Roundup: A good kid

Correctional Services’ own reports show that Omar Khadr is a “good kid,” non-radicalised and highly compliant, but that hasn’t stopped the government from trying to paint him as a heinous war criminal as they continue to deny journalists’ requests to interview him in prison. It looks more and more like they are trying to protect the narrative about him that they have built up for political cover.

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Roundup: Clarity for First Nations titles

The Supreme Court has given a unanimous ruling granting a title claim to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation in BC, over a large area of land in the south central part of the province, ending a 25-year court battle over forestry claims and a 150-year dispute between that First Nation and the Crown. Because most of BC’s First Nations don’t have treaties yet with the government, this ruling impacts them in particular, and will make sure that the government has a greater role to play in fulfilling its consultative duties to First Nations as more resource and pipeline projects come up. The ruling also declares that provincial governments have regulatory authority over land obtained by First Nations people through court cases or land claim negotiations. While the ruling has been said to give clarity to negotiations, it also raises the possibility that some First Nations will abandon their negotiations with the government in favour of turning to the courts to establish title or land claims, which should be a red flag seeing as treaty negotiation is a Crown prerogative, and we should be careful about delegating it to the courts. Terry Glavin gives the backstory to the whole dispute dating back to 1864 here.

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Roundup: Trudeau’s mistakes and the sanctimonious reaction

Justin Trudeau admitted that a couple of errors were made in relation to travel claims that should have been charged to the Speaker’s Bureau he belongs to rather than his MP expenses, dating back to 2009 and 2010. He said that it was human error, repaid them by personal cheque, and said that had there been better disclosure rules – like his party has put into place – this would have been caught sooner. And then the partisan spin happened. The NDP tried to somehow wedge this into a kind of Nigel Wright scenario, which makes no sense whatsoever. There were also sanctimonious cries about how he swore he never used his MP expenses for his outside work – and it seems pretty clear that it was a mistake, where the claims were bundled incorrectly, but now we apparently can’t take his word for anything – gods help us if any of his denouncers have ever made a mistake before. Liberal partisans, meanwhile, note that the NDP are the most opaque about their own expenses, for what it’s worth. And for everyone who cries that it should be an MP’s job to speak publicly, I would ask where exactly in an MP’s job description is being a motivational speaker? It’s not. An MP’s job is to hold the government to account and to scrutinise the public accounts, though you’d be hard pressed to find an MP who actually does that these days – I can think of a mere handful. Trying to claim that their job is something else is one more reason why the state of parliament has become so abysmal.

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Roundup: Canada Post’s big announcement

Canada Post has announced that it will phase out urban home delivery over the next five years in favour of community mailboxes. Not only that, but they will raise stamps to $1 apiece, and that they will reduce their workforce by attrition. The government supports this plan, while the postal union and seniors groups are opposed. CBC has six myths and realities about Canada Post. PostMedia breaks down the numbers at Canada Post. The CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra (no, not that Deepak Chopra) also serves on the board of directors of the Conference Board of Canada, whose reports seemed to suggest these very changes. Andrew Coyne argues that this is the time to eliminate Canada Post’s monopoly.

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Roundup: Gun obsession and political direction

As if there weren’t enough problems to worry about in the wake of the floods in Southern Alberta, a small storm erupted yesterday with the revelation that the RCMP seized some unsecured firearms when they were conducting legitimate search and rescue operations. Not just unsecured firearms, but those left out in the open in evacuated homes. The RCMP explained this, as did the premier, but that didn’t stop the “government is seizing our guns!” conspiracy theorists from having an epic meltdown and theorizing that they were using gun registry data to target houses and enter them illegitimately. And to compound that, the PMO put out a statement that advised the RCMP to spend their time and attention elsewhere (as though unsecured firearms isn’t an actual offence that are well within their duties), which was perilously close to political direction – something that the PMO should not be doing when it comes to the Mounties. Meanwhile, High River’s fire chief had some pretty harsh words for the federal government when it comes to their interference – most of which he deemed to be posing – and cuts to emergency preparedness funding.

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Roundup: The unravelling cases of Senators Wallin and Duffy

In the past couple of days of Senate revelations, we find that Senator Pamela Wallin has an Ontario health card and not a Saskatchewan one, which raises the question about her residency – no matter that she spent 168 days in Saskatchewan last year. Wallin also apparently repaid a substantial amount in expense claims before this whole audit business started, which is also interesting news. Senator Mike Duffy, meanwhile, could actually end up owing $90,000 plus interest on his living expense claims rather than the $42,000 that was cited over the weekend. Oops. Tim Harper looks at the sideshow that is Senator Duffy’s non-apology and smells a deal made to save his job. Senator Cowan says that repayment doesn’t answer the questions – especially not the ones about residency, which means he may not be up to protect Duffy – or Wallin and Patterson’s – seats. And those Senators who’ve been silent on their residency claims are now being called before the Senate Internal Economy committee to explain themselves. Terry Milewski goes through the entire housing claims allegations and fixes an appropriate amount of scorn on the idea that two ticky-boxes are “complex” on the forms.

