Message of the day:
“Our No. 1 priority is the economy.”
Questions not answered:
- What can we expect in an omnibus budget bill?
- Will the government make its Senate reform bill a priority?
Thomas Mulcair showed up on The West Block to talk about the return of Parliament. The NDP leader told Tom Clark he’s not troubled by declining poll numbers, given the tools the government had to remain visible through the summer. He said the economy remains his No. 1 priority. Asked about the possibility of another omnibus budget bill, Mulcair said Canadians should expect it to contain things “completely contrary to what Canada needs right now.” Questioned about government’s accusations that the NDP wants a carbon tax, Mulcair said it is an “ethical issue” — because the Conservatives are lying – and went on to explain that the NDP support a cap-and-trade system. Mulcair gave Maclean’s a shout out for debunking the talking point. Clark finished by asking about the possibility of re-opening the Constitution. Mulcair said he’s not in favour, though he does want to implement French in federally regulated workplaces in Quebec.
The return of Parliament:
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan was on Question Period where he demonstrated command recall of Conservative talking points on the omnibus budget bill — part of a “comprehensive plan” for the economy. He blamed the NDP for blocking the Senate reform bill (never mind that it has not been brought forward for debate, or the fact that it’s unconstitutional), and noted that because Stephen Woodsworth’s “fetal rights” debate is private members’ business, he has no control over its timetable. He wouldn’t speculate whether or not it would pass, but noted the PM’s position is clear.
Related reading from the Maclean’s Ottawa bureau:
- A rough guide to the fall sitting
- Five stories we’re watching
- Video: The Maclean’s Ottawa bureau previews the fall season
The West Block used a “highlight reel” to foreshadow the fall, with things like another vote-a-thon, or Justin Trudeau speaking in the third person. The website also features an extended timeline.
With news of temporary embassy closures in Egypt, Libya and Sudan, Kevin Newman spoke to former External Affairs minister Barbara McDougall and to Michael Bell, former ambassador to Egypt, Jordan and Israel. Bell expressed hope the “venting of anger” against symbols of imperialism would die down in a few weeks. McDougall noted the current demonstrations are much smaller than those that led to democratic change. She observed that the thugs, have-nots, drifters and unemployed who make up the current crowds are containable, though there’s still the danger protests could spread.
Newman talked to Federal Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers on the rise in violence in federal penitentiaries. Double-bunking rates currently average 17 per cent across the country – as high as 28 per cent in the Prairies. Sapers said “tough on crime” laws will make things worse in the short term, though it should get better as more cells come online. He said the government is committing millions to mental health programming to improve assessments and better recruit mental health professionals.
Sunday, September 16, 2012