The Commons: Accepting responsibilities without taking responsibility

In his seat across the way, Mulcair threw his hands in the air, not sure whether to laugh, cry or scream

by Aaron Wherry

The Scene. ”Who was responsible for the F-35?” Thomas Mulcair asked at the outset.

This was both straightforward and profound. A direct question, but a philosophical riddle. If a massive abuse of procedure and accountability falls in the forest, but no one is named, blamed and shamed as the culprit, did it ever really happen? One is reminded of the moment last November when Tony Clement could not say precisely who had broken the rules in the G8 Legacy Fund affair.

“Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General is very clear regarding the responsibilities in this respect,” the Prime Minister offered by way of response.

Mr. Mulcair seemed to feel a lesson was in order. Our parliamentary system, he said, is based on the principle of ministerial responsibility. The minister is responsible for his ministry. The Prime Minister is responsible for picking his ministers.  ”Does the Prime Minister think,” Mr. Mulcair wondered, “that the Defence Minister has done his job?”

“Yes,” Mr. Harper offered. “The government and ministers accept their responsibilities.”

The leader of the opposition was unsatisfied. “Mr. Speaker, even if we were to believe that the Chief of Defence Staff and the generals were plotting behind the minister’s back to lie to Parliament, to lie to Canadians, which is highly unlikely, it would only prove that the Minister of National Defence is not in control of his own department,” he ventured, his hands folded together in front of him. “However, the Minister of National Defence knew the F-35 was a fiasco. The NDP, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, media report after media report all highlighted the numerous problems with the plane and its budgeting.”

Opening his hands and turning his palms upward, he posed the question(s). “When will the Minister of National Defence finally stand up and take responsibility for the F-35 debacle? Where is the accountability?”

The Prime Minister, his own hands folded in front of him, protested. “ Mr. Speaker,” he begged, “of course the leader of the NDP is putting words into the Auditor General’s mouth that he certainly never said.”

Specifically, the Auditor General’s office has expressed “significant concerns about the completeness of cost information provided to parliamentarians.” “In March 2011, National Defence responded publicly to the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report. This response did not include estimated operating, personnel, or ongoing training costs,” the report reads. ”Defence told parliamentarians that cost data provided by US authorities had been validated by US experts and partner countries, which was not accurate at the time. At the time of its response, National Defence knew the costs were likely to increase but did not so inform parliamentarians.”

Now Mr. Mulcair rose for a fourth time. “Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence looked very much in charge when he climbed aboard the F-35 for photo ops. He looked very much in charge when for months he was denying any problems with the F-35,” he shot back, staring down the Prime Minister and wagging his finger at Mr. MacKay. “Here is the bottom line: The Minister of National Defence had the responsibility to know, the duty to find out and the obligation to tell the truth in Parliament. Now that his Minister of National Defence has failed so miserably, why is he refusing to act?”

Mr. Harper stood bearing talking points. “On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, the government is acting on the recommendations of the Auditor General. The government has not acquired the aircraft. The government has not signed a contract. The government has frozen the funds for acquisition. The government will examine the process. The government has said it will set up a separate and distinct secretariat and we will make sure there is independent verification processes. That is how the government will proceed.”

The NDP leader called this out as “nonsense”—the Conservatives, he noted, are still “fully on board” with the F-35. In response, the Prime Minister had assurances and, of course, a vow to “make sure our men and women in uniform have the best equipment.”

Dean Del Mastro, the Prime Minister’s dutiful parliamentary secretary, gave this a one-man standing ovation.

Mr. MacKay had remained seated for all of yesterday’s Question Period. And it was his parliamentary secretary who was put in front of the television cameras afterwards to explain the government’s position. And it was to Julian Fantino’s office that questions about what Mr. MacKay knew—submitted by this writer—were directed earlier this afternoon. But this afternoon, Mr. MacKay did stand.

On the first appearance, in response to taunts from the NDP’s Matthew Kellway, he offered the same sorts of reassurances the Prime Minister had offered. “The Auditor General has provided conclusions and made recommendations, and we have accepted those,” he explained. “We will continue now, with the guidance of Public Works, to move forward with a proper acquisition process to replace the aging CF-18s.”

