Our post-partisan cooperation runneth over


In case you were worried that everything has changed in Ottawa in the wake of last month’s unpleasantness, rest assured absolutely nothing has changed.

Yesterday’s episode of Politics on CBC was Exhibit A in this regard—specifically Susan Bonner’s separate interviews with Liberal Scott Brison and PMO spokesman Kory Teneycke. A few excerpts are below. 

It is perhaps time to wonder whether we might be better off if Ms. Bonner, hereby tagged Our Tim Russert, was named Adult Conversations Commissioner and given the power to personally mediate all Parliamentary business.

Bonner: Will you make specific demands? Will you lay down benchmarks on the stimulus, on EI, on infrastructure spending? Will you be specific for Canadians?

Brison: We actually laid out in broad strokes in November and early December, what we wanted to see. It’s up to the government to propose specifics. But we’re quite interested in having that discussion with the government. We met with Minister Flaherty—myself and John McCallum—back in December. We made some very reasonable requests in terms of making sure that the numbers upon which we base our ideas are sound, the fiscal numbers. We had real concerns on that. We’ve got concerns about their asset sales and some of those issues. He hasn’t really addressed that and, in fact, has not responded to requests for future meetings—

Bonner: Well, I’m confused by that. The budget is going to be delivered in less than three weeks and you’re saying there are no further meetings scheduled?

Brison: No. We actually, myself and John McCallum, left the meeting with Minister Flaherty in December with the impression and the expectation that he would be coming back to us and suggesting future meetings. We spoke to his chief of staff after that and he indicated that there could be some future meetings. There has no been further requests, so we’re actually continuing our dialogue with Canadians and we’re going to build our own ideas. And they will serve us either as a government, or constructively as part of an effective opposition—

Bonner: Are you working with the NDP then on your ideas, in case you do proceed with this coalition, or in preparation for that possibility?

Brison: Well, the coalition was very clear in terms of the broad strokes. And the NDP and ourselves, of course, will have some ideas that can make a real difference, particularly in areas of income support and education, training and infrastructure—

Bonner: But together do you have to develop the bench marks? Do you have to say, ok if they don’t give us this, then we have to take them down?

Brison: Well, we want to see what’s in the budget before we determine whether or not we support it. And clearly we have to actually see the budget. If we’re going to a responsible opposition in a minority Parliament, we actually have to see the budget. We’ve been clear on that, my leader has been clear on that. But my leader has said, “Coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition.”

Bonner: So you’re listening and you’re talking. And the government tells us it’s listening and talking to Canadians too, as part of its consultation process. But the people that need to talk to each other are not. So what’s your message to Canadians on that front? They are expecting the politicians to work this out in this economic crisis.

Brison: We, as Liberals, have tried to work with the Harper government. We’ve tried to work with Minister Flaherty, we’re still open to further discussion and dialogue. As I said earlier, we expected further meetings. Minister Flaherty has not followed up to actually confirm those meetings. And, in fact, by the defining silence, he doesn’t seem to be interested in that … We are absolutely committed to trying to make this Parliament work. Stephen Harper poisoned Parliament in November and December. He killed it. And we can’t let that kind of thing happen again. I hope there’s going to be a new spirit of cooperation from Stephen Harper, but he has to regain the trust of Parliament and regain our trust as well.

Bonner: [Brison] tells us that there are no more meetings scheduled between the opposition and the government. Why not?

Teneycke: Well, we’re talking to a range of different people, as you pointed out. The premiers next week, we’ve met with a variety of business leaders and others across the country. We had a caucus meeting yesterday in Ottawa, where our caucus members were able to provide input that they were hearing from their constituents on what they would like to see in the budget. When it comes to the opposition, of course, we’re very interested in what their thoughts are as well. There have been some meetings that have occurred with members of opposition parties, as well as some meetings with Liberals specifically, including a meeting between Mr. Ignatieff and the Prime Minister. I anticipate there will be time before the budget to have further discussions, but of course nothing stops opposition from simply coming out in public as well and putting their suggestions for the budget on the public record also. That would be another effective way of getting their input into the budget also.

Bonner: Well, listening to that comment from you and listening to Scott Brison earler, it seems to me that we sound like we’re where we were last December when the House was prorogued, with the politicians talking at each other, but not to each other. And this is a minority Parliament, there is an economic crisis, and don’t you have to talk to each other and work something out?

Teneycke: Well, I think some conversations have already happened. I think there’s a potential to have additional conversations prior to the budget, as I stated. But I would say that going into details of all those discussions on television programs such as yours is probably not the most productive way of handling those. So what our approach has been is talking about those meetings after they occur, rather than prior.


Our post-partisan cooperation runneth over

  1. These guys are all over the map. Teneycke makes it sound like we are in exactly the state we were in when Parliament had to be prorogued while Harper is saying he may come up with a budget for five years – as if he was sitting on a majority and could rule indefinitely.

    I guess the bottom line is there is a very good chance there will either be an election or a coalition in February.

    • I hope we do get an election (as I said earlier). Let the people decide between the Conservative Party of Canada and the Coalition Party of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. A two party system.

      • *sigh*

      • I don’t know that the GG could allow an election so soon, given that the last two have yielded similar results, and the last one already showed a substantial decline in turnout. One way to erode democracy is to keep calling elections and turning more people off. The GG has to protect against that. On the other hand, the coalition seems like a shaky endeavor. It would be a tough call for the GG. I suspect if the coalition could convince her that it could hold together for even 9 months, they would get the go-ahead.

