Sunday, October 09, 2011

Parliament In Review: September 29, 2011

As Parliament heads into a week off, let's get caught up on what happened in the last couple of weeks before its break - starting with a day that focused on the NDP's choice of opposition day motions.

The Big Issue

While the Cons have spent nearly all of their time cracking down on immigration and pushing dumb-on-crime policies, Peggy Nash's motion started a discussion of economic issues. And the result was fairly telling on a few sides.

The back-and-forth discussion between the Cons and the NDP saw a sharp clash of economic philosophies. The Cons canonized Margaret Thatcher and cited David Cameron as an economic authority, while the NDP pointed out how much harm the likes of Thatcher and Mike Harris actually did. Robert Aubin pointed out the harmful effects of inequality and was met with the argument from Cathy MacLeod that the Cons don't have any interest in reducing inequality except through private-sector trickle-down effects. Guy Caron, Raymond Cote and Mike Sullivan all pushed back effectively against the Cons' efforts to paint any opposition to tax cuts as being an inherently unreasonable position. And Cote nicely traced the centuries of economic knowledge that have been thrown out the window in the name of corporatist dogmatism.

Meanwhile, one point from the Cons looks to be particularly worth following in the time to come. A parliamentary secretary (Cathy McLeod) suggested that the Cons' current policies don't constitute "austerity" since they haven't directly slashed transfers earmarked for social programs - which looks to imply that when the Cons do push austerity measures around the globe, that's exactly what they're supporting.

The Libs' preferred line for the day was to focus on a change in circumstances between budget day and the fall, as Ralph Goodale in particular argued that changed circumstances demanded a change in policy. John McCallum noted that by the Cons' own numbers their 2011 budget was contractionary. And Scott Brison delivered what may have been the day's best description of the Cons' policies:
(Sherry Cooper) called for counter-cyclical fiscal policy, while what the Conservatives are doing, which I guess is the only thing we can call it, is a counter-Keynesian fiscal policy. It is not just that the Conservatives are ignoring the advice of the economists. They are doing exactly the opposite of what the economists are calling for during these tough times.
Finally, Mike Wallace apparently believes that he lives in a world where opposition parties tried to stop the Cons from engaging in stimulus, rather than having to push them to implement it in the first place. Brad Butt is apparently stuck on anti-coalition talking points rather than having anything to say about actual policies. Ted Hsu mused that the Cons' success in removing some Canadians from the tax rolls may have to do with their no longer having jobs. Pat Martin and Fin Donnelly discussed the strong returns on investment in conservation and green energy. Jean Crowder focused on the harmful effects of poverty. And in question period, Nycole Turmel pointed out the costs of aboriginal unemployment in particular.

Fully Endorsed

In case there was any doubt whether the Cons' cabinet officially supports the idea of dragging sitting judges in front of committees to serve as political props, James Moore repeatedly approved of his caucus-mates' maneuvers to do just that. Outrage did not ensue.

In Brief

Libby Davies asked why the Cons are pushing a drug to treat vision loss that costs $1500 per month instead of a functionally equivalent one that costs $7. Pat Martin tried in vain to get an answer from Kellie Leitch about how a trained physician could possibly support asbestos pushers. Olivia Chow delivered a statement on the desperate need for a national transit strategy, while Martin introduced open government legislation. Charlie Angus rightly asked why Tony Clement instructed his G8 collaborators to hide their unapproved spending if it made for the good news story the Cons are now trying to claim, while Alexandre Boulerice suggested that the Cons might at least want to update their spin to respond to the steady stream of new and damning revelations. And Glenn Thibeault highlighted the consumer debt crisis which the Cons are only exacerbating by rejecting any support for the Canadians who need it most.

[Edit: Fixed typo.]


  1. Re judges being brought to parliament.  Something is going on here.  Newt Gingrich was advocating the same thing on Face the Nation, this morning.  The North American conservative axis is moving on the judiciary as a means of destroying the last impediment to their coup d'etat.

  2. I wasn't aware of that and thought the issue in Canada was just an isolated example of anti-CBC MPs not much caring what effect an attack on public broadcasting might have on the judiciary. But I'll definitely keep an eye out if it's a wider issue, particularly since it plays nicely into the Reform legacy of vilifying the courts for failing to mirror its prejudices.