Sunday, November 20, 2011

Parliament In Review: October 26, 2011

Wednesday, October 26 saw a rare opportunity for the opposition parties to set the agenda. And as a result, the big issue was one which the Cons prefer to discuss as little as possible - even if it's far more relevant to more Canadians than most of the Harper government's distraction tactics.

The Big Issue

And that issue is...transit, which was dealt with in a second-reading debate on Olivia Chow's private member's bill. Chow in particular pointed out that municipalities themselves aren't the least bit interested in having the federal government wash its hands of the issue:
Hazel McCallion was just ranked number one in a Canadian poll as the most popular mayor. Naheed Nenshi, the major of Calgary, is number two. He is the Prime Minister's mayor and he supports a national transit strategy. Gregor Robertson, the mayor of Vancouver, is number three and he too supports a national transit strategy. These mayors are all in touch with their constituents. They all know what is needed.

Here are some more words: “We would encourage all parliamentarians and all parties to support the creation of a national transit strategy” They are not the words of a big city mayor. They are the words of the mayor of Grande Prairie.

The mayor of Winnipeg said that this provides an excellent framework for a national transit strategy. He was talking about the bill.

On the east coast, the Charlottetown city council supports the bill for a national transit strategy. That endorsement is echoed in all parts of the country, the transit authorities of London, Ottawa, Kelowna, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties , the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities which represent over 2,000 cities large and small, from coast to coast to coast.

Business groups such as the Toronto Board of Trade, and just today, the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, are on board.

There is a reason that all these great community leaders, business groups and ordinary Canadians are crying out for us to act. Transit is important; in fact, it is vital.
...which could only mean that the Cons were determined to do just that.

Meanwhile, Chow pointed out why the current general gas tax transfers aren't enough to ensure the development of well-planned transit systems. Elizabeth May seconded the bill and pointed out that Canada is the lone OECD country without a national transit policy. Kevin Lamoureux raised the idea of making transit free for seniors during off-peak hours. And Fin Donnelly pointed out the health and economic benefits of an effective transit policy.

The Race to Respond

Ralph Goodale raised a point of order as to why a Con spinmeister had been recognized to answer a question directed toward an opposition committee chair - a tactic which looks to be a sadly effective response to the idea of limiting the Cons' ability to provide non-answers in question period as long as the Speaker is so interested in giving the maximum possible speaking time to his party that he doesn't care in the slightest where a question is directed.

In Brief

Robert Aubin raised homelessness and housing in question period, only to have his call for a long-term strategy met with a statement that the Cons had already done plenty as far as they're concerned. Chris Charlton introduced a private member's bill to establish an oil and gas ombudsman. Jack Harris moved another motion to split up the Cons' dumb-on-crime legislation to allow the more problematic aspects to receive the scrutiny they deserve, while noting that the Cons' new bill left out amendments agreed to when earlier versions actually received some study. And in question period, Harris challenged Vic Toews on the differences between the Cons' previous gun registry bills and the one they're so determined to ram through now. Joe Comartin expanded on his ultimately-successful challenge to Russ Hiebert's anti-union bill. Alexandre Boulerice wondered whether the Cons' acceptance of the Auditor General's recommendations out of Tony Clement's G8 scandal included any willingness to allow Parliament to investigate, rather than taking Clement at his thoroughly-debunked word. Pat Martin pointed out another Con MP who campaigned on the idea of a vote on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk, rather than its destruction by fiat. And Rathika Sitsabaiesan called for an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka - only to be met with Deepak Obhrai's response that diplomacy works behind the scenes rather than in public. (Which surely needs to be passed along to whoever's been directing the Harper Cons' all-bloviation, all-the-time strategy on the Middle East.)

No comments:

Post a Comment