Sunday, June 30, 2013

Some Musings on the Senate and Bill C 377 or Why Brent Rathgeber is Smiling

A few years ago, the Harper Government introduced bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities bill.  They used all the powers in their means to push this particular bill through the House of Commons, using time allocation to limit debate and using their majority standing at the committee level and in the House to push through this bill post haste.

The only problem?  There were flaws in the bill.

The flaws were pointed out by the opposition and they introduced amendments to correct these flaws, but the Harper Party would have none of that and pushed C-10 through the way it stood.  And then they realized that the opposition parties were indeed right, the bill needed amendments.

So the Harper Party called on their counterparts in the Senate and asked them to amend the bill so that these flaws could be corrected.  And the Senate did, and then they sent it back to the House where the Harper Party passed it through again.

This is sort of the way the Senate is supposed to work.

Actually the Senate is supposed to look at the bills passed in the House and determine if they are good bills without being told how to vote on those bills.  If the bill is a “good” bill then they pass it.  If the bill is not a good bill, they can amend the bill and send it back, or they can kill the bill in the Senate.

So imagine the surprise on the faces of the Harper faithful when the Senate found bill C-377 to be in need of amendment.

The PMO has weighed in, they are none too pleased with the 16 Senators that sided with the Liberals in the Senate and they are equally miffed at the 4 Senators who abstained, allowing the amended version to pass and not supporting the original bill.

I think the PMO should stick a sock in it.  The Senate did what they are paid to do for a change.

This isn’t a rare occurrence like some would have you believe, since 1960 the Senate has amended and returned over 110 bills to the House, some of these bills passed back and forth a few times.  Liberal dominated Senates have returned Liberal bills, Conservative dominated Senates have returned Conservative bills and now a Harper Party dominated Senate has returned a Harper Party bill.

That’s an average of just over 2 bills per year.

Besides, it’s not like they killed the bill, which truly is a rare occurrence, they merely amended it.  The only instance that I can recall of the Senate killing a bill in recent history is the Climate Change Accountability Act C-311, that the opposition parties managed to put through some years ago and the Harper Party Senators used a procedural tactic to vote down the bill at First reading.  No debate, just vote, just kill it.

As for the bills that the Harper Party faithful whine about?  Those died when the Senate amended them and the House did not move on them, the House just left them to die when the House dissolved for election or when Stephen Harper prorogued the House, twice.

Stephen killed those bills, not the Senate.

Look, we’ve had the Senate for almost 150 years now, and for the most part it has worked pretty well.  It is by no means perfect, but there is no way on earth that I would trust Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair or Justin Trudeau to redo the Senate.  Politicians have a lacklustre track record when it comes to writing rules to govern themselves, this would be far too important to trust to them.

For those of you who think the Senate should be abolished, let’s put it this way.  If there were no Senate, then bill C-377 would be the law and the unions would have to tell everyone up and down the street how much of a Christmas tip they gave the paper carrier.  If there is an issue with how the unions spend their money, it is up to the membership to deal with that.  Not you, not me, and certainly not Stephen Harper.

I would much rather know how much you and I are paying the people in the PMO.  You know the folks that hide in their holes and only pop up to throw poop at bad Senators and the RCMP?  How about you?

The irony here is the template that the Senate used for their amendments to C-377.  The threshold for salary disclosure of union leadership was raised to $444,461.00.  This is the same amount that the Harper Party amended the threshold for reporting public servants’ salaries in bill C-461, Brent Rathgeber’s Sunshine list bill.

Obviously the amount chosen was intentional, they are sending a message to Stephen Harper.  I hope the message is that at least some of the people in the Senate have remembered that they were appointed as Conservatives and not Harper Party marionettes.  I also hope this is a message to the PMO that some of the Senate has lost its fear of the “boys in short pants”.

None the less, Brent Rathgeber appears to enjoy the irony, and so do I.

Cheers for now!  BC

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Using Vic Toews to Defend Justin Trudeau, Or the Abuse of the PMO

Does anyone know who Julie Carmichael is?  Probably not.

"His testimony has raised serious questions as to why the Liberal dirty tricks machine is collecting personal information on their political opponents using taxpayer dollars," Julie Carmichael said in an email.

Julie Carmichael is the Director of Communications for the Minister of Public Safety.  Nice title eh?

Her comments were to do with Adam Carroll of #vikileaks fame.

Vic Toews himself weighed in on the matter, raising a question of Privilege…

The fact that House of Commons resources appear to have been used in an attempt to anonymously degrade my reputation and obstruct me from carrying out my duties as a member of Parliament is, I contend, a contempt of the House. I take no issue with an open attack on the floor of this House, in which the source of the attack may be seen by all. I take strong issue with the idea that House resources would be used to secretly attack a member of the House.

It seems that everyone from Dean Del Mastro to John Baird and then some had an opinion on how evil it was for a mere staffer to access and distribute embarrassing information.  They loudly proclaimed it an abuse of taxpayer money and so on…

But what happens when it involves the Prime Minister’s Office? 