A total of seven Conservatives stood to applaud this.

Mr. Kellway came back with a reference to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

Mr. MacKay stood for a second time. ”Mr. Speaker,” he said, “as was mentioned, with no contract in place…”

In his seat across the way, Mr. Mulcair threw his hands in the air and stared at the Defence Minister, appearing not sure whether to laugh, cry or scream. (“Mr. Speaker, let us look at the actual contract,” Mr. MacKay once demanded of an apparent agreement that guaranteed 65 warplanes at a cost of $9 billion.)

“… no money misspent and now funds frozen, we are injecting more accountability into this process,” Mr. MacKay declared. ”We will move forward. That is our intention, to see the CF-18 aircraft replaced with a proper aircraft. We will continue to make investments that support the men and women in uniform. I would advise the member opposite to do the same.”

Indeed, the best way for Mr. Kellway to support the troops would seem to be that he forget any of this ever happened.

The Stats. Military procurement, 20 questions. Ethics, four questions. Taxation, the CBC and gas prices, two questions each. Employment, government services, the budget, the environment, Rights & Democracy, Old Age Security, National Defence and oil tankers, one question each.

Stephen Harper, eight responses. Rona Ambrose, five responses. Peter MacKay, Julian Fantino and Christian Paradis, four responses. Gail Shea, Andrew Saxton, John Duncan and James Moore, two responses. Shelly Glover, Candice Hoeppner, Peter Kent, John Baird, Alice Wong and Denis Lebel, one response.




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The Commons: Accepting responsibilities without taking responsibility

  1. Mr. Harper is the p.m. of a new form of government in Canada – a pseudo democracy.  Canadians may want the truth but they aren’t ever going to get it from the Harperites.

    • Welcome to Harpanistan comrade Pinkibus.

    • Mr. Harper learned far too much from watching and listening to Jean Chretien in QP..

  2. 39 government responses from the government and not word of truth from any of them….

  3. Nice change to “response” Aaron!  Thanks.

    • Arny will do whatever it takes to keep his disciples content.

  4. Peter MacKay is a gutless coward, hiding behind the apron of a PM who no longer knows what the “truth” is.

     This is “accountability?”

    Not even deep blue partisans can defend this garbage

    • “Not even deep blue partisans can defend this garbage”

      You appear to be correct. Five hrs since Wherry posted, and nary a tory troll to be seen…

    • After his unbelievable treachery that led to the formation of the Harper Party, was their any doubts about his lack of intestinal fortitude?
      It’s why he is in defence, Goodyear did Science and is a purveyor of woo, Clement looks after the cash after gazeboo-fest in Muskoka and the cowardly lion has the defence portfolio.
      It’s the way Harper rolls.

  5. Harper: “The government has frozen the funds for acquisition”

    What does that even mean?  Unless money at sub-zero temperatures is somehow worth more than money at room temperature, if the Air Force requires a minimum of 65 planes (as we’ve been told), how are they going to keep from spending more than that if that’s what they cost?

    It’s absolutely ridiculous, and if McKay and Fantino don’t lose their jobs over this, Harper will never again be able to accuse the opposition of any “boondogle” without half the country bursting into laughter.  I don’t think anyone will be able to top 25 bilion any time soon.

    And this is doubly disappointing/mystifying because they did a good job with the shipbuilding contracts!

    •  No one has explained yet how 65 planes is enough to replace the 80 we have now, have they?

    • My understanding is that the shipbuilding contract process was put forward by Peter Stoffer as a non-partisan move to ensure an open and proper process was followed, which may explain why it wasn’t a boondoggle.

      Edit: It’s not considered a boondoggle yet. I guess we should wait for the engineering to finish up and the first ships roll off the slips before declaring it a success. :)

  6. The sad, stark reality appears to be that, no matter how devious, incompetent, or contemptuous of democratic institutions Harper and his underlings are shown to be, about 37% of voters (n.b., I didn’t say 37% of the electorate) will uncritically support them.

    Amazing and disheartening for anyone who cares about transparency and accountability. 

