Confidence, or the distinct lack thereof

by Aaron Wherry

The entirety of yesterday’s debate on the Liberal motion of non-confidence is likely worth a read this weekend, but here we’ll excerpt the final submissions from the Liberal and NDP sides, Bob Rae and Thomas Mulcair pitted against each other.

Unfortunately, the motion went to a vote at the end of Mr. Mulcair’s remarks, likely depriving us of further battle between the two. Some media outlet or think tank might find a Conservative to include—maybe Chuck Strahl—and make a traveling show of it.

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):  Madam Speaker, a long time ago, in fact, as members opposite will know, a great many years ago, when I was a small boy, I read the book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a story by Robert Louis Stevenson. Members will recall that the point of that story was that by simply drinking a glass of a particular potion, what seemed like a perfectly responsible and reputable person would suddenly become some kind of a monster.

I must confess that I was listening to the debate unfold this morning and this afternoon, and in particular I say this of the speech of the government House leader, who looked so good, and I know on television he looked even better. The hon. member spoke about how the mayors were, surprise, surprise, expressing gratitude for the fact that they were getting some money to build a school rink or whatever it happened to be across the country and all the projects that are taking place and all the positive things saying that the last thing this House needs is any infusion of politics or the last thing the country needs is any infusion of an election.

I can remember the Prime Minister saying earlier on that the country does not need any political gains.

Well, that is Dr. Jekyll speaking, and that is the respectable side that we have seen in this debate. I am sure many of us in this House have received various kinds of counselling and advice with respect to how to talk to the media and how to talk to the camera, that we should not raise our voice and that we should talk in a calm voice. I am sure there are many members who do it very well and many members who do not do it so well. Some members avoid responding to idiotic heckling coming from the other side. It is not a good idea to respond to the comments because the people who are watching on television cannot hear the inane comments that are being made.

However, there is another side of the Conservative Party and there is another side of the Conservative government, and that is the side that we see every night when we go home and turn on our television sets. We have been doing this, not for a few weeks, not for a few months, but for a very long time.

First, the Conservatives started out by attacking my colleague, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, who was our previous leader and who is a very fine and distinguished individual.

I want to say that I have never met a more moral, direct or honest man in politics than our previous leader, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville. But the Conservatives decided to attack his personality, not his politics, his career or his courage. There was no election. We were not in the midst of an election campaign, yet they decided, night after night, to make personal attacks against a member who was doing his job.

After we chose a new leader in the House of Commons, the very first thing we saw was an attack on the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, not because of what he believes in or his politics, but because of his past and the fact that he was out of the country. It was a personal, vicious, constant, never-ending, corrosive attack on the personality of a person.

For those of us who have been in this business for a while, it is like water off a duck’s back. One expects it to happen. However, what we have seen here is that there is another side. When the political party opposite says that it does not want political games or an election, who does it think it is kidding? The party opposite is campaigning for an election each and every day of the year, day after day, night after night. It never stops and it never ends.

Not a single intervention is made and not a step is taken that is not controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office. Not a declaration is made that is not part of a systematic political election campaign. When I hear the party opposite talking with piety and rectitude about its interest in building hockey rinks and making parks better for Canadians, all I can say is that is not the Conservative Party that I see every night on television.

The Conservative Party that I know and that I have learned to see every night on television is a party that has nothing better to do than to drag the reputation of every other politician in the country through the mud. That is what it knows how to do and that is all it knows how to do. That is its specialty. That is what it does for a living, which is why the corrosiveness of the House and of politics is something for which they bear an enormously heavy responsibility.

That is the Mr. Hyde side of the Conservative Party and that is the side we know. It comes out at night. It avoids us. It hits us on the television screens. Just as we are trying to fall asleep, we suddenly get hit with these vicious ads and a viciousness that is the real side of the Conservative Party.

I have another issue. My friend for Papineau has referred to it and I want to refer to it as well. I think of the issues that are facing the country. I think of the fact that we have a rapidly aging population that is going through a democratic revolution. I think of the fact that 50% of the people on reserves in northern Canada are under the age of 25. I look at the number of those young people who are coming into our cities, are living in poverty and have no jobs and no prospects. I look at climate change, which is affecting us as much as it is any other country and affecting northerners more than anyone else. When I think of those things, I do not see leadership from the government. I do not see leadership on health care, on climate change or on the real issues that are affecting the people of the country.

