Roundup: Long-term damage and hidden changes

The former Chief Electoral Officer has big concerns about what Thursday’s Supreme Court decision on Etobicoke Centre means for future elections – especially when it come to people trying to vote at polls they’re not assigned to, and the future court challenges around those rules. Meanwhile, here are five of the outstanding issues that remain from the last election.

CBC delves in the Omnibus Budget Bill 2: The Revenge and finds 22 changes in the fine print to things like public sector and military pensions, changes to environmental legislation, eliminating boards, changes to the Indian Act, and so on. It’s definitely worthwhile reading. Oh, and those changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act? Are about navigation because of changes made to the bill through the back door four months ago when the government gutted the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in the first omnibus budget bill.

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Roundup: Opitz keeps his seat

In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the election result in Etobicoke Centre, allowing Ted Opitz to remain as the MP. It’s a difficult decision, because it leaves open some questions as to how many procedural errors we bother to enforce so long as we ensure that people can vote, whether or not it is actually proper for them to do so in that manner, rather than see anyone’s right to vote taken away. Here are the reactions, from Opitz, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Bob Rae, and others. Paul Wells parses some of the meaning of the split decision, the players on both sides, and throws some cold water on those conspiracy theories of stacked courts (and if anyone believes them, then they obviously haven’t paid any attention to the Supreme Court of Canada in the past). Emmett Macfarlane, who has literally written a book on the Court, discusses what he believes would have happened if they had ruled the other way. Adam Goldenberg uses this decision as a reminder about how our Supreme Court is not partisan, unlike the one in the States.

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QP: Ridicule and non-sequiturs

Things were a bit more subdued in the House today as QP got underway, as Thomas Mulcair asked about a Conservative MP’s accusation that the Canadian Association of Retired Persons was a partisan organisation. Harper responded that his government was preserving pensions while still eliminating the deficit. Mulcair wondered if the Calgary Chamber of Commerce was next on the enemies list after their criticism of the foreign takeover review process, but Harper joked about how their ideological differences with the NDP were vast. For his final question, Mulcair asked when they would get clarification on the takeover rules, to which Harper said the decision was still with the minister. Jack Harris was up next, curious about that letter Harper sent Peter MacKay about the cuts to his department, but MacKay would only respond that under their watch, spending for defence had gone up every year. Ralph Goodale was up for the Liberals, asking about reciprocity agreements with foreign takeovers, but Harper responded with ridicule and the canard that there was no growth in trade with China under the Liberals, unlike his government. (Goodale later tweeted that under the Liberals two-way trade increased 669 percent, whereas it was only 77 percent under Harper). For his final question, Goodale asked about how they could enforce conditions with those takeovers, but Harper didn’t even bother trying to answer the question, and instead read a selective quote from this morning’s Supreme Court decision on Etobicoke Centre – a complete non-sequitur if there ever was one.

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Roundup: The MP pension agreement

With a bit of negotiation, the portion of Omnibus Budget Bill 2: The Revenge that deals with MP pensions was hived off and passed unanimously yesterday morning, and it’s now on its way to the Senate for consideration. This after a brief hiccup where it seems that the original Liberal motion would have included RCMP and public sector pensions in there as well, despite meaning to only pass MP pensions. Oops. One can imagine that this will likely be law before the end of next week, even if the Senate does want to actually study it, but seeing as it’s two clauses, I can’t imagine it’ll be that much. Now the opposition parties want other sections hived off, but fat chance of that happening – the government talking points seem to be that by agreeing to this deal, the opposition agreed that the rest of the bill should be able to stand intact. Sigh.

But wait! Former Conservative and now “Independent Conservative” MP Peter Goldring calls this pension move “cowardly” because it appeals to base populism and further distances MPs from fair compensation. Not that I don’t necessarily disagree, however we’ve so poisoned the discourse around political compensation that we may soon expect sackcloth and ashes for the privilege of service.

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Roundup: Extending the Nexen deliberations

The government has indicated they will be extending the consideration of the Nexen deal by another 30 days – though this is a fairly common occurrence. Expect the renewed calls for “public consultations” to begin when the House returns on Monday.

Apparently the federal government has been studying ways to change the provincial equalisation programme. Changes to things like the way hydro revenues are calculated could have a major impact on the equalisation that Quebec receives.