        BTW, some bloggers have dug up Flanagan’s political science101 textbook where he states the 3 possible outcomes of a Canadian election – the third being a coalition. Hey, if Flanagan has been teaching his students all these years that they might get a coalition, why not prove the old fart right this once!

      • Well, it’s more like the Coalition Party of Quebec, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Halifax, Windsor, Newfoundland, Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, Northern Ontario, Churchill, Yellowknife, Whitehorse, … I’m missing some…

        But yeah, it’s pretty marginal.

    • My guess is that the Conservatives will allocate new seats to suburban Ontario and the other places that are entitled to them. They will then call another election, claiming that the proposed coalition makes Parliament, yet again, unworkable. They will try to frame this election as a contest between the Conservatives and a “Bloc-supported coalition”.

      The interesting question now becomes: can the Conservatives obtain a majority with no seats from Toronto and virtually no representation from Quebec? My guess is no, but the Conservatives will throw everything they have at this one; yet another Conservative minority probably would lead to a coalition, as it would be clear that the Canada is in political deadlock.

  2. but of course nothing stops opposition from simply coming out in public as well and putting their suggestions for the budget on the public record also. That would be another effective way of getting their input into the budget also

    Puhahaha~! *That* is priceless.

    Seems like the CPC is trying to crib notes from the LPC. This combined with Flaherty’s 2 week cramming before the budget exam (“we knew it was coming and we prepared for it…really we did”) just underlines how utterly incompetent these guys are.


  3. How much more freaking consultation has to take place to appease the Liberals and media?

    They’ve got a council, they’ve had meetings with Brison and McCallum, they’ve sent out ministers to the various provinces, they’ve talked to aboriginal groups, they’ve held town halls, they have put up space on the gov’t website to drop off comments, they’ve arranged a First Ministers Meeting, Harper has called Ignatieff, Harper has asked to meet with Ignatieff again, presumably they’ve watched TV or read the newspapers as well in this time.

    AND they’ve done this all in a short amount of time because of the situation. All we can do now is wait for the budget. If it sucks, then sure vote them down. If not, then shut up and get to work and stop complaining about who’s not talking to whom and who deserves more credit. Canadians elected the CPC in October, let them do their work.

    • The point is the government has not been functioning for 6 or 7 months because Harper decided to call an election and then caused a crisis by trying out some partisan games under the cover of a financial update. So, now Harper is supposed to be proving that he actually is capable of working with a minority government. His first step is to come up with a budget that gains majority support. Harper is playing with fire if he leaves that question to the vote. If he cares about Canada, he will do the work beforehand to ensure that he does have majority support. However, everything that is emanating from the PMO suggests that Harper just does not get it. Get it?

    • Canadians elected the CPC in October, let them do their work.

      But they’re so inept. Do you really think that bunch is capable of tackling an economic crisis with Dim Jim Flim Flam Flaherty at the helm? I’m starting to wonder if that man can even operate a calculator.

    • Once more, Canadians didn’t elect ANYBODY to do the work.. not alone. Canadians elected a multitude of MPs, and no party affiliation has enough members to govern Canada alone. Harper did not respect this will of Canadians and nearly was tossed out of government because of it. His prorogation of Parliament has allowed him another kick at the can.

      We’ll see if he can muster up enough evidence that he’s willing to work with the other MPs that they let him do so.

  4. So let me see if I have this straight. According to the Conservatives:

    – there is no need for the Conservatives to meet with the Liberals as they promised because it is just as “effective” for the Liberals to lay out all of their economic plans in public

    – but it is “not productive” for the Conservatives to discuss their economic plans in public

    If it is not productive, then hey, why not have those discussions in private meetings?

  5. These guys are pathetic…

  6. I know spokesperson is his job description, but still… why do we hear this from a spokesperson and not from an actual MP?

  7. In an effective democracy, the Parliament is the ideal venue in which to have consultation and representation from the country’s constituencies. But alas, in this ocuntry, said institution will remain closed until the budget is actually ready. Instead the affairs of the nation will be televised and printed on a daily basis via pundits and interviews.


      • Hey, that looks like a great book, thanks for the link.

  8. There is cooperation within the federation.
    Premiers and Finance ministers are cooperating with their federal counterparts to find solutions.
    Various levels of government and population wide consultations are being done. The government sought input from the opposition, but that is only a small part of the budgetory process.

    To expect full cooperation in Ottawa is niave, the opposition is going to oppose (at least rhetoriclly). I think a new tone has been set and more common ground is being found in Ottawa. Remeber only weeks ago when stimulus wasn’t even part of the federal agenda? That demonstrates (among other things) that the federal parties are cooperating and finding common ground. The rhetoric is for public consumption in an attempt to highlight some differentiations.

    • You call this cooperating? Because they haven’t actually come to blows yet?

      They are both accusing the other of failing to provide information about their position, which means they haven’t got to the substance of what direction to take. It isn’t just rhetoric if the public harangue is their principle means of communication. Tthey’ve only met once and they haven’t even agreed on what to discuss let alone reach anything approaching an agreement on the direction to take.

    • I believe that the Conservatives aren’t interested in finding common ground with anybody. They’re still hoping to wipe out the Liberals and gain a Conservative majority. We’ll need at least one more election before Stephen Harper even considers attempting to compromise with the opposition.

Sign in to comment.