QP: A smarmier version of Matlock

The first proto-Prime Minister’s Questions of the New Year, with Justin Trudeau finally in town on a Wednesday, and Andrew Scheer was once again no longer present. That left Lisa Raitt to leave off, who was worried that offshore investment into marijuana companies was not the front companies for organised crime. Trudeau stumbled off the block, and gave his worn points about why they are legalising marijuana. Raitt called out the talking points, but along the way, equated former Liberal fundraisers with organised crime, but Trudeau didn’t vary his response. Alain Rayes was up next, and in French, accused Liberal fundraisers of trying to line their pockets though cannabis and accused the government of interfering with debate in the Senate,  it Trudeau stuck to his points in French. Rayes tried again, and this time, Trudeau said that they could assure people that they were not letting organised crime into the system. Rayes went one last round, asserting that legalised marijuana was somehow the new Sponsorship Scandal, but Trudeau reminded him that the previous prohibition model failed. Guy Caron was up next, and kept on the same line of attack, highlighting tax havens, and this time, Trudeau picked up some notes to say that they have been coming to agreements with provinces to provide transparency on corporations and that they were doing background checks on any significant investment in cannabis companies. Caron went again in French, railing about Liberals and tax havens, but Trudeau repeated the assurances in French. Pierre-Luc Dusseault asked the same question again, to which Trudeau assured him that they had an information network to combat tax avoidance and evasion, and when Peter Julian asked one more time, Trudeau picked up his notes again to assure him that there would be mandatory security checks with companies.

Continue reading

QP: Litigating actual litigation

While the PM flew off to Chicago to begin his US tour, the rest of the benches in the House of Commons were full and ready for another scintillating day of bad litigation drama. Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, but with the PM away, today he led off on the news story of a government fighting a sexual harassment lawsuit from a Canadian Forces member, but wedged in an Omar Khadr reference at the end, because of course he did. Harjit Sajjan said that they were committed to a harassment-free environment in the Forces, but couldn’t speak to the specifics of the case — despite the fact that earlier this morning, the PM stated that he would have the case looked into. Scheer tried again, but got the same response. Scheer amped up his dramatics for the third attempt, and tried to draw in the justice minister, but Sajjan got back up to reiterate his points, including pointing out how many people they have discharged for sexual misconduct. Lisa Raitt got up next, and repeated the question with full-on anger, but Sajjan reiterated the commitment to Operation Honour, and they went again for another round. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, demanding taxation for digital giants, and Mélanie Joly said that they wanted to ensure that there wasn’t a piecemeal approach to digital platforms over the long term. Caron tried again in English, noting that Trudeau would be meeting with Amazon on his trip. Ruth Ellen Brosseau was up next to read her condemnation of the government’s actions with that lawsuit, and Sajjan repeated his points. Brosseau read the question again in French, and got the same reply. Continue reading

QP: Trudeau has a ready response

While the Commons was already preoccupied with the Supply Day motion demanding that the prime minister repay the costs associated with his vacation two Christmases ago, you would think that maybe, just maybe, that the opposition would lead off with something else. But no. Andrew Scheer, predictably, led off with the vacation issue and demands for repayment yet again, for the eleventieth day, and Justin Trudeau repeated his well-worn points that he accepted responsibility and would follow the advice of the Commissioner going forward. Scheer tried again, with some added snark, and Trudeau reiterated his response. Scheer then demanded to know what part of the opposition day motion the PM disagreed with, and Trudeau turned to his high road talking point about how the Commissioner ensures that the issues go above partisan talking points and mud-slinging. Scheer called out Trudeau’s attempt to break the fourth wall, and they went another round of the same. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, concern trolling as to why Netflix is exempt from sales tax. Trudeau picked up on Caron’s points and said that he was right — web giants should pay more, but sales tax would simply mean that Canadians pay more. Caron switched to French to ask the same, and Trudeau reiterated that the NDP were simply demanding that taxpayers pay more. Charlie Angus was up next, and tried to spin a conspiracy theory that the Liberals were letting KPMG off the hook because they were apparently getting payoffs of some variety. Trudeau reminded him that they put a billion dollars into the CRA to go after tax evasion. Angus raised the case of Stephen Bronfman, asserting that he somehow “got off” (from some unspecified charges) and then pivoted to wounded veterans, and Trudeau gave a rousing defence of their treatment of veterans and blasting the Conservatives.

