While we may be past the halfway mark in this campaign, we’re also well into the territory when things start getting a bit…surreal. Or utterly nonsensical. Take your pick. All of it done in the breathless hyperbolizing that parties do in order to try and make their rivals look bad. If you take a look at any Conservative press release, the sections comparing “Justin and Mulcair” are full of ridiculous non sequiturs that have little or nothing to do with the topic at hand. The Liberals are trotting out Jean Chrétien to say that Stephen Harper has “shamed” Canada (never mind that the rest of the world really doesn’t care). And the NDP have been taking the cake for some of their criticisms, which are starting to sound more like grasping at straws. They held a news conference with Charlie Angus to decry Justin Trudeau for “smearing” small businesses when he pointed out that wealthy people self-incorporate to pay lower taxes. And then Angus admitted that it’s a problem and they need to “tweak” the system, but still tried to insist Trudeau was smearing. Their line of attack about not being able to trust the Liberals not to make cuts is predicated on the 1990s, never mind the fact that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is nowhere near what it was the. And now Thomas Mulcair is brushing off the concerns of the premiers for his plans, whether it’s Senate abolition (which most don’t support), or childcare (which the provinces are expected to pay 40 percent of), or even their balanced budget pledge, of which provincial transfers are an issue. But he’ll have a “mandate” he says. Never mind that he sounds like he’s already over-reading it when he hasn’t even been given one. Suffice to say, the talking points from all sides are getting ridiculous. And we still have a month to go.
The Deschamps Report is now released, and as feared, it’s a black eye for the Canadian military. The report details a highly sexualised culture within the Forces, complete with sexist language, jokes, and unwanted advances leading to date rape and worse, making the Forces a hostile environment for not only women, but also GLBT individuals within the Forces. It was also stated that the more people went up the ranks, the more they became inured to the incidents, making superior officers unlikely to recognise it when it happens. Deschamps made ten recommendations, and the military only said they would accept two immediately, and the others “in principle,” including creating an exterior body that can receive complaints about harassment, which would be needed precisely because it’s outside of the structure of the Forces and won’t be somewhere that complainants would need to fear retaliation, and where they could be taken seriously. It needs to be pointed out that the government distanced themselves from this release – Jason Kenney was nowhere to be seen, even absent from Question Period despite the fact that he was in the Foyer giving a press conference not two hours earlier. (That the official opposition raised the report in a clumsy and scripted way is also concerning but I covered this ground in yesterday’s QP recap). A retired officer who is now a lawyer says that part of the problem is the military justice system, and it needs major reforms if it is to help end this culture. NDP MP Christine Moore, who served in the Forces, noted that she had faced this same kind of harassment the report details. And here’s a Q&A with more information about the report.
'Culture of misogyny' report presser update: CDS Lawson just did it again: called on "Christine" instead of Maj.Gen. Whitecross. #cdnpoli
— Janyce McGregor (@janycemcgregor) April 30, 2015
As expected, the confidence vote on the government as it ordered a combat deployment to Iraq went ahead last night and passed with little trouble, and not without a great deal more political posturing on all sides. I’m not going to say we’re going to war, because that gives ISIS too much credit, but it does escalate Canada’s role in the region, though we’ll see how long any airstrikes will be effective for. The NDP are grumbling particularly about the door being opened to combat in Syria, while Liberal MP Irwin Cotler put out a release to state his reason for abstaining from the vote, which was eloquently stated when it comes to needing to engage in some form of combat against ISIS, but not agreeing with the way this government has gone about it. In the region, Matthew Fisher notes the logistical challenges that will mean it may not be until the end of the month before our CF-18s can begin making any airstrikes. Terry Milewski notes the divisions among those opposed to the combat mission, including former Liberal voices that want it to go ahead, while Michael Den Tandt looks at the way in which the Liberals were squeezed in this debate. Paul Wells goes back to the archives to find the ways in which the Liberals handled Iraq deployments in the past, and finds the curious ways in which history repeats itself.
And it’s buh-bye once again to Rob Anders, as he failed his second attempt at a nomination race, this time in the Southern Alberta riding of Bow Valley. There, the mayor of Brooks won the race, in spite of his questionable choices in haircut, beard and waxed moustache (seriously?), after he labelled Anders a “drop-in candidate.” Anders must have secured the party’s consent to contest a second nomination, but now it remains to be seen what he’ll do next. Oh, and he didn’t even bother to show up at the nomination meeting that he ended up losing in. Apparently Alberta has tired of him and his antics. I just can’t wait for him to denounce that riding as having been infiltrated with liberals and communists, as he tries to find the last vestige of a people who wear their prejudices as proudly as they drive their pick-up trucks.
