Rights and Democracy: Well thank goodness we have a take-charge minister


The very last exchange in Tuesday’s Question Period. There are a lot of ways to read Minister Cannon’s remarks (and therefore a few different ways to read my title for this post) but for now I’ll just get it on the record and wait, with limited patience, to see what happens next:

Ms. Johanne Deschamps (Laurentides—Labelle, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the board of Rights & Democracy is accountable to Parliament for its management. As parliamentarians, we have the right to know what is going on in that organization. Yet the board of Rights & Democracy still has not released the Deloitte & Touche audit report. Talk about a lack of transparency.Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs continue to put up with such questionable conduct?

Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I will remind the House very briefly that this is an arm’s-length organization funded by the government. However, I see that instead of taking action, the opposition has decided to ask questions. At the first opportunity, my parliamentary assistant will ask the board of Rights & Democracy to come and table the report. We will do the job the opposition does not want to do.

UPDATE: In the original French, Cannon referred to his “adjoint parlementaire” as the person who’ll be doing the asking on his behalf. In Quebec’s National Assembly, where he spent much of his career, “adjoint parlementaire” means parliamentary secretary, an MP and caucus colleague assigned to assist a minister. (In Ottawa the term is secretaire parlementaire.) Cannon seemed to be referring to Deepak Obhrai, his new parliamentary secretary. I’ll follow up with the minister’s staff. -pw


Rights and Democracy: Well thank goodness we have a take-charge minister

  1. That reply doesn't even make sense… not that it's supposed to. The opposition is SUPPOSED to ask questions, and the government – if it feels so inclined – is SUPPOSED to be the ones taking action, since they are the government.

    I'm not sure where Cannon thinks he's scoring partisan points with that answer.

  2. Wells, you're far too patient with this government. I know your options as a journalist are rather limited, but in this case, I always think back to the fact that there's a dead man at the centre of this disgusting situation. Cannon's obfuscations are all the more sickening when one remembers that.

  3. I was wondering about that myself. Either Cannon is talking about committee or else he is confused and thinks Cons are in oppo and Liberals are government.

  4. holy hell, lets just keep running around in circles getting nothing done.
    What the hell was that reply? seems as if he had nothing good to say back so he's just pulling crap outta his ass. Yeah blame it on the funding as to why your not releasing the information? yeah right

  5. Wow. I actually have to agree with you for once. WTF was that answer?

  6. Why does Wherry never report on these exchanges? Hmmmm.

  7. Because PW does?

  8. That response actually caused me to spit my coffee out. I'm sending Cannon my drycleaning bill…

  9. Limit of one "national treasure" per office quota. NCC rules.

  10. Apparently the only criteria for a response is that articulable sound fill the room for the short period during which an answer would reguarly be expected.

  11. If I follow this correctly, it is the Foreign Affairs Committee who had originally requested the report, and to whom R&D promised the report "as soon as they asked". Since the Committee is, I believe, under a majority of opposition members, then the opposition can indeed take action by asking for the report. If this is correct, then Cannon's remarks make sense: If the opposition actually wants the report, they can ask for it. If they would prefer to just yell in the House, then Cannon will ask for it himself.

  12. Thanks for posting Paul. I noticed from Wherry's blog that there was an R&D question, and was wondering what went down.
    "We will do the job the opposition does not want to do." My spider senses are tingling. Have we witnessed a positioning statement for what will eventually be the destruction of R&D? Quite the bizarre response…

  13. My cynical suspicion is that this is leading up to the destruction of R&D. Only the Conservatives are brave enough to take the steps needed to rectify "the problem" (wink wink, nudge, nudge).

  14. Good point. I suspect Wells also thought this a possible explanation if you read his preamble. I wouldn't still pursue the matter in Committee. Funny, though, that it was the BQ who brought it up – the other parties presumably have other priorities.

  15. 4 years later and he's still behaving as if he is in Opposition. Talk about taking awhile to grow into the role!

  16. Cashmere?


  17. There seems to be a lot of speculation about Cannon's remarks, which begs the question: does anyone recall Cannon ever providing a coherent, factual response?

  18. is the response really "Why do the Opposition Parties continue to refuse to govern the country?" and they drilled that in Cabinet all morning? wow. A-game!

  19. I have a strong feeling that individuals like you are going to be sorely disappointed when the audit is finally released. The claims of "cover-up" are sure to follow. Too many sunk costs.