As the member for Papineau said so well, there are literally tens of thousands of young people who are leaving high school, college and university without the prospect of a job. When I look at the cynicism opposite and I see that all the Conservatives are offering is a two year construction program that will do something for some people but will not deal with the fundamentals, then I say that we have less than we are worthy of as a country.

I think that is why so many of us have lost confidence in the government and have no intention of voting for it again, nor of voting for its half-baked measures and the corrosive cynicism that it has brought to the politics of this country, for which it should be deeply ashamed.

I am proud to serve a leader and an intelligent man who is compassionate and values human dignity and who talks about the importance of human integrity in his political discourse. That is something we sadly do not see in the politics of the Conservative Party, and it is something I regret very much.

But there is one thing I do not regret at all, and that is the decision we made as a party to say that enough is enough and that we will no longer support this government. We cannot support a government that does not support the Canadian people.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): Order. I see many people rising, so I will ask members who intervene to limit their questions to one minute. I recognize the government House leader.

Hon. Jay Hill (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC): Madam Speaker, I will respect your wishes and keep this extremely short so that others can ask my colleague from across the way a question.

I was very pleased to be in the chamber to listen to him practice his upcoming leadership speech.

I do want to take issue very quickly with this whole business about corrosiveness and attack politics–

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): Order, please. The member must hear the question. The government House leader has the floor.

Hon. Jay Hill:  Very quickly, Madam Speaker, I do have a bit of a memory. I remember June 2004 and the complete falsehoods of the Liberal Party of Canada. Perhaps my hon. colleague was still a New Democrat at that time, I do not remember, but I remember the ad campaigns that were run throughout June 2004.

I remember those ads that were absolute falsehoods, that soldiers would be in the streets and the fear campaign that the Liberal Party launched against our leader, the Prime Minister of Canada.

I wonder if he remembers that type of corrosive politics.

Hon. Bob Rae: Madam Speaker, there will be rough partisanship in debates and we all understand that.

I am featured in one of the government’s latest ads and I am happy to see it. I am not taking any personal offence to it, but I do not think there could be any question that the fact that we have had an election style campaign going on over the last nine months on television belies this innocence that we see on the other side.

All of a sudden the Conservatives say to people, “Politics, good heavens. Elections, good, good, good grief”. Then they come in here and give answers in question period that sound as if this other campaign is not going on. It is going on all the time and it comes out at night.

Mr. Nicolas Dufour (Repentigny, BQ): Madam Speaker, like my Conservative colleagues, I clearly see we are dealing with a Liberal Party leader. His speech contains some glaring contradictions with what he has told us.

On the one hand, the Liberals tell us they do not want an election and they want to try to find ways to solve our problems. On the other hand, they are the first to move a no-confidence motion against the Conservative government.

The big problem is that they have absolutely nothing to propose. Take Quebec as an example. When we look at the Conservatives and the Liberals, we see two faces with one vision. They are both in favour of creating a single securities commission in Toronto. They are both in favour of reducing the number of seats in Quebec, in favour of Ontario and Alberta. The leader of the Liberal Party supports the development of the oil sands. Proof of that lies in the fact that the Alberta government sent him a letter telling him that he was the oil sands’ biggest advocate.

The more I look at the Liberals and the Conservatives, the more I realize that they are all the same.

Hon. Bob Rae: Madam Speaker, I am not surprised that the member took advantage of this opportunity to spew more of the propaganda that is typical of the Bloc Québécois. However, the reality is that there are four parties in this House that have different opinions. We have taken our position and have said that we will vote against the government. If the other parties want to do the same, that is their decision, and if they choose not to, that is also their decision.

However, I can assure the member that there are many differences between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, just as there are between the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. We will see those differences in the days to come.

Mr. John Rafferty (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, NDP): Madam Speaker, the member is very angry and I suppose he should be angry because his party used to have EI as a top priority and it no longer does. In fact, now it appears the top priority of the Liberals is playing chicken over an election that their party is clearly too divided to even fight. Members of his party have indicated that $1 billion for EI is crumbs. I would like to ask the member if he believes that $1 billion for the unemployed in this country is crumbs?

