Friday, July 26, 2013

More Musings on the Senate

I really didn’t want to go on about the Senate again, but they’re in the news again. 

Former Liberal Senator Mac Harb it seems has never actually lived in the house that he has been claiming as his “primary residence”.  This puts him one step down from Mike Duffy who at least visited his cottage from time to time.  To add to this, the RCMP are saying that the house as it stands is unliveable and that Harb doesn’t even “own” the house, just 1% of it.

Now I’m not sure about how things like that are done, but I’m willing to bet that the one per cent is worth over the $3000.00 in real estate that Senator are required to own in the province they represent.

Let me go on the record right now, as an unrepentant left wing loony (or weenie) (even though I still maintain I’m nearer to the centre of the political spectrum) if Mac Harb has done wrong, Mac Harb needs to pay the price.

Just the same as Mike Duffy and any other Senator who want to play loosey goosey with the rules, they need to pay the price as well.  If you are defrauding the people of Canada, there’s a new home waiting for you courtesy of the court system.  And yes, you get your day in court before you get your new digs, just like any other Canadian.

Now the really ugly part of all this is that the former Senate Government Leader Marjory LeBreton would have been happy to just paper over the alleged sins of these and any other Senators as long as they paid back their ill gotten gains.

Listen Marjory, between this and the fact that you say you are 100% behind Harper in his efforts to “improve” the Senate, well this  shows why you and your compadres in the Senate are among the least qualified people to have sitting in judgement of how the Senate should be remade.  Let’s face it, you’re giving lickspittles a bad name.

The other people who may be even less qualified to meddle with the Senate are the ones who sit in the Lower House.  That includes Harper and Mulcair and Trudeau.  All three have a vested interest in grooming the Senate to what they perceive to be their needs and couldn’t give a rap for what the country needs.

Look, over 140 years ago, when the Fathers of Confederation were wrestling with what our system of Government should be and how it should work, there was a lot of thought, effort, and debate on how the Senate should work.

There was a great deal of concern over how we should be represented in the Senate.  Some favoured representation by population but others were concerned that a large province could dominate both the Lower and the Upper House.  Eventually they agreed to a regional balance.  Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes would have the same number of Senate seats to balance the number of seats in the House of Commons which was a rep by pop legislature.  This regional representation carried on when it was eventually decided the Western Provinces should have a similar number of Senate seats.  The only imbalance occurred when Newfoundland joined Confederation and was assigned their 6 Senate seats.

While this was being hashed out, the other decision was whether Senators should be elected or selected and how long they should sit for.  The argument in favour of electing Senators was that they would be more responsive to the people they represent, the counter argument was that an elected Senate would justly demand equal right of representation and equal power as the House of Commons, having the same mandate to represent the people.

In the end they decided to create what for the most part we have today.  Similar to, but not entirely the same as the system used in the UK.  Thankfully we didn’t have a true aristocracy at the time or we could have had Senators being given their seat because it was their Daddy’s before them.

All three major parties have tipped their hands to what their particular vision of the Senate should be today.  Mulcair wants to throw it away, Trudeau wants to basically leave it as it sits, and Harper wants to elect Senators and then strip them of their power to do anything.

Our system is not perfect, no system is, but it works Okay most of the time.  And we don’t suffer the gridlock that our Southern neighbours do and that they have experienced in Australia as well. 

If you want to point at Harb, Duffy, and the other problem children we have in the Senate as a reason to change it, I’ve got a couple of points for you to think on.

Out of the 105 Senate seats we have in Ottawa, only a few have problem children occupying them right now.  That is a pretty darn good average if you ask me.

Of the handful of miscreants we do have in the Senate today, 3/4ths of them were appointed by Lord Stephen… the guy who promised that he would not appoint an unelected Senator.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think the Senate is perfect.  Our whole system has flaws, but it has worked reasonably well for over 140 years.  If we do need to roll up our sleeves and muck about in the workings of the Senate, it is far too important a job to trust to partisan politicians.  We’ll need to have outsiders look at it, give us an estimate, and then we’ll decide whether to let them have at it or not.