Continue reading

QP: Letting the veteran issue slip by

A frigid Monday in the nation’s capital, and all of the various party leaders were in attendance. Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and in French, he demanded that the PM repay his expenses for his Bahamas vacation. Justin Trudeau reminded him that he took responsibility and would ensure going forward would clear future trips and clarify his relationship with the Aga Khan. Scheer tried again, and Trudeau reiterated recommendations from the Commissioner and that he would adhere to them. Scheer switched to English to try and bring the high dudgeon for the very same demand. Trudeau went to the high road, and reminded the viewers at home that the Ethics Commissioner is above partisanship and he was happy to all of her recommendations. Scheer repeated his demand, and got the same response, tut-tutting about mudslinging. Scheer insisted that only a Liberal would consider an “objective finding” by the Commissioner to be mudslinging, but it didn’t change Trudeau’s response. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, and in French, he railed about a mining company that got government loans and then avoided taxes. Trudeau, taking to prepared notes for a change, indicated that the loan came from an arm’s-length Crown Corporation, which was not under their control, and if there was tax-shifting, they condemned those actions. Peter Julian repeated it in English, and Trudeau reiterated the tax-shifting portion of his answer more forcefully in English. Julian then railed about web giants not paying Canadian taxes, and Trudeau said they promised not to raise taxes on the middle class. Caron took a stab at the same question in French, noting that these companies control online advertising and media, but Trudeau noted that they recognise that the online world is changing which is why they went to Netflix to get more help for content creators. Continue reading

QP: Emerging from the fog of repayment demands

Thursday, and with the PM off to Edmonton, and Andrew Scheer giving his first major economic policy plank in a nearby hotel, it was a bit odd that Scheer didn’t bother to show up since he was in town. Alain Rayes led off, reading some heroic praise about how the Conservatives insisted the prime minister be investigated for his vacation, and demanded repayment for it. Once again. Bardish Chagger dutifully stood up to read the approved talking points about the PM taking responsibility and making changes going forward. Rayes tried again, got the same answer, and on his third attempt, Rayes tried in vain to link it to previous repayments, and Chagger reiterated her points a third time. Candice Bergen got up to try the same again in English, and with added indignation, and Chagger added praise for the PM’s town hall in her talking points. Bergen tried another tortured analogy with Trudeau saying that harassment codes apply to him so why not repayment, and while Chagger reiterated her previous points. Guy Caron led off for the NDP, noting how much other countries have recovered from the Panama Papers, while Diane Lebouthillier responded that they were investigating. Caron raised the bonuses that CRA executives were getting, but Lebouthillier stuck with stats on how combatting evasion. Ruth Ellen Brosseau stood up to sound the alarm about investment funds being involved with the Infrastructure Bank. Marc Garneau praised the fact that the Bank was now in operation and had a diverse board, and after another round of the same in French, Garneau responded in English about what a great optional tool the Bank could be for communities. Continue reading