Hon. Bob Rae: Madam Speaker, I will answer that question very directly. What the government is doing on employment insurance is inadequate and I will tell the member why.

What has been said by many government people and others is that the people who are going to be given the additional weeks of employment insurance do deserve it. I agree, they do deserve it, but the implication of what they are saying, and the member opposite knows this very well because he knows that this is an idea that has a long history in Conservative thinking, is that these people deserve it but there are other people who do not deserve it and they are not going to get it.

There are members across the way who are shaking their heads–

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): Resuming debate, the hon. member for Outremont.

Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP): Madam Speaker, I was very interested in what previous members had to say, and I think that it would be useful at this juncture to remember why we are here tonight.

For three and a half years, we have had a Conservative minority government. Before that, we had a Liberal minority government. This is actually our second Conservative minority government. In other words, this is the third time that Canadians have decided to give their government a minority mandate. This is a sign that people want us to find ways to work together.

We just heard the Liberals talk about cynicism. The member for Toronto Centre said that it is not working anymore and that people have become too cynical about politics. I would like to review a number of very relevant facts.

The minister across the way made the point well before in response to one of the Liberal members when he said that this is an attempt to make Parliament work. That is exactly what Canadians are expecting of their elected officials.

The NDP has consistently stood up for its principles in voting for the things that the people who put us here have asked us to do. Let us look at what the Liberals have actually done in the last couple of months.

These are the same Liberals who love to waive their index fingers under other people’s noses. They voted to remove a woman’s right to equal pay for work of equal value. They voted to destroy the Navigable Waters Protection Act. We voted against it and if this type of thing ever comes up again, members know that we will vote against it again.

What is on the table today is $1 billion for employment insurance that the leader of the New Democratic Party was able to obtain when he held out his hand and said, “We want to work in the public interest. We want to make Parliament function. We cannot go through a situation where Canada has an annual general election”.

Rather than spending $350 million on an election that nobody wants and that probably will not change anything, we are going to be putting $1 billion into the pockets of 190,000 Canadian families. That is what we were put here to do.

I was listening before when the member for Papineau stood and started talking about all his ancestors and his relatives who had been in this House. There is an old Irish expression that when the only thing people can talk about is their ancestors, they are a little bit like a potato. Everything that they have of interest is under the ground.

However, let us look at the actual dossier, the actual results of the Liberals on the environment, shall we? Talk about corrosive cynicism.

They signed the Kyoto protocol. I was listening as the member for Toronto Centre got weepy, got teary-eyed in his defence of the former leader, the one that he helped backstab. He got teary-eyed about what a wonderful man he was. Let us look at what he did when he was environment minister, and let us look at what Eddie Goldenberg admitted the Liberals had done in signing Kyoto.

In the spring of 2007, Eddie Goldenberg, the former chief of staff to Jean Chrétien, gave a speech–

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): I suggest that the hon. member take great care when commenting on the actions and intentions of the previous speaker.

Mr. Thomas Mulcair:  Of course, Madam Speaker. Just to clarify, I was referring to the fact that they joined forces against him to replace him. But when that did not work, they ended up with the one they have now.

Before you intervened, I was saying that they signed the Kyoto protocol. In his book and his speech to the Chamber of Commerce of London, Ontario, this is what Eddie Goldenberg said.

He said, “We never had a plan to institute Kyoto. We only signed it to galvanize public opinion”. The Liberals signed it for purely political purposes. It was a public relations stunt. Instead of having the record that the Liberals believe they have on the environment, their real record on the environment is the worst in the world.

While the Liberals were in power for 13 years, instead of reducing greenhouse gases by 6% as mandated by the Kyoto protocol that the Liberals signed hypocritically, they increased Canada’s greenhouse gas production by 35%. That is their record. The worst record in the world.

That is political cynicism. That, above and beyond any other consideration, is the reason that the Liberals were turfed. They talk a good game. They will say absolutely anything that they think needs to be said to get themselves elected and once in power they do not do a thing.

We are supposed to feel that when they signed the Kelowna accord that it was a great achievement. That was after 13 years and it gave nothing. They are still crying today, saying that they really wished that they had a fifth mandate so that they could continue to do nothing.