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Roundup: Fined for telecomm violations

The CRTC has fined the Liberal riding association in Guelph for an improper robo-call during the last election, and Frank Valeriote, the MP, accepted the finding. Now, just to remind you – this was about a violation of the Telecommunications Act with an unidentified robo-call warning that the Conservative candidate might be pro-life. It was not a violation of the Elections Act. It has nothing to do with misleading voter to wrong polling stations, or anything like that. No matter how many equivalencies the Conservative partisans try to this to the other Guelph robo-calls and the mysterious “Pierre Poutine,” they would all be wrong.

Helena Guergis’ lawsuit against Stephen Harper and company has been tossed out – as well it should be. The Judge correctly asserted that the matter of her being in cabinet are a Crown Prerogative – because it is. And Crown Prerogatives are generally non-justiciable for a reason. Otherwise, people start doing silly things, like taking to the courts when they lose at politics, just like they start writing to the GG or the Queen. Oh, wait – they already do! But yeah, it’s not the court’s jurisdiction. If you have a problem with the way a government exercises its prerogative, then you vote them out in the next election. If people had a modicum of civic literacy, this kind of thing might be avoided. Guergis says she’s stating law school next week – hopefully she’ll learn this lesson, as well as what “frivolous lawsuit” means. She also says she wants to appeal, but good luck with that.

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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: Taking the omnibudget threat seriously

So, remember what I was saying yesterday about how the opposition – and the NDP in particular would be hammering away at the government in QP about the omnibus budget bill if they truly considered it to be the major priority and affront to democracy that it is? Well, it only took them until the end of the second round – a full 25 minutes into QP – to ask a pair of broad and general questions about the omnibus nature of the bill, and 38 minutes to ask a couple of substantive questions about a particularly troubling measure within it (and didn’t take the parliamentary secretary to task for her nonsense answer during the supplemental question, like they should have). Apparently this constitutes taking an existential threat to parliamentary democracy seriously.

What’s that? More problems with defence procurements that say they’re going to be one thing (in this case vehicular power transmission components) and turns out to be something else (13 armoured vehicles)? You don’t say! Meanwhile, the military says that Peter MacKay would have known the actual cost estimates of the Libya mission when he reported a much lower figure to parliament. I am shocked – shocked!

The RCMP Commissioner has sent warning letters out to provincial commissioners of firearms to warn against setting up backdoor long-gun registries. The problem of course is that he doesn’t exactly have the ability to meddle in provincial jurisdiction like he – and Vic Toews – would like to on this issue.

The Public Service Commission is investigating whether eleven employees were improperly hired at ACOA due to political interference.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the situation that MDA finds itself in while the government drags its feet on signing the contract for the next phase of the RADARSAT constellation.

Harper and his team continue to try and get Helena Guergis’ lawsuit against them dismissed.

The punitive measures that the Conservatives and NDP imposed on the Liberals around campaign financing retroactively on the 2006 leadership race continues to haunt some of the former contenders.

Here’s a bit of an explainer of what some of the latest “Pierre Poutine” revelations mean.

And Lisa Raitt talks about her battle with post-partum depression to help raise awareness of mental health.

Roundup: Cutting legislative corners

Concerns have been raised that private members’ bills are creating laws with less rigorous scrutiny, and that the government is using this to cut corners. Which is pretty much a big “well, yeah – obviously.” Private members’ bills are not drafted with the assistance of the Department of Justice, but rather by some underpaid clerks in the Library of Parliament, and the time allotted for debate is really limited – two hours per stage in the Commons, and maybe two committee meetings. And yes, the government has been taking advantage of this fact, but for a number of reasons. Sometimes that advantage is tactical – if it’s a PMB and not a government bill, it’s open for a free vote so you can get some opposition MPs onside as they (normally) won’t be whipped on it. If those free votes can sow some division, as with the long-gun registry bill in the previous parliament, so much the better. Sometimes it is genuinely an idea from the backbenches that the government likes, which I suspect the masked rioter bill was after it tapped into some good old-fashioned populist outrage after incidents like the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver. But this having been said, I doubt that it’s often being done for the sake of less oversight and debate considering the speed with which these bills proceed, and no, not every bill or motion from a government backbencher is a backdoor attempt by the government to do something (like the Woodworth abortion motion, so stop insisting that it is. Seriously – just stop). A large part of the problem, however, stems from the fact that MPs are conflating their own roles, and they like to think of themselves as American-style lawmakers, and certain opposition parties – like the NDP in particular – like to use their private members’ business to advance party goals rather than the personal policy hobbyhorses of their MPs, like PMBs are intended to do. We need to be mindful that MPs are not there make laws, but are rather to hold those who do to account, and that has been eroded. PMBs are supposed to be limited in scope and effect because it’s not an MP’s job to make laws.  When this role becomes conflated, problems like this one start creeping into the system.

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