Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Parliament In Review: October 27, 2011

Thursday, October 27 saw the House of Commons discuss the gun registry - and if the Cons' choices to not just dismantle the federal long gun registry but also shred the evidence weren't problematic enough, the debate also featured the Cons' closure motion.

The Big Issue

Once again, that motion faced a strong response from the opposition. Joe Comartin noted that the Cons were breaking all of the Liberal records they once decried in shutting down debate on such a regular basis. Kevin Lamoureux observed that the Cons were using measures to ram through legislation in place of any discussion with the opposition parties as to what pace would be appropriate. Peter Julian reminded the Cons that they won their majority by promising to be more moderate rather than turning up the extremism. And Matthew Dube pointed out the Cons' newfound desire to burn the evidence that's brand new to the legislation introduced this fall.

As for the substance of the debate, the most noteworthy point for future discussion may have come from Con MP Colin Carrie, questioning Irwin Cotler on why the gun registry was supposed to be an unreasonable intrusion:
In the part of the bill that talks about destroying personal records, he called that destroying evidence. When do governments or police forces gather evidence? They gather evidence when there is a crime committed.

However, gun owners are not criminals. They are law-abiding citizens in Canada who believe in the right to own personal property, and their personal information and records are not evidence. It is extremely upsetting to Canadians who are abiding by the law and who put their records out there to respond to the law that is on the books today to be treated like criminals.

Why does the member view law-abiding gun owners as criminals and their personal information and records as evidence?
Of course, by the same standard in which having evidence of one's activity preserved by government order is "to be treated like criminals", Vic Toews and company are no less committed to criminalizing the Internet than they are to freeing up long guns. And if the gun registry bill gets rammed through with a large enough helping of Carrie's style of rhetoric before the discussion on lawful access comes to a close, that contrast doesn't figure to help the Cons' efforts to sell what's a far greater intrusion on personal freedom than the mere registration of a few items.

Meanwhile, Jack Harris coined the phrase "billion dollar bonfire" to describe the Cons' data destruction. Comartin pointed out how the destruction of the gun registry runs contrary to international norms. Comartin then noted that the registry would work better than now if police were properly trained to use it, while Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet pointed out that the Cons' registration amnesties have deliberately made the registry less useful for the past few years. Nycole Turmel questioned why the Cons would go to war against provinces who want to set up registries of their own. Philip Toone pointed out that the Cons' claims to saving $2 billion are utterly ridiculous given that the price of setting up the registry has already been spent, while Kevin Lamoureux repeatedly highlighted the waste involved in needlessly scrapping data that's going to be reassembled at the provincial level anyway. Guy Caron criticized the Cons' all-or-nothing approach to policy-making, while Linda Duncan questioned their interest in victims of crime only after the fact and their neglect of women's issues including gun safety.

Building for the Future

The other main topic of discussion came from Helene Leblanc's motion on infrastructure. Not surprisingly, all opposition parties recognized that infrastructure investment is an ongoing need, with Olivia Chow noting the economic benefits of infrastructure investment and David Christopherson highlighting how infrastructure supports citizen health and safety.

To nobody's surprise, though, the Cons chose to disagree with the motion, claiming that their rushed stimulus spending over the past couple of years should eliminate any need for talk of a future infrastructure strategy.

Take Note

Peter Van Loan introduced a take-note debate on Coptic Christians in Egypt for reasons not apparent, as the strong agreement among all parties suggested that a consensus statement could have fulfilled the same purpose as a discussion in the House of Commons. (Though Jinny Sims' concerns about the tyranny of the majority might have some echoes beyond the foreign policy debate alone, and Joe Comartin offered a sharp response to the Cons' bluster about an office of religious freedom in pointing out their broken promise of an agency to promote democracy.)

In Brief

David Christopherson raised questions about the Cons' satellite boondoggle in the making. Comartin used the traditional Thursday question about the Parliamentary agenda to ask just how much debate is enough when the Cons are invoking closure at every turn. John Rafferty introduced a private member's bill to protect workers' termination and severance pay in cases of employer bankruptcy. And Peter Julian introduced a bill neatly calculated to send the Cons into conniptions - proposing a holiday (which of course doesn't fit the Cons focus on cheapening labour at every turn) to honour the flag the Cons have tried so desperately to wrap themselves in.

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