QP: Bardish Chagger, ad nauseam

While the prime minister was off to Winnipeg, the desks in the Chamber were full, MPs ready for another scintillating round of accountability. Or talking points at the very least. Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and today decided to use the moving expenses of senior PMO staff as his cudgel to demand the PM repay his expenses for that infamous vacation. Bardish Chagger reminded him that the PM accepted the report, took responsibility, and made changes going forward. Scheer switched to English to try again, getting breathy in his punctuation, and Chagger reiterated her response. Scheer insisted that an apology is no good without an attempt to make amends — apparently financially — but got the same response. Lisa Raitt was up next to assert that there were no recommendations in the report, just facts and an assertion of guilt, before she too demanded repayment. Chagger reiterated her points, including stating that he accepted recommendations. Raitt tried a second time more forcefully, and Chagger spelled out that the recommendations came from the former Commissioner at committee. Ruth Ellen Brosseau led for the NDP, demanding to know what the government was doing to get more women elected. Karina Gould said that they were doing more recruit more women, and wanted to ensure that they could thrive once elected. Brosseau tried again in French, got the same answer, and Karine Trudel and Shiela Malcolmson demanded pay equity legislation in both French and English. Scott Brison said they were working with the public sector unions and other unions on the topic, and that they remained committed to a proactive pay equity system.

Continue reading

QP: The Philpott connection

On a cold and blustery morning in Ottawa, MPs were raring to go with another go-around of QP. And true to form, Andrew Scheer got up, mini-lectern on desk, decrying that the PM didn’t take responsibility for his “illegal luxury trip” and he had taxpayers foot the bill to boot. Justin Trudeau insisted that he did take responsibility and would clear future trips with the Commissioner. Scheer railed that taking responsibility meant paying it back, and replayed the cheap outrage around a sedan that Jane Philpott hired back in 2016, deeming it a “luxury limousine.” Trudeau reiterated his previous response. Scheer wailed about the standard that Philpott was held to, and Trudeau didn’t engage, keeping to his points. Scheer demanded repayment, but Trudeau didn’t vary his answer. Scheer then brought up Trudeau’s speaking fees to charities several years ago, for some reason, but Trudeau stuck to his points about accepting the Commissioner’s recommendations. Guy Caron was up next, and demanded to know what concessions were made with signing the new TPP. Trudeau said that once the documents were translated, they would be made public. Caron switched to English to demand the same thing, and Trudeau repeated his answer. Ruth Ellen Brosseau demanded a plan to elect more women, and Trudeau stated that it was part of engaging women during the nomination process. Brosseau demanded proportional representation, but Trudeau wouldn’t bite on the notion.

Continue reading

QP: Attempting to litigate the Ethics Commissioner’s report

After some six weeks away, MPs were all back in Ottawa, including the four new MPs who won by-elections in December. When things got underway, Andrew Scheer, mini-lectern on desk, got up to read some disappointment about the Prime Minister’s response to the Ethics Commissioner’s report, and lamented the PM’s “illegal actions.” Trudeau noted that he took responsibility and has put in new measures to ensure that it could not happen again. Scheer tried again, got exactly the same response, and Scheer switched to French to concern troll about decisions related to the Aga Khan, and Trudeau insisted that he had no part in any decisions related to those files. Trudeau returned to his same response, and Scheer reiterated his concerns in English, and in this response, Trudeau elaborated that they need better guidelines into what constitutes a friend. Guy Caron was up next, lamenting the wages of CEOs in English, when compared to the plight of former Sears employees. Trudeau reminded him that the very first thing they did was lower taxes on the middle class and raised them on the wealthy, plus investing in cracking down on tax avoidance and tax evasion. Caron repeated the question in French, got the same response in French, and Ruth Ellen Brosseau gave a statement about believing victims before asking what actions parliamentarians can take to shift the culture. Trudeau gave his assurance that they were committed to improving the situation, and pointed to Bill C-65 as a good start. Brosseau switched to French to demand electoral reform to elect more women, and Trudeau said that he recognised that electing more women was key, and they were working on it. Continue reading

Roundup: Duffy’s privilege problems

At long last, the Senate has responded to Senator Mike Duffy’s lawsuit against it, and is asking the Ontario courts to remove it from the suit because of parliamentary privilege. This was to be expected, and I’m surprised it took this long, but here we are. Duffy’s lawyer says that he’ll fight it, of course, but he’s going to have an uphill battle because this is very much a live issue.