Not only have the Conservatives ramped up their advertising spending in an age of fiscal austerity, it seems that over the past five years, they’ve exceeded said advertising budgets by 37 percent. Fiscal discipline, everybody!

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Roundup: Farewell to a needed watchdog

The former Inspector General of CSIS is decrying the dismantling of her former office, saying that the job of keeping an eye on CSIS from the inside, full-time, simply cannot be done by the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, and denied that there was any duplication of efforts (thus blowing away another of the talking point justifications for axing the office). But hey, why do we need someone to watch the watchmen? It’s not like we have anything to worry about – right?

Elections Canada’s investigators have traced alleged robo-call organiser “Pierre Poutine” as far an on open WiFi connection, where the trail grows cold.

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Roundup: Ironic elections observers?

Jason Kenney announced that Canada will be sending 500 elections observes to Ukraine – including Ted Opitz. You know, the guy whose election the Supreme Court may very well be overturning within days. Does this count as irony?

Meanwhile, in the court case where the Council of Canadians is challenging seven other election results, the Conservative lawyers have asked for a $250,000 deposit on costs in case the challengers lose. The Council charges that the Conservatives are trying to drive up costs with obstruction and delay. As for that affidavit about voter suppression calls coming from that one call centre in Thunder Bay, the Conservatives produced an affidavit refuting it, saying that they only called supporters and in the ridings were there were actual polling station changes.

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Roundup: Redford vs Clark

The brewing battle between premiers Christy Clark and Alison Redford went up a notch yesterday as Clark fired back at Redford’s suggestion that her demands for a portion of the royalties meant rewriting Confederation. Clark, not unsurprisingly, called Reford’s comments “silly” and unreasonable to suggested that she was trying to destroy Confederation. Clark’s point is that BC is taking a disproportionate share of the risk with regards to the length of the pipeline and the marine consequences, but isn’t guaranteed an adequate proportion of the revenues. She also steadfastly says that she is neither supporting nor objecting to the pipeline at this point considering that the environmental review process remains incomplete. On a side note, here’s a look at how the upcoming elections in BC and Quebec may play out at the Council of the Federation Meeting that starts today.

The head of Peter Penashue’s campaign says he’s sorry for exceeding the limits and for his lax bookkeeping. Well, so long as he’s sorry, that makes everything better, right? (Todd Russell, the former MP, who lost by a mere 79 votes, doesn’t plan to challenge the results given the recommendations, for the record). Meanwhile, Elections Canada was not interested in offering Dean Del Mastro “immunity” in exchange for more information about the funding irregularities.

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Roundup: Not exactly ‘off-the-shelf’

So those army trucks that got cancelled at the last minute? It seems their costs escalated when DND kept adding in new capabilities to the “off-the-shelf” models, and the price tag went up. Just like with those Chinook helicopters, if you recall. But no, our procurement system isn’t broken.

Shawn Atleo has been re-elected as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He won on the third ballot, but the fact that nearly a third of the chiefs voted against him, he has some work ahead.

Aww, Julian Fantino thinks it’s “unfair” that the Toronto Star dares to go to Afghanistan and dares to print that our aid efforts haven’t lived up to expectations, because apparently that doesn’t fit his party’s narrative.

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Roundup: Clerical errors and attack ads

The Supreme Court heard arguments about the Etobicoke Centre election yesterday, and the crux seem to hang on whether “clerical errors” are enough to overturn votes and “disenfranchise” Canadians. But how many errors are too many and how many should we let slide before it becomes “fatal” to the integrity of the election? It’s actually a weighty issue to ponder, and they have reserved judgement. While it’s supposed to be handled expeditiously, the point was also made that the remedy – a by-election – is time-sensitive, and so one can hope that the Court will be swift in its ruling. (I offered some of my own thoughts as to the arguments here).

The NDP launched their own attack ads in response to those the Conservatives launched against Thomas Mulcair. The crux of the message: Harper created the recession, the deficit, and is now making cuts to the vulnerable. It’s all pretty much demonstrably untrue and contradictory, but since when were attack ads supposed to be entirely factual when the intent is to cast doubt on your opponent? James Moore was quick to respond via the Twitter Machine: “Hope is better than fear.” Touché.

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