Early last week, June 17th to be exact, the Barrie Advance and the Barrie Examiner both ran very similar stories.  Both of these papers had received information from a “source” designed to degrade the reputation of a Member of Parliament, that being Justin Trudeau.

The “source” as you probably already know was the PMO.

Kudos to both Papers for choosing the high road and deciding to not run these stories as they were given to you, but for having the chutzpah to stand up to the PMO and tell the world, well Barrie anyhow, how the unelected staffers of the PMO were trying to turn you into part of their propaganda public relations machine.

The Advance chose to include some portions of the email they received.

The material included invoices, a promotional poster and an accommodation receipt for the Toronto Four Seasons. Meekes wrote, “To be fair, there is an in-house yoga studio at the Four Seasons!”

From the Barrie Advance

Meekes is Erica Meekes, a Communications Officer within the PMO.  When the Advance contacted her at the PMO she said that they “routinely” reach out to the media like this.  I’m not sure if the sarcasm is part of the routine, but obviously there was some time and effort involved in uncovering this damning information from a period in time when Justin Trudeau was just a private citizen.  And we paid for it.  And it’s a routine thing.


We also get to pay for Andrew MacDougall and his tweets on Justin Trudeau.  Andrew is a Director of Communications within the PMO.

The PMO has around 90 of these folks running around, some of them are the infamous “boys in short pants” that the Harper Party backbenchers deride.

The bottom line is we are paying the salaries of these people.  They are supposed to be advisors to Harper, not his hatchet crew.  Prior to Stephen Harper, most of us had never even heard of the PMO.  The most we ever got was “a spokesperson for the PM” saying something when the PM wasn’t available.

If the Harper Party wants to complain about the other parties and their staffers, they need to start in their own yard first.  Partisan politics is the realm of the parties, not the staffers or the PMO.  Using government employees for partisan efforts is an abuse of the public’s purse and of the public’s trust and should not be condoned by any of the parties.

But true to form.  The Harper Party loves to jump all over the other guys in the House, cite all sorts of rules and privileges and what not.  But none of that stuff ever applies to them, does it?

Keep this in mind Stephen, I will not forget and I will remind everyone who does.

Laters, BC

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Did You Hear What Justin Trudeau Did?

I’m serious!  Did you hear what he did?  It’s scary, he went to New Brunswick and forced a charity to let him speak!  And then he made them give him $20,000.00 and fire their only employee!

It’s all over the news.  I can’t believe it.

And I don’t.

The Grace Foundation decided to hold a fund raiser and they decided that they would like to hire Justin Trudeau.  Trudeau is a professional speaker, and they knew going in that they were going to have to pay whatever the contract they signed said. 

Now, according to the Grace Foundation’s website the event was “an evening to remember.”  They also went on to thank the “sponsors who contributed to the success of Grace Foundation’s first fund raising event”

So, the hosts invited Trudeau to speak, they were pleased with his speech and that he took the time to answer audience questions, and they thanked the sponsors because the event was successful.

So what changed?

When Trudeau was hired to speak, he was just an MP whose father had been the Prime Minister of Canada.  He had even cleared the fact that he was a professional speaker with the Ethics Commissioner, a Harper appointee I might add.

Over nine months later the Grace Foundation sends Trudeau a letter complaining that they lost money and that they wanted a refund.  This was when Trudeau had gone from being just an MP with a noted name to the odds on favourite to win the Leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Imagine that.

I don’t know when the Harper Party got hold of the letter, but the timing of the reveal is suspect.  Can the attack ads be far behind?

But let’s back up a step and look at the bigger picture.  When the letter of complaint was sent nine months after the fact, another Harper appointee Mike Duffy was trying to find out where to go to demand more money from the Harper Party for all his good works and trying to explain where he lived.

Aye, there’s the rub.

We have the RCMP looking into the Duffy/Wright/PMO/Senate scandal.

 We have the Pam Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Arthur Porter (in a Panama Jail), Arthur Porter’s wife, James Bezan,  Shelly Glover, Dean Del Mastro, Jeff Watson scandals with Eve Adams looking like she might be in trouble too.

We have the F35 fiasco, and the new Navy ships are costing more to design than they cost to build in Norway, Denmark, and Ireland.

Oh and a Fearless Leader who disappears whenever anything comes to a head, “Having a wonderful time in the UK and France, glad you’re not here…”

Look, it’s unfortunate that when the Grace Foundation hired Justin Trudeau they didn’t make money on the event.  But it’s not Trudeau’s fault, it’s the host that has the responsibility to get people to attend their event.

Maybe they should have hired someone else.  Mike Duffy does paid speaking events, he’s from out East they tell me.  Maybe they should have hired him.

Besides he only costs half of what Justin Trudeau does.

That’s it for now…

Cheers! BC