When Sir John A. and the rest were setting up our system of Government, they had partisan feelings too.  But they also had a vision.  It wasn’t a simple “good for our party” vision, it was to build a country from scratch.  They were able to reach beyond partisan politics and reach compromises because they realized that the future of Canada was at stake.

It still is.  And I don’t trust any of those partisans in Ottawa to reach across the aisle and work towards a better Canada.  At least not where the Senate is concerned.

Cheers! BC

Maybe sometime soon I’ll go into the different views on the Senate…

We shall see.  Laters All!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Let’s Get Rid of Those Unelected Clowns in Ottawa!

I’d like to take a few moments to muse on a subject that irks me to no end.  How we can have unelected, appointed people in Ottawa influencing proposed legislation and even influencing the day to day governance of Canada.

I’m not talking about the Senate.  They have their own issues…

I’m talking about the Prime Minister’s Office, the PMO.

How can it be that a group of people (the Harper Party) who decry the horrors of an unelected body (yes the Senate this time) can gladly take their marching orders from a shadowy cast characters working in the PMO?

I have a joke for you.

Q: What do you call someone on Twitter who endlessly repeats talking points?

A: Troll.

Q: What do you call someone in the House of Commons who endlessly repeats talking points?

A: Minister.

I said it was a joke, not that it was funny.

Look at the last Cabinet shuffle.  Oh look how much new blood was injected into the shiny new Cabinet!  Echo boxes.  Want to get a seat at the big people’s table?  Repeat the talking points issued by the infamous “boys in short pants”.

Seriously these people may be capable representatives for their constituencies, but they are not allowed to represent anything other than what they are told to.  Don’t dance to the tune?  Have a seat in the back, thanks.

How powerful are these people in the PMO?  We don’t really seem to know.

When there was concern about the RCMP taking the firearms from homes following the High River flooding this year, it wasn’t Public Safety Minister Vic Toews telling the RCMP to give them back was it?  It wasn’t Stephen Harper either.  It was the PMO apparently acting on its own to chastise the RCMP in public.

The release did not say it was a statement by Harper, it was a PMO release.

When Brent Rathgeber decided that he could no longer sit as a Harper Party MP and crossed the floor to sit as an Independent, it wasn’t a Minister speaking out against Mr. Rathgeber.  It was the PMO.

And to add hypocrisy to Harpocrisy the PMO said that Mr. Rathgeber should run in a by election to confirm his seat.  They have no such qualms when an NDP member chooses to leave their caucus or when a Liberal chooses to leave their caucus as well.

Now some of the Harper Party apologists might want to go on about the PMO being appointed by the elected PM Stephen Harper.  But this is Canada, we don’t elect a PM.

The party elects as leader, the party that wins the most seats gets to call their leader the PM.  If the Harper Party had chosen someone else, Stephen Harper wouldn’t be PM now would he?

Had the good people of Calgary Southwest decided that they were done with the biggest flippity flopper in Calgary, Stephen Harper, he wouldn’t be the PM either.

Flippity flopper?  Yep.

Stephen Harper voted alongside the Liberals twice on the Long Gun Registry.  Then he flipped to the anti side.  Stephen Harper absolutely detested Communists and then he Okayed the Nexen deal with the Chinese Government run CNOOC.  The only good Commie is the one with oil money I guess.

At least Rob Anders stands firm on his “No Commies” rules.  At least he does when he is awake.

And Stephen Harper famously told Canadians that he would never appoint an unelected Senator.

Well, Mike Duffy wasn’t elected.  Neither were any of the other non-Albertan Senators that Stephen Harper his flipped and flopped into the Red Chamber.

Now when the Duffy hit the fan, no one bothered to tell Stephen Harper what was going on!

When Mike Duffy realized he was in trouble over his “improper” expenses, he ran to everyone and their brother to bail him out.  He ran to the Harper Party money man, Senator Irving Gerstein, who was going to hand Duffy the cash until the stakes ran a bit too high for his liking leaving Mike Duffy to run to Nigel Wright in the PMO.

