a question of Garneau’s name not being on the box (which Garneau insists that it was), and that this was all just a waste of time. Which of course adds to the whole issue of decorum – if Cullen wants to MPs to be more mindful of it, perhaps he too shouldn’t be so dismissive of mail theft and churlish behaviour from his own MPs.

It’s official – Charles and Camilla will visit Canada for Victoria Day as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, with stops in New Brunswick, Toronto, and Regina.

Andrew Coyne eviscerates the omnibus budget bill as an affront to our democracy and the apathy that is settling over our powerless MPs.

And Bruce Hyer indicates he may be ready to apologise and rejoin the NDP caucus, which I’m sure would make it the most dramatic parliamentary hissy fit in recent Canadian history. That said, his full letter to his riding association makes some pretty good points, and shines more of a light of the internal culture in the NDP and the iron grip that they are under.