Selective hearing

by Aaron Wherry

During Jim Flaherty’s noon teleconference he was asked if his government had shown itself to be tone deaf to the present political situation and the profound economic turmoil would seem to supersede all else. I do not recall a subsequent admission of haplessness from the Finance Minister.

A short while later though, he was asked about opposition criticism for another part of his fiscal update: the proposed changes to the rules governing pay equity for women. Mr. Flaherty said he had not heard of such complaints, nor had he been informed by his staff of any such complaints. 

That admission is altogether remarkable. Not least because the Prime Minister’s Office has just sent out a press release trumpeting its ability to eavesdrop on the telephone conversations of other parties.

Each party was given a chance to respond to the economic update immediately after Flaherty delivered it. Each party made pointed reference to pay equity and women’s rights. By my count, noted separatist Gilles Duceppe made no less than nine references to the rights of women in Canada.

Of course, as noted previously, Flaherty did not stick around for the opposition reactions, leaving the House shortly after Scott Brison began the Liberal response.

The next day, during Question Period, nine of the opposition’s questions referenced pay equity or women’s rights. Vic Toews (President of the Treasury Board) and Ted Menzies (Parliament Secretary to the Minister of Finance) handled most of those questions, some of their answers even managing to explicitly recognize the opposition members’ complaints.

It is perhaps possible that Mr. Flaherty and his parliament secretary are not on speaking terms. And maybe Mr. Toews assumed officials in the finance department would take their own note of the proceedings.

But what are we to make of a government that seems more keenly aware of the politics discussed in opposition teleconferences than the legitimate issues raised in the House of Commons?

Selective hearing

  1. the whole illegally intercepted roecrded and disseminated phone call with the NDP has cranked all this a notch.
    Thomas Mulcair was just talking about Criminal Code actions against the CPC folks involved.
    Sheesh!
    You’d think they would still be getting the RCMP to do their dirty work for them – to keep their own hands semi-clean – wouldn’t ya?

  2. What are wo to make of it indeed? That those who promised to do things differently are doing just so, just not in the way that people thought they would.

    Instead of doing politics better, what we now have is doing politics nastier.

    I wish the Conservatives would at least, every once in a while, recognize they do not have a majority, and govern themselves accordingly. But at this point it is a faint hope.

  3. Is there a recording or a transcript of the Flaherty teleconference too?

  4. Money quote, from CP:

    “A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said there was nothing unethical about covertly listening in to the private NDP deliberations, taping those discussions and releasing them to the media.

    An unidentified Tory was “invited” to participate in the call, said PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas.

    “Maybe the invitation was meant for the Bloc, and they accidentally invited us. We were invited. When you get invited somewhere you have the opportunity to choose to participate or not participate.” “

  5. Wow, Wherry can sure write a lot without saying anything.

  6. Pay equity is one of those issues that people automatically assume to be good. If you favour repealing any pay equity programs or legislation, you’re bad. The standard response: “You don’t support equal pay for work of equal value?”

    Duh. Sure we do. Just not legislated equal pay for work of equal value. Since nobody has the ability to objectively measure such things (social sciences have a nasty habit of pretending to be hard sciences when they use regression analysis and other tools to allegedly “measure” things – like discrimination), there is no way to objectively apply the law in such cases. You end up with a body of case law and precedent based on dogma and questionable social science research.

  7. “That admission is altogether remarkable. Not least because the Prime Minister’s Office has just sent out a press release trumpeting its ability to eavesdrop on the telephone conversations of other parties.”

    What is that about? Do we have another Nixon on our hands?

  8. Oh, this has gone from ill-considered and mean-spirited to completely criminally insane. The big ‘gotcha’ moment on the tape from Layton is his mentioning he’s talked to the Bloc long ago? PLEASE, like, alongside Harper? They had to eavesdrop on a private conversation to know this? Could Prime Minister Harper not have recalled this little fact without, yet again, being seen as the leader of the Political Games party? It’s like a bad sequel to Animal House. And I especially adore the comic irony of Flaherty saying he hadn’t heard any complaints by the simple expedient of not waiting around to hear any complaints. Yeah, that’s good government! Give me a break.

    Raging Ranter – ““You don’t support equal pay for work of equal value?”

    Duh. Sure we do. Just not legislated equal pay for work of equal value.” What a completely . . . ! . . .I can’t think of words that would get past the moderators.

    Do you support an end to slavery? Duh, sure we do. Just not legislated end of slavery.” But hey, if you want to give up your slaves, its fine with the Conservatives. So if you’d like to voluntarily pay ‘the little woman’ you employ the same as the real men, the Conservatives won’t stop you.

    Just a reminder to you–it is a scientific possibility for women to continue the human race without men. It is NOT scientifically possible for men to continue without women. Stick that in your non-objective measurement tools.

  9. >What is that about? Do we have another Nixon on our hands?

    When the Cons start breaking into offices and intercepting communications, you can play the Nixon card. But if the NDP is sending out the telecon invites (mistakenly or not), don’t bother.

  10. Brad – be honest, if the NDP mistakenly received an invite to a CPoC caucus call and released a transcript, the CPoC would have them in court before the in dried.

    The wailing and recriminations would be deafening and you know it.

  11. …before the ink dried…

  12. There is still no transcript of the PM’s comments on Friday evening up on the PM website.

    I guess we now know what the transcribers were busy with all weekend.

  13. >The wailing and recriminations would be deafening and you know it.

    Sure. But that misses my point: calling in on a bridge number for which you received the invitation is several orders of magnitude different from breaking/entering and planting bugs and taps. If we uncover evidence of the latter, then I the Nixon comparison will be apt.

    But back to your point: yes, everything the Conservatives have done, I expect the Liberals and NDP would also have done – the deeds and the outrage and the recourse to law. All parties have approximately the same potential for scandal and manage to fill their quota, given the opportunity.

    I’m put off by the behaviour of the Conservatives in this matter. I also think the NDP omitted an important piece of information during the campaign: that in the event of another Conservative minority, they would prepare to replace the government via non-confidence at the first opportunity. Dion at least had the backbone to make an explicit statement. And, to be clear, he’s free to change his views on that in light of current information without being branded “liar”.

  14. Have you not been paying attention, Brad?

    Day one of the campaign the NDP were saying that Layton should be Prime Minister.
    Their record in Parliament is almost 100% against the government.
    Layton’s attacks were almost all entirely against the Prime Minister.

    I dunno, it’s been pretty obvious to me that the NDP haven’t had confidence in Harper in a long time. They’ve just been outnumbered.

  15. I think the author was suggesting, in a roundabout way, that the Finance Minister has been less than truthful during interviews since the fiscal update’s introduction.
    This would qualify as news only if:

    A. You’ve never listened to Jim F’s answers to other questions about facts, prior commitments, statements made on the record, etc.
    B. You’ve never lived in Ontario.
    C. You’ve never watched Canada’s broadcast new programs, on which Jim F. is clearly encouraged to bend the truth, given the unwillingness of interviewers to point out when he’s lying his face off… and then they invite him back for some more!

  16. Aaron,

    Thank Allah or God or physics or Lennon or *the great powers that people do or don’t believe in* for you and all the other mad bloggers who madly blog all things great and small at Maclean’s.

    You* make me smile and restore my faith in humanity.

    *Except for Coyne. He usually inspires anything from a quizzical expression to roiling frustration.

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