I know about the Kelowna accord. I was sitting in cabinet in Quebec City when it was signed. The Kelowna accord was about the election of the Liberal Party of Canada. It was not about helping first nations because for 13 years those members did nothing to help first nations.

That is the sad reality and the record of the Liberal Party of Canada. All talk, no action. That party has never accomplished a thing.

That is exactly what happened this summer when they took one of their loudest and least productive members, someone who was passed over for cabinet in three successive majorities, stuck her in a room with their loudest and least productive member and lo and behold nothing happened.

What was required to get a result on employment insurance for Canadians, for the families who need it? A responsible political party, the NDP, to stand up and say, “We are fighting for Canadians”. Many people have lost their jobs during this economic crisis. Families need help. What are we going to do?

We held out our hand. We discussed. We obtained $935 million for 190,000 families. The Liberals are going to try to give us morality lessons. Not on your life, Madam Speaker.




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Confidence, or the distinct lack thereof

  1. I like Mulcair too. But attacking the inertia of the previous Liberal government's environment dossier is like shooting fish in a barrel. As he says, it was crass political cynicism.

    I will say this, I think the jig is up for the Liberals. They were running on empty while they had political power, and nearly four years out of power, they've not re-fueled, they've continued on with their cynical political ploys but people aren't buying it anymore.

    And many Liberals I suspect realize this more and more.

    If there were A.A. meeting for addicted political opportunists, the Liberal Party of Canada would be well advised to attend.

    They've hit rock bottom.

    • I am not sure I agree…. I think the core ideas of what the Liberal Party of Canada stands for still has a lot of resonance. They have always occupied the mushy middle that falls between the statism of the NDP and the anti-gov agenda of traditional conservatism. The real problem now is that the Conservatives aren't actually conservative anymore. They are pretty much just traditional Canadian liberals. Think back 5 years: would you believe that a conservative government would be vowing to maintain same-sex marriage? Would be arguing for Keynesian stimulus? Would have created a economic development agency for S. Ontario? I would say no. Those aren't the actions of a Conservative gov't. Its a liberal one. And that, I think, is the precise reason why the conservative are moving up in the polls.
      But you are right. Until they can find some way to jump up and down and say "We are the real liberals!! Harpers just faking it!" they will stay in trouble.

      Sorry, i got on a bit of a rant. To sum up: its not that they are running on empty or have nothing to offer, its that all their ideas have been co-opted by what used to be conservatives.

      • I agree with you that part of the problem for the Libs is that the Conservatives are now occupying the centre.

        There is more to it though. If both parties are competing for the same political ground, why are Canadians backing the Conservatives? I would say that by and large the Conservatives have gained some credibility by meeting there promises, cutting the GST, not promising more than they could deliver on the environment. Meanwhile, on just those two topics, the Liberals promised a lot, but delivered squat. Canadian voters don't like to be taken for fools. The Liberals, it seems to me, have just gone too far, and their rhetoric is taken for what it is – rhetoric.

  2. If we had more people who can stand in their place – make their points eloquently – and then follow through – we wouldn't have this cynicism about politicians generally.
    Both Mr. Rae AND mr. Mulcair are impressive.

  3. "…we wouldn't have this cynicism about politicians generally."

    Political cynicism is particularly a Liberal specialty these last numbers of years WW.

    I know you want to spread the blame around, but there's a reason the Conservatives have consistently led the Liberals since January 2006: the Liberals have a major credibility gap between what they say they'll do and what they've actually done..

  4. "While the Liberals were in power for 13 years, instead of reducing greenhouse gases by 6% as mandated by the Kyoto protocol that the Liberals signed hypocritically, they increased Canada's greenhouse gas production by 35%. That is their record. The worst record in the world."
    – Thomas Mulcair, from his speech above.

    And you want even more Liberal cynicism on the environment? Here's an actual exchange on Kady's blog on July 29th, 2009 between myself and Loraine Lamontagne, a Liberal partisan commenter:

    JARRID: Could you imagine what our economy would be like if we implemented the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Shift? I shudder thinking about it.

    LORAINE LAMONTAGNE: Dion would not have implemented the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Shift no more than Chrétien axed the GST.

    As Mulcair says, the Liberals are cynical hypocrites. They truly are.

    • If a comment exchange between two anonymous posters on a blog told you that aliens were invading, would you run to the store and stock up on canned soup? Really.