For a refresher as to why this matters as an issue of privilege is because it’s about the ability of the Senate to discipline one of its own members. This is especially important because the Senate is a self-governing body of Parliament, and because it’s appointed with institutional independence and security of tenure in order to ensure that there is that independence. In other words, the Senate has to be able to police its own because there’s no one else who can while still giving it the ability to be self-governing (as we explored in great detail over the Auditor General’s desire to have an external audit body oversee the chamber’s activities). And indeed, UOttawa law professor Carissima Mathen agrees that it would be odd for the Senate not to have the power to suspend its own members, and raises questions about whether it’s appropriate for the judiciary to interfere in this kind of parliamentary activity. (It’s really not).

The even bigger complicating factor in this, of course, is that NDP court case trying to fight the House of Commons’ Board of Internal Economy decision around their satellite offices. The Federal Court ruled there that it’s not a case of privilege (which is being appealed), and Duffy’s former lawyer, Donald Bayne, said that this is a precedent in their favour while on Power & Politics yesterday. And he might have a point, except that the Commons’ internal economy board is a separate legislative creature, whereas the Senate’s internal economy committee is a committee of parliament and not a legislative creation. This is a Very Big Difference (and one which does complicate the NDP case, to the point that MPs may have actually waived their own ability to claim privilege when they structured their Board in such a fashion – something that we should probably retroactively smack a few MPs upside the head for). I don’t expect that Duffy will win this particular round, meaning that his lawsuit will be restricted to the RCMP for negligent investigation, but even that’s a tough hill to climb in and of itself. He may not have much luck with this lawsuit in the long run.

Continue reading

Roundup: Concern trolling the NAFTA talks

Amidst all of the other drama around the Trumpocalypse, talk of NAFTA renegotiations have been ramping up again with the next round of talks in Montreal taking place in a couple of weeks. So far, people seem to be backing away from the ramparts and are sounding out extensions to the talks rather than trying to complete them as soon as possible, given the political deadlines of the Mexican federal election this summer and American mid-term elections this fall. Chrystia Freeland herself went out to say that this was good, that artificial deadlines weren’t necessary, and so far, so good. Cabinet ministers were also back on the charm circuit down in the States, and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is leading his own delegation next week – but not before he took to the Mississauga Board of Trade to blast the government’s handling of the whole thing. According to Scheer’s obvious concern trolling, Trudeau “doesn’t seem to have a plan” (which you would have to be completely blind and inattentive to believe, considering that Trudeau’s plan has been pretty bloody obvious), and we’ve seen plenty of examples in Question Period where the Conservatives insist that the government is fumbling the deal with all of the “unserious” talk of gender and Indigenous chapters. And while I get that Scheer and the Conservatives are supposed to hold government to account, this falls into the same category as their other efforts that rely on disingenuous statements and mendacious framing of issues in order to try and score cheap points. Scheer has also been disingenuous about the state of the lapsed softwood lumber agreement in the waning Obama years, and has tried to frame what happened with the TPP signing as more fumbling from Trudeau when in fact things were communicated to the Japanese, and the Australian media torqued the story to suit their own domestic purposes. And if you’re wondering what the NDP is up to, well, they’re still demanding that everything be out in the open, because that’s totally how you want to negotiate these things.

As for the government’s charm offensive, it seems to be meeting more with apathy with the Americans than anything, as NAFTA talks are apparently not on their radar while they focus on those tax cuts that Trump promised. That may be why the government decided to play hardball with the WTO challenge against the rash of protectionist measures in the States, such as softwood duties or the Bombardier C-Series tariffs, and Freeland has been musing recently about “creative thinking” to drive the talks forward, so we’ll see what next steps are. But you can’t say that the government doesn’t have a plan. This issue has consumed them for the past year, and they very obviously are doing something about it, which makes Scheer’s assertions all the more ridiculous.

Continue reading