Friday, June 08, 2012

Parliament in Review - May 8, 2012

Tuesday, May 8 saw another day of debate on the Cons' omnibus budget legislation - and another day of general non-responsiveness from the Cons as to its actual effects. But that wasn't for lack of important contributions from the opposition benches.

The Big Issue

Marie-Claude Morin raised issues about the omnibus bill's attack on government accountability, while Laurin Liu pointed out that few of the massive legislative changes were ever mentioned before being crammed into a 425-page behemoth of a bill, and Chris Charlton noted that even the few MPs receiving a chance to speak to the bill would have a grand total of roughly a second per page to review it. Pat Martin observed that fair wages benefit the whole community. Francis Scarpaleggia criticized the budget as neglecting younger Canadians, then agreed with Majolaine Boutin-Sweet's point (later echoed by Ted Hsu) that the Cons are shutting down basic research in favour of purely commercial priorities. Ryan Cleary questioned the short-sighted attack on fisheries, pointing out that lost fisheries like those for cod and flouder are still nowhere close to recovering decades after problems became obvious. Robert Chisholm and Charlton both contrasted the budget delivered (and debated) starting in March against the far more damaging bill the Cons unveiled a month later under cover of implementation. Eve Peclet utterly stumped Ray Boughen as to how his party could justify slashing consular and border services while trumpeting international trade. Bruce Hyer noted that Canada is losing out as a result of the gap between raw crude prices and gas prices (which of course the Cons are proud to have exacerbated). Don Davies succinctly pointed out the major priorities of his riding - such as child care, the environment, jobs and housing - for which the budget is a total failure. And Romeo Saganash corrected a Con assertion that the budget wouldn't slash health or eduction by pointing to cuts to First Nations programs in those areas.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Gallant nicely represented the limited constituency the Cons are working to serve - reading a letter from a constituent complaining about the concept of breakfast for hungry children, and making it clear that the budget reflects that basic philosophy of avoiding benefits for those who need them most. Needless to say, Andrew Cash didn't let that connection pass without comment. Conversely, Royal Galipeau made clear what he thinks of the role of an MP - taking the time to criticize Carol Hughes for deigning to ask "a specific question" about the closure of the Kapuskasing Experimental Farm.

Empty Schedules

Scott Simms' order paper question about Peter Penashue's schedule (#538) received this reply:
Mr. Scott Simms:

What is the date, time, location, and nature of all government business conducted by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council from May 18, 2011 to March 15, 2012, not including any activity that would be considered a cabinet confidence? 
Hon. Peter Penashue (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada participates in a number of public events, information on which can be found at the following Internet addresses: and, where the term “Peter Penashue” may be searched for.

The minister also participates in cabinet meetings, which are subject to cabinet confidence.
The response apparently assumes that every single bit of "government business" Penashue participated in consisted of either publicly-announced events, or cabinet meetings subject to cabinet confidence. No word yet as to which of those categories is assigned to, say, lobbyist meetings - but if we're supposed to take the public events listed on the Intergovernmental Affairs site at face value as a full statement of his government business, then Penashue's ministerial portfolio involved a grand total of nine days of work in the past year-plus. 

In Brief

Alain Giguere criticized the Cons' anti-refugee bill as fostering intolerance and xenophobia. Chisholm commemorated the Westray mine disaster before observing that such workplace deaths are the inevitable result of a government committed to undermining regulatory enforcement. Megan Leslie asked whether the Cons had the slightest clue about their supposed emissions targets and any associated costs. Libby Davies lamented that the Cons' Mental Health Commission of Canada photo-op wasn't leading to any substantive action. Charlie Angus repeatedly asked the Cons to admit the mere fact that the same IP address connected to Pierre Poutine was used by Con party staff; Dean Del Mastro would abide no such reality. Glenn Thibault highlighted the $5 billion in hidden credit card fees which the Cons are entirely happy to enable, while Annick Papillon noted that even the federal government is shelling out tens of millions of dollars in avoidable costs due to the lack of credit card regulation. Patrick Brown's breast cancer awareness bill was broadly supported at third reading, though not without some valid concerns from Libby Davies and Hedy Fry about limiting the federal role to information alone. And in adjournment proceedings Christine Moore asked for an update on the F-35 debacle (only to receive a slightly extended version of the Cons' usual blather).

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