Monday, May 21, 2012

Parliament in Review - April 26, 2012

Thursday, April 26 saw ample discussion of private members' business - and if the Cons are now cracking down on such debate, the results of the day's proceedings might give us some clues as to why.

The Big Issue

While it didn't receive as much media attention as another issue which was debated for substantially less time, Irene Mathyssen's motion to reverse the Cons' attacks on OAS produced plenty of noteworthy discussion. Mathyssen pointed out how the move would increase poverty rates among senior women in particular. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe noted that private pension plans might not be designed to account for OAS not being available at age 65, while Mike Sullivan pointed to a similar issue with provincial benefit plans. Linda Duncan asked who if anybody the Cons had consulted. Stephane Dion observed that the OAS is already fairly stingy compared to other countries' programs, while Eve Peclet mused that a fairer tax system would allow for far better income security and Don Davies highlighted the fact that the Cons' frequent and frivolous tax slashing had created the budget deficit they now claim to want to fix on the backs of retirees. Paulina Ayala observed that it's younger Canadians who will suffer from the change, while Mylene Freeman both worried about the fact younger Canadians don't have spare money to put aside to make up for a destroyed social safety net (a point echoed by Alexandre Boulerice) and recognized that lower- to middle-class seniors will suffer most from an income perspective. Dan Harris quipped that "ample notice about getting hosed does not change the fact that we are getting hosed", while Wayne Easter described the cuts as "grand theft" from workers under 54. And a number of speakers including Judy Foote, Fin Donnelly and Davies pointed to the Cons' campaign promise not to cut individual benefits which was broken by the attack on OAS.

Meanwhile, Pierre Poilievre hearkened back to the good old days when the average senior would die before receiving a nickel in OAS. But perhaps the more interesting contribution from the Cons was Kellie Leitch's emphasis on the OAS changes not affecting CPP eligibility or benefits based on that program being "fully funded for the next 75 years at current contribution rates" - which might be worth filing away for future reference if that becomes the next form of retirement security to meet with the Cons' budgetary axe.

The Settled Issue

Meanwhile, Stephen Woodworth's abortion motion was the other main topic of discussion. But while Woodworth made a fool of himself by confirming that he wasn't prepared to accept the most likely outcome of exactly the study he claimed to want, plenty of speakers from all parties - including Francoise Boivin, Hedy Fry, Gordon O'Connor and Niki Ashton - made it clear that Woodworth's regressive stance wasn't going to get him anywhere. (Though contrary to what so many people said at the time, O'Connor's seems to have been one of the less impressive of the speeches.)

In Brief

In response to Malcolm Allen's order paper questions on a Crop Logistics Working Group, Gerry Ritz helpfully pointed out that the group hadn't accomplished anything and didn't plan to report back to anybody other than Ritz himself. Niki Ashton questioned the Cons' elimination of the Women's Health Contribution Program. Nathan Cullen's Thursday question included a request for an update on the Elections Canada motion the Cons reluctantly accepted a couple of months earlier. Guy Caron again asked for some explanation of the Cons' move to shift an EI processing site from Rimouski to Thetford Mines, and again received nothing approaching a meaningful answer. And Anne Minh-Thu Quach asked why the Cons are doing nothing about obesity as a public health issue.

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