      • But Rick, here you have a real live Liberal commenter, cynically admitting that the Libs had no intention of fulfilling their promises. There so brazen and shameless about it. Mulcair citing Eddie Goldenberg admitting the same thing is further proof of the shameless and brazeness of the Liberal cynicism. I thought it worth pointing out.

        Oh, and Loraine Lamontagne comments on many blogs, I don't know if that's her real name, it might well be, but she's clearly a Liberal supporter. And what is more, what she says is backed by past Liberal conduct.

  5. It's rare to see such eloquence in the House.

  6. You guys are all missing the other irony of this exchange … a former NDPer-turned-Liberal, followed by a former Liberal-turned-NDPer.

    • Excellent observation. The irony is exquisite. The former New Democrat MP and Ontario NDP Premier jousting with Quebec's former Liberal Cabinet Minister, each flinging eloquent accusations of hypocrisy against the brand he used to represent.

    • Excellent observation. The irony is exquisite. The former New Democrat MP and Ontario NDP Premier jousting with the former Parti Libéral du Québec Cabinet Minister, each flinging eloquent accusations of hypocrisy against the brand he used to represent.

      • No irony.
        A clear illustration of the quandary of the centre left.
        Overlap of principles and philosophy – fractured into four parties (if you include the Greens).
        The only thing Harper has ever achieved is to convince those on the right that their own way to power is to unite – and having done that – they find that there will never be more than 36% of the electorate that will follow them blindly down the paths where Mr. Harper leads them.
        To fairly represent the other 64% of Canadians – what I believe is called an impressive majority – the leaders of the other parties have to find a way – before an election – to offer Canadians a better collective alternate to the right – ad let's face it – that won't be hard!

        • of course you are correct and it is simple and likely as say the americans waking up tomorrow morning and never netioning black, white or race again!

      • Yes, and an Irish decendant attacking people who refer to their ancestors – while using his Irish ancestry sayings.

    • Well Done – I had not stopped and thought along that track – only in canadian politics would it seem to be logically consistent :)

  7. This is awesome. There should be more of Hansard posted to here what the members say in the House.

    • Quotable quotes, yes. Otherwise we can always find it here… what Aaron has that I would *love* is access to the blues, so he can post any juicy bits mere minutes after they happen.

      • Some don't like to go into their ancestry…scandals and all.

        Actually, Mulcair has a very interesting family background as does Rae – and both are well-educated and accomplished. The very thing that Cons hate – education/intelligence.

      • Well, duh – I'm glad you found a site….I've referred to them for a very long time. You should look up some quotes on happiness – you sound so depressed and miserable.

      • I meant so that people could view it on here and debate it directly.

  8. "We held out our hand. We discussed. We obtained $935 million for 190,000 families. The Liberals are going to try to give us morality lessons. Not on your life, Madam Speaker."

    I realize your used to holding out your hand, but why didn't you support those measures this spring when they were part of the budget? Hardly a concession, considering you already voted against it!

    Oh yes, you don't support the direction of the conservatives or their budget (unread), but you will support every budget implementation measure this fall- to save your own skin…(case by case of course)
    Is that the morality lesson you are trying to convey Mr. Mulcair?

  9. And that is why both men should be leaders of their respective parties.

    • you might have a point! I would have ruled out Bobby R. awhile back but I am not sure now …

  10. What Herb said.

  11. Both made the Con debating skills show what they are…..junior high school – nod, nod, clap, clap, personal attacks and a pit bull.

  12. Both of these men speak eloquently and make excellent points; a departure from the usually coarse bickering.

    With momentum swinging towards a Conservative majority, I wonder if both have pondered the circumstances that made them bedfellows not so long ago? Should Harper gain a majority, I would think it is likely that the cost cutting will include eliminating the party funding that precipitated the formation of the coalition.

    Is it not funny that the issue that galvanized the three opposition parties is forgotten as they in-fight to carve up their ever declining slice of the pie? Philosophical musings fall easily from the lips of full bellies. Wait until Mr Harper applies a choke hold under the righteous cause of defecit reduction and these gentlemen are forced to scrabble and claw while waiting out the inevitable multi-year cycle, before public opinion shifts allow them back into the game.

    I wonder how this will play in hindsight.

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