  20. "However, I see that instead of taking action, [Paul Wells] has decided to ask questions. At the first opportunity, my parliamentary assistant will ask the board of Rights & Democracy to come and table the report. We will do the job [Paul Wells] does not want to do."

  21. So does the Committee asking for the report constitute "asking a question" or "doing the job"?

  22. I'm told the Commons foreign-affairs committee's can't meet because of some absences this week. Paul Dewar, an NDP member of the committee, has written to chairman Dean Allison asking for a meeting of the steering committee early next week. Dewar will seek at that meeting to have the Deloitte audit subpoenaed.

    Cannon's "first opportunity" seems to me to be any time. Certainly he doesn't have to wait for the FAAE steering committee to meet next Tuesday. And if he wants to continue to be action man, he shouldn't.

  23. I'm assuming this is translated from French. I might be more inclined to say that it was more coherent in French but usually the translators clean up Cannon's slang and gibberish.

    Cannon can only remind us of the sad state of the Conservative caucus.

  24. Desiderantes meliorem patriam. Or at least gubernum.

  25. They've already asked for it.

    The next step is to subpoena and force them to do it. I don't think the committee has met yet to do that and I think the Cons have not supported that move (could be wrong though).

    When they refuse to respond to the subpoena – in classic we're-conservatives-so-the-law-doesn't-apply-to-us Harper fashion – what then?

  26. To anything…

  27. In light of Keith Martin's recent comments (the 'kids' being in charge) coupled with my long standing suspicion that the over-reliance by elected officials on staff (particularly political staff) is a major problem with our particular brand of Westminster style democracy…

    I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on why Minister Cannon chose, in his response to this particular question, to specifically mention that it would be his assistant doing his (…er, the opposition's) job.

    Presumably the Minister can work a phone or sign a letter with at least as much skill (and significantly more authority) than his assistant?

  28. Well, one question I'll have for the minister's communications staff is whether he meant "parliamentary assistant" — a staffer in his office — or "parliamentary secretary" — another Conservative MP who reports to him. I suspect in either case, your question will still stand. The same question had occurred to me.

  29. Ego diligo meus terra quod vereor suus gubernatio.

  30. I checked; see the update to the original post. I think he was saying he wants Deepak Obhrai to make the request on his behalf. More updates, of course, if I get more information.

  31. Here is the full exchange, en français:

    Mme Johanne Deschamps (Laurentides—Labelle, BQ): Monsieur le Président, le conseil d'administration de Droits et Démocratie est tenu de rendre compte de sa gestion au Parlement. Comme parlementaires, nous avons le droit de connaître la situation qui prévaut dans cet organisme. Or le conseil d'administration de Droits et Démocratie n'a toujours pas rendu public le rapport d'enquête de Deloitte & Touche. Quel manque de transparence!
    Le ministre des Affaires étrangères tolérera-t-il ce comportement douteux encore longtemps?

  32. L'hon. Lawrence Cannon (ministre des Affaires étrangères, PCC): Monsieur le Président, je rappelle très brièvement qu'il s'agit d'un organisme indépendant financé par le gouvernement. Toutefois, j'ai constaté que plutôt que d'agir, l'opposition a décidé de poser des questions. À la première occasion, mon adjoint parlementaire demandera donc au conseil d'administration de Droits et Démocratie de venir déposer le rapport. On fera la job que l'opposition ne veut pas faire.

  33. Oops, I had written a double negative – "I wouldn't not pursue this matter in Committee" – but poor editing. I meant still pursue in Committee

  34. "he is confused"
    aptly describes most of Harper thugs

  35. They tried once. I think it was called a coalition. It was also called "treason" by some.

  36. …then Dimitri gives them the password to the PMO Spider Hole he had dug in the basement (i's got WiFi, so not such a hardship)

  37. Deepak Obhrai is Cannon's "new" parliamentary secretary. I thought Mr. Obhrai has been doing this position since the Conservatives formed government.

  38. You may well be right. I don't pay these positions enough attention.

  39. . 'We will do the job the opposition does not want to do'

    Ah…the old freudian slip…get's em ever time…well at least it seems to Cannon anyway.

    So we can take it as given that the minister will be supporting any subsequent subpoena from the committee, right?


  40. Hmmmm. Cannon whole-heartedly endorsed the report in February: http://www.international.gc.ca/media/aff/news-com….

    If I recall, he also took questions on the subject around that time, saying he looked forward to seeing it.

    Would it be that surprising if he or at least the Department already has a copy, or at least a version, of the report?

    Maybe Cannon's right. The Opposition is indeed not doing its job. Its asking the wrong questions.

