Monday, June 3, 2013

The Last Month Or So.

The Centre Block of the Parliament of Canada.  Lots... lots of stuff going on  there and thereabouts. Source.


I've certainly not been blogging for a while.  I was laid off from my job as the mining industry went through at least a brief period of tanking, I've moved to Calgary to be a bike instructor, and will start graduate studies in electrochemistry in the Fall, but in London, Ontario.  Also, as has been the case in the past, I checked on my pageviews after an extended absence, and found that the blog had seen a period of increased activity.  I have and will continue to assume this occurs because my loyal, be-monocled and top-hatted readers are frequently checking back to see if there is anything new, and perhaps re-reading my older posts on such fascinating topics as burning garbage or perhaps Bev Oda and why I was exasperated with the government about a year ago.

Well, about that.  Robocalls are still in the news, and not quite resolved, though if I am not mistaken it was deemed to be either the Tories or someone with access to the list kept by the Tories of voters not intending to vote for them.  Voter suppression did indeed happen, but was deemed not to affect the outcome for the ridings in question.  

Other than that, however, is what really hit the fan in the last month.  We'll pause here and remember that the Tories wanted to reform the Senate, making it fully elected and with fixed terms for Senators.  Stephen Harper also promised to never make a Senate appointment.  Honestly, I would forgive him of this.  It was pointed out to me as a second year university student in a history class, that Senate reform, and thus ammendments to the Constitution, are really, really hard to make.  It requires a nationwide referendum which can divide families, and are an exceeding amount of work for all parties involved.  I also suspect this had something to do with a challenge Harper issued to then Leader of the Opposition St├ęphane Dion.  I forget what the legislation in question was, but Harper said that if Dion had a problem with it, he should instruct his Senate-majority to refuse to pass the Bill in question.  Well, it happened, and Harper was forced to compromise on some legislation.

Then along came Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy.  I find it slightly amusing that "Conservative Senator" was such a popular career move for members of the CTV News team.  But yes.  These three Senators, along with a Grit, I seem to remember, made some key mistakes on claiming housing allowances.  It was accepted that if one's primary residence was more than 100km away from Ottawa, Senators could claim a housing allowance.  Well, claim they did and, I would argue, rightly so.  Though it later came to light that the claims made by these Senators were improper, rebutted with the statement that the form in question was ambiguous on the definition of "primary residence".  In any case, a report has been issued that used particularly damning language in the cases of Wallin and Brazeau, but curiously soft on Duffy, given that they were all guilty of the same thing.  It was also revealed that it was the Conservative members of the committee that held up the report until the language in Duffy's case was softened.

Further curiosity in the case of Mike Duffy was that Nigel Wright, the now former-chief of staff for the Prime Minsiter, gave Duffy a cheque for ~$90,000 to cover the ill-claimed housing expenses which were to be repaid.  The issue here was that if it was a gift, Duffy needed to report it, and if it wasn't, Nigel Wright needed to report it.  In the days following the revelation of the cheque, Tory MPs defended it as the "honourable thing to do."  This of course means that the phrase must have been included in the talking points each MP receives daily.  I'm not joking, to be clear.  However, Wright was then included in a long and storied tradition of the new Conservative Party of Canada, and was promptly thrown under the bus.

The sad thing is that I'm not surprised.  Before the Tories achieved a majority government, the first election saw creative accounting, and the next saw robocalls from the pseudonymous Pierre Poutine.  We have also been lied to about the true cost of the F-35s.  Ah, yes, the F-35s.

Still Scandalicious.

In the end, to discover the true costs of the F-35s, it took reports from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) and the Auditor General.  The PBO, you'll recall, was installed to make government more accountable when the new Tories first came to power.  Then, when the PBO set about doing his job and finding out what was actually in the latest budget, he was dismissed.  That's right, the last Government budget was so obscure that the PBO set about finding out what exactly they were to spend money on, and was dismissed for his efforts.  This includes the advertisements for Canada's Economic Action Plan, which has basically stopped spending money with the exception of its own advertisements.  Seriously, the last EAP commercial I saw advertised Canada's rich natural resources, as if we hadn't had an economy heavily reliant upon them since we started trading beaver pelts.  And, when the Tories were found to be in contempt of Parliament and subsequently defeated in a non-confidence motion, it was dismissed as a "Parliamentary trick" by Stephen Harper, who used the same trick to defeat Paul Martin's government.

Another issue I've wanted to touch on was the National Round Table on Environment and Economics.  This was in place from 1988 to 2013 (it was axed in 2012 and given one more year).  It worked to research how corporations and governments could work together for sustainable development.  In 2012, it gave one too many recommendations for a carbon tax.  It is the opinion of the Tories that Canadians have repeatedly rejected the idea of a carbon tax, and thus, the NRTEE is full of big smelly-heads and shouldn't receive any more funding.  You'll recall I'm a fan of evidence-based practices.  You'll also recall that evidence-based practices exist because popular opinion isn't always right.  In fact, that's part of the reason we have science, because intuition isn't always right.  But, naturally, if you disagree with the government, you can expect to get axed.

That reminds me.  I hope somebody from the CBC reads this, because their funding is getting slashed, too.  I expect it might have something to do with the fact that their reporting might be critical of the Tories.  Now, it's a common criticism of the CBC that it is hard on the Tories, but honestly, we are living in a time where the National Post is heavily criticising the government.  The National Post.  Yes, the National Post.  The newspaper set up by Conrad Black to give a nationwide voice to conservatism in Canada.  That National Post is running articles almost daily which eviscerate the Conservative Party.  Think about that.

So what do I make of all this?  It suggests to me that there exists in the current government a general disrespect and/or disregard for ethics, accountability and transparency.  The very things that the new Conservative Party of Canada campaigned on.  It suggests a politics of convenience rather than of ideology. It is an excellent example of realpolitik.


P.S. To my friends from high school, I hear your groans.  To all, please comment if I have over-generalized or made glaring errors.

P.P.S.  Scott Feschuk has a humourous examination of the current situation here, not unlike Jon Stewart's famous Bush v. Bush debate.