Brian Jean’s million-dollar question

Tease the day: Documents show government spent $1.2 million answering MPs’ written questions

by Nick Taylor-Vaisey

MP Brian Jean and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007. (CP/John Ulan)

Brian Jean should crack a smile when he reads this morning’s papers. He’s behind the story you’ll read about the $1.2 million dollars—my god!—the government spent answering opposition questions on the order paper. It’s a masterpiece, one among countless examples perfected by the governing Conservatives over the last seven years, that’s designed to raise the hackles of opposition politicians who simply can’t help but take the bait. No matter their argument, the opposition will lose every single time on stories like these.

So what’s the story, anyway?

Members of Parliament, as they’ve always done, ask questions of government every single day. You’ll have witnessed the televised spectacle of Question Period, the forum for oral questions. MPs also pose hundreds of written questions on the order paper, which are often complex and asked in several parts. The government must respond substantively with within 45 days. Brian Jean, the Conservative MP for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, asked his own question on the order paper about the taxpayer hit of the whole undertaking. Today’s story reveals that cost: three months worth of government responses earlier this year racked up $1.2 million in fees.

The opposition dutifully defended its parliamentary privileges, which it certainly should do. If the government answered more questions more faithfully during Question Period, much of the expense of written questions could be spared. That argument has virtually no rebuttal. But few people who aren’t already among the government’s critics will even listen to those opposition gripes. But what readers will notice, almost without exception, is that the opposition spent over a million bucks of taxpayer money that could have contributed to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. And why don’t they support that?


What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with a potential—but by no means assured—“new attitude” towards gun control in the United States. The National Post fronts the Pickton report in British Columbia that columnist Brian Hutchinson says “misses the mark.” The Toronto Star goes above the fold with controversial arm bands Ontario teachers are wearing to pay respect to the Connecticut school shooting, a gesture eviscerated by columnist Heather Mallick. The Ottawa Citizen leads with funerals for some of the children murdered in Newtown, Conn. iPolitics fronts Ontario Liberal leadership contender Charles Sousa’s campaign strategy. CBC.ca leads with the continued closure of Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown. National Newswatch showcases Postmedia‘s look at the cost of the federal government’s responses to opposition questions on the order paper.


Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Union transparency. Ontario Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey told a Senate committee yesterday that a bill that would force transparency on unions could harm future negotiations. 2. Gun control. The feds may consider accepting some “common sense” proposals suggested by a controversial firearms committee, including extending licenses from five to 10 years.
3. Tainted meat. A small E. Coli outbreak that made five people in Ontario and Alberta sick has been linked to recalled meat from Brampton, Ont.–based Cardinal Meat Specialists. 4. Robocalls. Arguments concluded at federal court, where eight voters, along with the Council of Canadians, allege thousands of Canadians were misdirected on Election Day in 2011.




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Brian Jean’s million-dollar question

  1. I think the author’s a bit out to lunch here. “The government spent ONE MILLION DOLLARS to find out things about itself it should already know” sounds pretty damning to me. Add that to increased advertising budgets…

  2. Think of the money we could save if we actually had an open, accountable government. If the CPC (and the increasingly bizarre Canadian media) think this reflects badly on the opposition then they are truly gone off the deep end.

  3. “But what readers will notice, almost without exception, is that the opposition spent over a million bucks of taxpayer money that could have contributed to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. And why don’t they support that?”

    Do you really think that Canadians are as stupid as that?

    • It was a sketchy point presented as strict fact and seemingly as something the author took to heart. Has Nick T-V pulled Stephen Gordon on this one?

        • I appear I may have misread your statement, and apologize.

    • I don’t claim to know anything about Canadians. But I will confirm that you should read plenty of sarcasm into that passage. As much as you can fit, really.

  4. I think the $1.2M is money well spent. That’s a lot cheaper that the $60-$80 M (or more) useless advertising of the Economic Action Plan. Also, how much does it cost to fly all the Ministers across the country to announce and re-announce the same things over and over. Add to this the costs of the staging with logos and “potted plants” (aka MPs or other actors) and it is a lot higher than this $1.2M.

  5. Igarvin: Pollsters also tell us that at least 9% of Canadians believe the Mayan predictions.

    • Nine percent is not all that alarming, really. Put another way, over 90% of Canadians reject absurd predictions, and also absurd conclusions like the one being implied by the author of that dreck, Mr Jean.

  6. “But what readers will notice, almost without exception, is that the opposition spent over a million bucks of taxpayer money that could have contributed to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. And why don’t they support that?”

    And the government spends millions promoting their “economic plan”, which is in fact the Opposition’s economic plan, when there is no need to do so. Think of all the jobs THOSE millions could create instead of filling up air time on tv.

    The Opposition’s job is to…wait for it…oppose the government! Betcha that came as a surprise to some who think the opposition should instead be helping the government. This notion of opposition is a fundamental linchpin in the parliamentary democratic process, whereas advertising is not.

  7. I’m curious to know the overall cost of the government constantly lying about the F35s, for year after year after year — hell, even campaiging and winning a majority gov on those lies: what’s the price tag on that?

    • You need to have your MP table a question then have Brian Jean get all blubbery over the tax dollars wasted to produce an answer.

  8. Brian Jean has spent $397,972.23 of the taxpayers’ money sending out flyers. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year alone he spent $116,423.43 on ‘Ten percenter’ flyers, more than any other MP in Canada that year.

  9. Brian Jean is clearly a partisan idiot. But more importantly, that photo desperately cries out for a Kaption Kontest!

  10. I guess asking questions and Expecting (truthful) answers is something the author of this article is not familiar with. Perhaps Canadians should be outraged, that instead of answering questions in the House of commons, the conservative waste government time and money with such fabrications as the NDP’s supposed 21 Billion carbon tax at every opportunity.
    Not only that, when a question is asked of a minister, 90% of the time, the minister never answers the question, even though he or she is present.
    Since we now know, pretty much everything a conservative says in an outright lie or mis information, this author should spend more time investigating the lies, who is telling them and why? Or is that not what journalists are supposed to do these days?

    Can you please report how many times in the past year the conservatives wasted time and tax payers money bringing up the NDP carbon tax lie?

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