Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Parliament in Review - April 3, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 saw the final day of debate at second reading of the Cons' budget - and once again featured plenty of work by Peter Julian to introduce the types of perspectives the Cons would never tolerate if they could avoid it.

The Big Issue

Once again, Julian focused largely on bringing forward comments and concerns from Canadians on the Cons' budget, featuring such apt observations as this:
I particularly agree with your opposition to raising the retirement age to 67. I am 39 and really hadn't given this issue much thought until I heard you present your case. I've worked in the distribution side of the flooring industry for 17 years. I am not an installer, but many of my customers and friends are. Many flooring installers walk with limps at 45 years old, let alone 67.
They literally spend their workdays on their knees and it takes a toll on their bodies. Most of them are too busy working to get involved in politics. I'll definitely take the time to bring this to their attention. Believe me, just because flooring industry workers look at the floor when we walk into a room doesn't mean we're shy. I always love to hear a compliment on a job well done and always try to thank others for one well done today. The NDP's chances of forming government are greatly bolstered with members like your caucus who all work together with experienced members working as mentors to the younger members of your caucus.
That encouragement for the NDP's effort to ensure that different voices be heard was echoed by plenty more comments. Meanwhile, other citizens noted that he hadn't had a chance to save enough for retirement to make up for the Cons' OAS slashing (in part due to the economic failings of provincial Conservative governments), and worried about how the OAS changes would drive seniors into poverty. Other correspondents emphasized that the Cons don't speak for all Albertans in pushing unregulated oil development as their sole economic priority while criticizing their refusal to listen to constituents; slammed the anti-democratic instinct to have the most important decisions about Canada's future made behind closed doors with no public input, as well as the cuts to Elections Canada in the wake of Robocon; spoke to the value of Katimavik (including the disappointment of students who had planned to participate this year until the Cons pulled the plug); lambasted the Cons' combined attacks on the environmental movement and complete lack of climate change funding or action, while also noting that First Nations and other affected citizens were being left out of their rubber-stamping process; pointed out that we'd be better off eliminating Deficit Jim Flaherty's sea of red ink by encouraging economic growth rather than throwing civil servants out of work;

Meanwhile, Jinny Sims sought consent to table the correspondence the NDP had received and read into the record; needless to say, that was shot down as the Cons tried to hide from Canadians and their concerns as much as possible. Robert Chisholm cheekily suggested that since the budget didn't actually address jobs and development, those concerns probably shouldn't be part of the budget debate. And Julian highlighted the regional job impacts of the Cons' civil service cuts, as well as the dangers of attacking food inspection.

Finally, Julian finished by discussing the CCF/NDP's proud record of pushing for positive social change long before any other party would countenance it, then moving the NDP's budget amendment. And it's surely a sign that the NDP covered all of the important bases that Scott Brison's subamendment was limited to criticizing a lack of cuts to Stephen Harper's pension and office, rather than any policy actually affecting Canadians directly.

Not My Jurisdiction

Andrew Scheer delivered his ruling on Helene Laverdiere's point of privilege on the Cons' refusal to answer written questions (accompanied by a questionable promise to answer at some point in the future). And while he predictably refused to actually do anything about the problem, at least a couple of his observations look like rather compelling indictments of his party's failure to answer the question as it's ostensibly required to:
In the case before us, I can appreciate the member’s frustration with the reply provided. That said, the authorities are clear: the Speaker's role in such matters is extremely limited.
(T)he hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie clearly feels aggrieved by the insufficiency of the response she received. I would therefore invite her to raise her concerns about our practice with regard to written questions with the Standing Committee and Procedure and House Affairs as that committee continues with its study of the Standing Orders. Indeed, as your Speaker, in light of the various complaints that have been voiced in the chamber with regard to written questions, from both sides of the House, I would encourage the committee to look closely at our current rules and to assess whether improvements can be made to our current practice to better serve the needs of the House and its members.
In Brief

NDP MPs introduced four private members' bills: Carol Hughes to create a registry of accidents and occupational disease incidents; Jinny Sims to meet Canada's longstanding commitment to foreign aid funding of 0.7% of GNI; and Joe Comartin to reintroduce judicial discretion in the face of mandatory minimums and to modernize our laws against cruelty to animals.

Meanwhile, Scott Simms spoke to his bill to allow bi-weekly payment of CPP and OAS benefits. Alain Giguere noted that the absence of an increase in benefits would limit what the bill would do for seniors, but Wayne Marston indicated the NDP's support for choice as to how benefits would be delivered - even if that was largely moot given the Cons' refusal to countenance any benefit to seniors which might involve public service jobs.

Rosane Dore Lefebvre highlighted Invisible Work Day as a much-needed opportunity to recognize how much important work doesn't count in GDP figures. Dan Harris discussed the links between the Cons, their sketchy American election contractors and their lack of interest in questioning corporate think tank funding gathered by those exact same operators. Olivia Chow questioned cuts to airline safety, while Irene Mathyssen pointed out that the elimination of the National Council on Welfare figures to cover up the consequences of the Cons' attack on OAS and Laverdiere asked why Rights and Democracy had been trashed rather than being restored to its pre-Con level of respect and prestige. And finally in adjournment proceedings Mathyssen pointed out the Cons' sad track record of gender disparity in judicial appointment committees (and subsequent appointments), while Andrew Cash highlighted that "why don't they just buy a house of their own?" isn't a valid answer to Canadians who can't find or afford rental housing?

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