Funny how when Duffy was running from station to station with his hand out for $90 Grand, no one bothered to tell the Boss.  It’s funnier still that he didn’t run straight to Stephen himself.

Now if we believe the official story, all this happened with Stephen Harper being blissfully unaware of what was occurring and probably just sitting at home stroking his Stanley.

And in the mean time, the RCMP is interested in getting their hands on a certain email that may show details on how the PMO bailed Mike Duffy out and what was promised by whom… and the PMO is not helping the RCMP out at all.

CTV has a copy of this email, but they are protecting their source and not giving the information to the RCMP.  I wonder who the PMO is protecting.

Stephen Harper?  Maybe.

But then again, could it be that Stephen is telling the truth, and the PMO is covering their collective assets by not handing over the email in question?

In either instance Harper could very easily just tell his staffers to hand over the email, but that would only happen if he was in charge of the PMO.  And I’m starting to wonder if he is.

The PMO has become an agency unto itself.  It has the ability to create policy and enforce rules by being the controlling hand behind the scenes.  The PMO issues the talking points.  The Ministers rarely if ever stray from their given talking points.  Even Stephen Harper limits himself to talking points, unless perhaps he is being told to stick to his talking points…

Tinfoil time?  You tell me.

The following nugget is from the Globe and Mail listing the PMO staff who were informed by Nigel Wright that he was going to pay for Duffy’s expenses.

These PMO staffers include Chris Woodcock, director of issues management – a job that handles hot political files – as well as legal adviser Benjamin Perrin and David van Hemmen, Mr. Wright’s executive assistant. These three ultimately owed their jobs to Mr. Wright, who as chief of staff would have decided who was hired, promoted or fired in such senior PMO positions. [Emphasis mine]

It appears that Stephen doesn’t decide who gets to be in the PMO, his Chief of Staff in the PMO does.

Is Stephen merely the face of the Harper Party?

Again, you tell me.

Cheers! BC

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do We Really Need Pope John Paul II Day?

I just stumbled across this one.  Bill C-266, An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day.

Seriously?  Yeppers.  MP Wladyslaw Lizon (Harper Party) of Mississauga East-Cooksville, Ontario is sponsoring this bill to make April 2nd Pope JPII day in Canada.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Pope John Paul II and I’m sure some people think this is a great idea.  But I don’t.

If we are to do this, shouldn’t we also have a Martin Luther Day for the Lutherans or a John Calvin Day for the people who belong to Calvinist Churches?

We already have Christian Days, like Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter to name a few, isn’t that enough?  I’m sure some other religions would like to have special days to honour their founders or individuals that they hold in high regard or certain celebratory days.  That might be nice.

We don’t even have a Prime Ministers’ Day here.  Our friends to the South have Presidents’ Day, mind you that’s just an excuse to sell bed sheets anymore.

But we do have Victoria Day, and I like that.  After all, she’s the Queen that signed the papers to make Canada a Country, or a Dominion, or whatever you please.  But she’s the only one.  I do miss the firecrackers though.

We don’t celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday here or her Coronation Day do we? 

It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

I personally have no issues with the Catholic Church or most any other church as far as that goes, but there are people in Canada who do have a sore spot with the Catholic Church.  I’m thinking Residential Schools here.  There are probably others who’d think that having Canada officially endorse a Pope would be less than wonderful as well.

Why can’t we have a special Canadian Day?  Maybe we could have a day for Frederick Banting for his work on Diabetes or Tommy Douglass Day for his work on getting us Universal Healthcare?  There are plenty of others, just pick some. 

Tell you what, I’ll even support a Bear Cat Day.  That would be the day that you remember to donate a couple of bucks to your local SPCA.  I’m so magnanimous that I’ll share my day with a Dog.  [I almost went with Goggie there, but that would just be too cliché]

Look, I like John Paul II, but I don’t think that qualifies him for a special day in his honour.  I’m a Canadian, we like things to be inclusive, and having a special day for the head of a church that I don’t ascribe to just doesn’t seem all that inclusive to me.

