Monday, June 13, 2011

A week in review

I've figured for quite some time that the goings-on in the House of Commons probably deserve plenty more focus than they receive - and have highlighted at least some of them on this blog. But with the combination of the NDP wave and a Question Period which is covering more ground in the absence of constant heckles and interruptions, there now looks to be enough content to make it worth setting up a regular feature.

In the future, I'll likely figure on making the review a daily one. But for now, let's take a look at a few noteworthy moments from last week's Parliamentary debates which you may have missed.

- If you're looking for the NDP's main point of contrast against the Cons, Jack Layton's response to a question from Charlie Angus looks to set it out nicely:
The economic policy of the government essentially is predicated on the notion of sink or swim. That is too bad for someone who decides to go back to work after having worked all of his or her life in the mine. It is too bad for the individual and his or her co-workers who have to go back to work at age 68. Why not 75? Why not 85? The government's philosophy is that it is a tough world out there and one just has to make his or her own way.

We have a different view. We believe that together we can actually create instruments of policies, programs and strategies that can give us a dignified and secure retirement. Seniors are not looking to live high off the hog. I do not know any senior who wants to be able to live the life of luxury. All they are looking for is to be able to cover their housing and their food costs and be able to enjoy a little recreation and have something left over to give a gift to a grandchild every now and again.

We need to have a properly functioning Canada pension plan so that we are not held for ransom by the gamblers who want to roll the dice and take their bonuses and too bad if we lose money. They win either way.
And oddly enough, the Cons look to be playing into exactly that distinction. When questioned on pensions, the Cons have effectively done nothing to suggest they support anything other than the casino model of retirement investment. And while it doesn't seem to have received much notice, here's Ray Boughen's comment on what he thinks the budget will accomplish for seniors:
Also in support of seniors, we are proposing to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to ensure that federally regulated employees across Canada will be able to choose how long they wish to remain in the labour force, based on their individual circumstances.
In other words, the Cons are planning to eliminate mandatory retirement ages in federally-regulated industries. So while the NDP looks for better conditions for retirees, the Cons are looking to reduce their numbers by keeping seniors in the workforce longer.

- Meanwhile, Helene LeBlanc's inaugural speech also looks to have nicely encapsulated the NDP's philosophy:
I am here to lend my voice to those who are not as fortunate as we are in this House. I am here for those who have been left behind by our society, those who are the most vulnerable. I hope to make my colleagues on the other side understand that they are here for all Canadians, whatever their origins or standard of living. The values we embody are those of social justice, sharing and mutual assistance. That is why I find it difficult to see any reflection of myself in this government’s program. Their priority is big business, to the detriment of small businesses and the people of my riding.

I remind members that the economy is a means, not an end. It is a way to organize our society. I believe the role of government is to ensure that all Canadians have a chance to succeed. I believe we are at the service of all citizens, from all walks of life.
- Peter Julian presented what looks to be the NDP's jobs message:
The Minister of Finance likes to point to the slight increase in the overall job creation, but the reality is over the last five years, given the growth in labour force, which is 1.5% a year, that the Conservatives have the responsibility of creating 300,000 additional jobs every year. How have they fared? StatsCan gives us the results. The results are that there is a million jobs deficit. Over the last five years since the Conservatives have been in power and where they needed to create about 300,000 new jobs or new people coming into the labour force every year, they needed to create 1.5 million. They have actually created about half a million jobs overall and these jobs have largely been part-time or temporary in nature, certainly not the permanent, family-sustaining jobs that Canadians are calling for from coast to coast to coast.
And for more from Julian, raising inequality as an issue in a question which seems to have left Con Dave MacKenzie utterly unsure what the problem was supposed to be.

- I'm not sure off hand how common it is for high-ranking cabinet ministers to take the time to participate in debates by asking questions of other parties. But judging from Matthew Kellway's schooling of Jim Flaherty on the lack of return on corporate tax slashing, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cons' cabinet members removed from the fray altogether.

- Other issues worth noting: Glenn Thibault's criticism of high roaming fees; Ryan Leef's remarkable stand for research on climate change on behalf of a government which is normally hostile toward any mention of either; and a focus on social values including Paulina Ayala's mention of the social economy and Nathan Cullen's identification of a social deficit.

- Finally, while pointing out the messages I think deserve to be amplified, it's also worth noting the ones which look entirely out of place. So let's call a tie for the non sequitur of the week between Nina Grewal, answering a question about investment in aboriginal housing with an answer about manufacturing incentives, and James Bezan, who took the opportunity to use the federal House of Commons' time for a brief rant about Manitoba provincial politics.

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