The NDP spent an inordinate amount of time crowing over social media yesterday about how they scored a “procedural coup” and “forced” a debate on the report of the special committee on missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The problem is that it’s not really true. Yes, they moved a concurrence motion during Routine Proceedings after QP on Friday, as is their right – but they didn’t surprise the government or catch them off-guard, as Romeo Saganash said during QP that they would be moving such a motion. Giving 20+ minutes notice is not “catching the government off-guard.” And when they forced a 30-minute vote and proceeded to this concurrence motion, the government voted with them and agreed to the debate, which again, puts the “forced” or “coup” narrative to the test. The report itself doesn’t recommend a national inquiry, seeing as it was a Conservative-dominated committee, and while the NDP wanted to highlight their dissenting report appended to it, it still gave the government side plenty of time to discuss their version of said report. So with these facts in mind, you will forgive me if I find the social media triumphalism a bit much.
An election has been called in Quebec, but in Ottawa, Thomas Mulcair has declared that as there is no provincial NDP, he will remain “neutral.” And yes, he did just last weekend insist that he was going to be “Captain Canada” and fight for national unity. To that end, he says that he’ll support the federalist side (recall that he was once a provincial Liberal), but he doesn’t want people to vote only on that issue, especially because there are some Quebec Liberals who are in favour of private healthcare and so on. But wait – he also said that Marois would try to force a referendum if she wins a majority. So, he doesn’t want federalism to be the only factor, but it’s a major factor because she’ll launch a referendum that nobody wants. No doubt this has nothing to do with keeping the soft nationalists in the party fold. The Liberals, meanwhile, are on the attack saying that Mulcair can’t be neutral while the issue of separatism is on the table, while the Conservatives (who aren’t a big presence in the province) are holding back but saying that they would prefer Quebeckers choose the federalist option. Aren’t Quebec politics fun?
It was a day of leaks yesterday – first a plan to try to “disrupt” the Liberal convention and undermine Trudeau, which seemed a bit foolish and costly, given that their “agents” would have to purchase convention memberships for the purpose of lame buttons and Trudeau-branded rolling papers. (The Liberals, meanwhile, say the attention is flattering). And while that one looked deliberately leaked to the media, the following other leaks weren’t. A 70-page re-election strategy was next to make its way to the Toronto Star, which talks a lot about leveraging Laureen Harper to help put a human face on the government, while totally ignoring Thomas Mulcair in the strategy. And if that wasn’t enough, it was then revealed that the PM’s former chief of staff, Guy Giorno, will be the party’s new legal advisor. Paul Wells notes that even though the party has often ”leaked” false memos in the past this does appear that they have an unintended leaker in their ranks.
Being released today is the new election reform act brought forward by the government which promises to reshape Elections Canada. And yes, the opposition is nervous. Already there are questions as to why Pierre Poilievre was selective in his answers to the House yesterday during QP when he said that he had met with the Chief Electoral Officer about the bill. That meeting, however, was before it was drafted, and not about the actual provision or language of the bill, which is kind of a big deal. One of the big questions about the bill is the provision that the new Commissioner of Elections be appointed by the Director of Public Prosecutions rather than the Chief Electoral Officer, and how that will affect his or her independence. Oh, and the most egregious part? That Poilievre is having his press conference to announce the bill before the technical briefing for reporters takes place. You know, so they won’t have time to read it or understand it before asking questions. Because that’s not a cynical move designed to frustrate the media and keep things as opaque as possible.
Today marks eight years since Stephen Harper and his Conservatives gained power. How the time flies. Chris Hall writes that those years have honed Harper’s survival instincts (which makes all of those articles about Harper stepping down this year, which are still being published, all the more absurd).
Preston Manning launched a new website to promulgate constitutionally unsound and fairytale notions of Senate reform, coupled with an online poll of which “reform” method Canadians would prefer, with the option of abolition also in there. He plans to give the results to Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre, who will use the unscientific data to make a number of ridiculous Question Period talking points, and our debate on the health of our institutions will be poorer for it.
Stephen Harper made his speech before the Knesset yesterday, and largely accused the “Stop Israel Apartheid” movement as being a new breed of more sophisticated anti-Semites. So there’s that. Ahmed Tibi, an Arab-Israeli MK and leader of the Arab Movement for Change party, heckled Harper’s speech and walked out, because he took exception to Harper’s characterisation of Israel as a democracy – considering that most of the Palestinians are disenfranchised – and that he feels that it is an apartheid state, contrary to Harper’s assertion. Michael Petrou live-blogged the speech – complete with drinking game – and made some quite apt observations about the reality of the situation in the region along the way. Petrou also dissected Tibi’s heckling criticism of Harper’s speech, and notes where Tibi gets things right and wrong. Meanwhile, Harper did announce an additional $66 million in aid for the Palestinian authority. And CBC has a full list of the delegation that Harper brought with him, while Liz Thompson finds that a large number of them are also Conservative donors.