Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Parliament in Review: November 28, 2011

Monday, November 28 saw the final day of debate in the House of Commons on the Cons' legislation to trash the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board. And not surprisingly, the result was a particularly focused set of concerns about the bill - though those were waved aside yet again.

The Big Issue

The line of the day went to Carol Hughes on the empty promise of "freedom":
Perhaps the Conservatives are correct in a sense in that they are giving our farmers more freedom. However, what they are doing is freeing our farmers from the protection that the single desk provides. They are giving them freedom from financial stability, freedom from proven risk management, freedom to be bullied and bought by big agriculture. They are now freed from a guaranteed decent price on the global market.
Meanwhile, the Cons decided not to stay seated for the debate. Instead, David Anderson kicked off proceedings by hearkening back to the 1920s as his apparent ideal for agricultural marketing systems. Pat Martin again asked for any evidence whatsoever as to the anticipated impacts of demolishing the single desk, only to receive no answer even from the parliamentary secretary responsible. Alex Atamanenko and Frank Valeriote tested whether the Cons had paid any attention to the disastrous effects for farmers when the Australian Wheat Board was similarly torched. Atamanenko also criticized the replacement of an elected board of directors with a set of undemocratic political appointees. Wayne Easter wondered why the Cons were effectively taking the side of the U.S. and its agribusiness giants against Canadian farmers. Randy Hoback described what he would see as a fair voting process based on acres farmed, but didn't bother to explain why his party hadn't bothered to conduct that kind of plebiscite rather than overruling the only votes ever actually taken. Niki Ashton remarked on the helpful declaration by Gordon O'Connor that she could count on being attacked by the Board-bashers brought into Parliament by the Cons. And Alain Giguere pointed out that plenty of institutions beyond the Wheat Board itself stand to be affected by the Cons' attack.

But all the arguments in the world were ultimately for naught, as the Cons voted down any amendments (including the ones limited to preserving some semblance of democracy in the Wheat Board) and rammed through the bill.

Dumb on Crime 33 1/3: Too Dumb to Count

Meanwhile, some time was also taken debating David Wilks' bill to increase the mandatory minimum sentence for the kidnapping of a child by a stranger. Needless to say, the Cons' speeches didn't present the slightest justification for the bill other than their usual stream of declarations of (paraphrased for greater eloquence) "tough! good! criminals! bad! tough! good!". Jack Harris responded by imploring the Cons to take into account the exhortation to make good laws and wise decisions. Sean Casey nicely discussed the need for proportionality based on the facts of a particular case. And Jonathan Genest-Jourdain focused on prevention on the basis that the minimum sentence was nothing more than a sideshow.

In Brief

Peter Julian decried the Cons' environmental vandalism in reneging on Canada's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and standing in the way of any meaningful replacement. Robert Aubin again pointed out the absurdity of the Cons' unfunded, unplanned and unfocused committee on French language rights in Quebec workplaces. Rodger Cuzner highlighted the disastrous results of Con neglect and austerity when it comes to processing EI claims. Anne Minh-Thu Quach questioned what Canada would have to show for billions in extra prescription drug costs based on CETA. Kennedy Stewart wondered why the Cons led the City of Calgary on for three years before declaring that recreation centres weren't eligible for P3 funding. Olivia Chow reiterated her call for legislation requiring side guards. Chris Charlton introduced a bill to bring Canada into compliance with an ILO convention against child labour by raising the minimum age requirement for workers, while Atamanenko proposed to allow conscientious objection to the use of tax dollars for military purposes. Linda Duncan asked the Cons to lift the 2% cap on aboriginal education funding. And Francois Lapointe asked an adjournment question about the opportunity to transition away from asbestos mining at a time when nobody is actually employed in the industry, only to receive an extra-long version of the Cons' greatest denial hits from Jacques Gourde.

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