On second thought, scratch out Bear Cat Day, I think Tuxedo Stan has the inside track on that one… but you can still make that donation to the SPCA.

Cheers!  BC

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Did Nigel Wright Do Something Illegal?

I accidently started a discussion on Twitter the other day.  I merely made a comment in a conversation between some other people hoping they could clarify a question I had.  I can’t even remember the question but it had to do with the payment that Nigel Wright made to cover Mike Duffy’s debt in the Senate.

Some other people noticed my comment and entered into a discussion covering a wide range of scenarios and imaginings about the Duffy Affair and Nigel Wright’s role in it.  Fortunately they left my @canada_bearcat in their tweets so I got to see what they were thinking.

Keep in mind I have no more knowledge of the legal system or how things work in the political arena than anyone else.  I’m just asking questions, hoping to figure things out or find someone who can give the real answers.

The story so far:

We all know Senator Mike Duffy is being investigated by the RCMP as part of the Senate Scandal revolving around him.  There appear to be a couple of layers of possible fraud committed by Mike Duffy and a possibly illegal “gift” that he received.

The first being the expenses he claimed because his “home” was in PEI even though most people knew he had lived in Ottawa going back into the 1970s.

The second would be the improper per diem expenses that he claimed while vacationing in Florida and while he was crisscrossing the country during the 2011 election.

And then there is the acceptance of a “gift” of $90,176.00 from Nigel Wright to cover his list of improper expenses.  In exchange for the money, Duffy was to repay the debt and remain quiet on the whole affair and in return the Senate would “go easy” on him.

The consensus was that Duffy could be in very deep trouble but that Wright may just be a witness because there is no real benefit to him by making the payment.

I wonder at this because from where I sit, there would have been a benefit had this played out the way they had hoped.

As it sits right now, a private citizen gave a sitting Senator money to get out of an embarrassing situation, but is only because there have been no charges laid against anyone yet.  If the RCMP decides to charge Duffy with fraud and with receiving the “gift” then I think this becomes a different kettle of fish.

Nigel Wright is more than just a smart businessman, he is a lawyer with two legal degrees and has been working in the back rooms of conservative politics going back to the Unite the Right Movement.  He was also a founding Director of the Conservative Fund Canada, the money making machine for the Harper Party.  To say he had a vested interest in having the Duffy Affair “just go away” would likely be an understatement.

The cheque that Wright wrote was not a gift to help out a friend who was in a bit of a jam, the cheque was written to cover up a potential crime and to secure Duffy’s silence in that crime.  Isn’t that aiding and abetting after the fact?  Or does that only apply if the RCMP decides to charge Duffy for his misdeeds?

I don’t know how the legal system works in this case, but I know where my ethical compass points.  If there were crimes committed in the Senate, then Nigel had a hand in them too.

The roots on this run deep, and the tendrils reach all through the government.  With the involvement of Wright and Senator Irv Gerstein in the conspiracy to cover up the Duffy Affair, we delve into the inner sanctum of the Harper Party, the foundation that the whole party is built on.  That being the Conservative Fund Canada who considered paying Duffy’s expenses back until they realized how much it would cost.

Through Wright we have several top PMO people with knowledge of the affair including former PMO legal advisor Perrin who still maintains that he was not involved.

From the PMO we move back to the Senate and the Internal Economy Committee headed by Senator Tkachuk who admits that the committee was talking with the PMO when the Deloitte audit was ongoing.

Not surprisingly, when Duffy showed up with the cash, the committee report did in fact go easy on him.  Who gave the order?  Was there a conspiracy involving several layers of the Harper Party to try and push the Duffy Affair under the carpet and cover up the possible crimes here?  And who told Mike how much he owed?  Did he get the heads up from a Senate colleague or someone in the PMO?

It appears that everything will hinge on whether or not the RCMP decides to lay charges against Mike Duffy and what those charges are.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see…


PS, it still bothers me that with all these top Harper Party people involved in this scandal, no one (according to SH) bothered to tell “the Boss” what was going on…hmmm.