  41. I had assumed he meant his Director of Parliamentary Affairs. Suppose I should have realized it was a translation.

  42. This is what Deepak Obhrai asked of Aurel Braun and his posse of clowns on April 1st when they went before the foreign affairs committee:
    Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, CPC):
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

    Thank you to all of you for coming here. Just before the untimely death of Mr. Beauregard, he came to see me, as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to talk about the vision and the work of Rights and Democracy. Today we have the current board members as well as the chair.

    While the other questions are going on, on the other points, Canadians are also interested in knowing this. You have said it's a dysfunctional board. You have said this. I would like to hear from all of you about what you are putting in place to make this board functional. Where are you, going forward? What is your vision going forward? We want to move forward. Could you please tell this committee, minus all of this innuendo that's going on, where it is going? Mr. Beauregard did give me a brief outline as to what his vision was, and I want to hear from you as to where and how you are putting this board back on track and moving forward.

  43. Perhaps the Deloitte & Touche audit has helped them come up with an answer to this question? Perhaps Aurel Braun needs to be dragged back before committee with his new yes-man Latulippe.

  44. Undoubtedly the audit report will be released soon with complete sections blacked out in the name of national security! No telling what machinations the R&D Board has dreamed up to implicate innocent Canadians in supporting financing to those insidious human rights organisations in Israel and Palestine.

  45. Is it just me, or is anyone else disappointed that [so far as i'm aware] the only member of that committee [ who many of us here at Macs have contacted ] to actually ask a relevent question in the house, has been a member of that notoriously anti-democratic gang of separatists? Is this just par for the course, or is it in fact sad and maybe a little pathetic?

  46. "a member of that notoriously anti-democratic gang of separatists? "
    Seems to me that same group is the one calling for some Parliamentary accountability around the extension of the Afghan mission.

  47. Uhhh.. haven't I been saying that for the last 10 months or so? The reason we're getting no governance is conservatives simply don't know how to govern. Their sycophants blame the opposition for not putting forward any good plans, and now we have the government itself demanding that the opposition be the ones taking action rather than asking questions.

    Personally, I think if this government wants to be in opposition so badly, we should just give them that.

  48. Nope, it is telling, as I eluded to earlier (which I'm sure you have already read):

    Funny, though, that it was the BQ who brought it up – the other parties presumably have other priorities.

    In the grand scheme of things, this is meaningless. PW would have you think otherwise.

  49. As I've mentioned, there's a reason the Bloc keeps getting elected while the separation referendums get voted down.

  50. Talking points, people!

  51. "In the grand scheme of things, this is meaningless. PW would have you think otherwise."

    Non sequtur: It does not follow that because other parties may have other priorities that this is meaningless – regardless of what PWs may think.

  52. I was being tongue in cheek. But i see Thwim provided a better answer.

  53. No, I'm suggesting this is meaningless. Look, if you haven't done this lately, click on the tag: Rights and Democracy.

    I tried this myself recently, and I was astonished, honestly, at the number of blogs by Wells, not to mention all of our comments, media articles etc on this issue. This is insanity! Look around at what's happening in the rest of the world!

  54. Remember the history this bunch has of blaming failure on their assistants. It's a sort of delegated responsibility. The buck stops there.

  55. I couldn't agree less. Sometimes it is necessary to pursue an issue to its conclusion. Look, turn this on its head. Do you truly believe this would have come to a just end [ it may still not ] if Wells had simply quit early on? As he said at some point long long ago, someone was hoping to narrow cast this, and not have it noticed, a little red meat for the boys and girls. It hasn't worked, that much alone is a tribute to PWs' tenacity. We've all complained in the past about the media being fickle and losing interest when a story is no longer sexy. Now you're complaining because one journalist is hanging in there.

  56. Paul, you're a great writer, which is why it would be great if you posted on things that more people actually care about. It's R and D and Jazz, you're totally geeking out here. Let's go back to how it was before, where we never heard of R and D, and reading this blog was helluva lot more interesting.

  57. Diligens meam terram vereor gubernationem suam.

  58. I was trying to back up your point and agree with Thwim & you.
    Sorry if you took it otherwise.
    I just quoted you to make my point stronger.

  59. Delusional.

  60. Oh well it's a short life, it'll probably happen to you sometime. The key is to sing a happy song…helps no end i find.

  61. No problem. Dot claims i'm delusional anyway…so it's understandable really.

  62. Mr. Obhrai should probably watch his back.

  63. Or maybe Obhrai's assistant should.