    • Now, that’s not true. It’s just that 37% of voters decide after all things considered that Harper and his underlings are actually the best option. I think that says more about the rather pathetic state of the modern Liberal Party of Canada than anything else. I mean, all of this crap and they’re still only at 19%. Not really sure how the Ottawa punditocracy can say Bob Rae is doing a great job. He’s a total disaster.

      • According to continuous polling, it is true. You may be offering a rationalization for the resolute intractability of Con supporters but nothing you’ve said negates the accuracy of my comment.

      • Jesus, H Krist, This is not the Liberals fault.

        • Actually, Rae and Mulcair are doing a good job of pinning it on the Liberals.
          Keep an eye on Rae. He may be a double agent.

      • That’s 37% of the people that voted.  Over 60% of Canadians did not vote for this government.

        • And 94% of left-handed plumbers haven`t visited their grandmother in over a year.
          This is the useless trivia and number-playing thread, isn`t it ?

          • Nothing to say about the article and its contents, eh?  Just obfuscate and attempt to kill the messenger.  Figures: not easy to defend this stuff without resorting to asinine finger-pointing, is it Blue?  Ah, well I admire you for trying: I see the rest of your cohorts aren’t up to it yet.

          • Oh. I will leave it to you guys to whine over the article for a few weeks until everyone forgets about it, just like the previous 94 ” scandals “.
            I was simply mocking the tendency of liberals to constantly regurgitate that 60% figure.

  7. Does Canada have a signed contract to buy these planes yet? Have we paid for them yet? I think the answer is no to both so it seems like things actually are working as the AG has caught the problem before it happen as opposed to after the fact.

    • In other words, the AG saved the Cons from themselves. If they’d listened to Kevin Page, instead of ignorantly pillorying him when he spoke the truth to Parliament, he would have done them the same favour months ago.

    • Good boy: you used a talking point.  A silly yet official talking point.  Now roll over, and you can have a biscuit.

    • Yeah the process “worked” all right, the last fail safe before the Conservatives could sign a contract and do the damage. This means we can expect vengeful attempts by the PMO to undermine the Auditor General sometime soon.

    • If nothing works out with the F-35′s we can always call up the Canadian Forces Snowbird Centennaire jets to fly around in a menacing fashion. If that does’nt convince the Ruskies we mean business then I don’t know what will. 

    • They’re calling the new oversight body the F 35 Secretariat, so it sounds like nothing much has changed.  It’s the same group of incompetents, planning on buying the same plane.

  8. Fiction is obliged to stick to the possibilities. Truth isn’t. Mark Twain

    • Lies have many faces; the truth but one.

  9. What does it take for a minister in this government to actually be held accountable for the things they do or fail to do?

    Even Maxime Bernier, who left highly classified documents with his biker girlfriend and potentially compromised national security and seemingly got canned for it, is now BACK as Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism!

    Jesus murphy mary and joseph!

    I never would’ve thought in a million years that electing a government specifically to get rid of this type of crap would end up amplifying it to such a degree.

    The Conservative government today makes the previous Liberal government look like freaking saints, and that’s quite the achievement! LOL

    • They seem to be missng the shame gene and have  a total disregard for appearances.  I’ve never seen anything like it. 

    • When ‘daddy’ doesn’t take responsibility for anything he says or does, you can’t expect the children to.  It is a totally dysfunctional and illegitimate government – a cheat.

    •  you were right on a few things, but come on better then the Liarberials, don’t think so.

  10. Peter Mckay October 22, 2002
    ” the growing list of Ministers racking up miles on corporate jets is disturbing to most Canadians, and it should be….”

  11. It has become abundantly clear now that we have a totally illegitimate government occupying our Parliament.  The crime of impersonating Elections Canada to deceive voters coupled now with the very obvious intent to lie to Canadians before the last election equals a government by fraud.

    So what is the procedure for removing ‘pretenders’ from office?

    •  ”illegitimate government” seriously, election took place and it appears your party lost, suck it up and vote again in 2015.  71,000 became a few hundred, and the only party to be spanked so far is the Liberials. there has never been a good govt’ in charge for as long as I can remember, they become arrogant liars and self serving bas****s, that’s the life of a politician.  you should be use to it by now. conservatives screamed the same thing when PM Jean lied about the GST, remember that one, that’s also fraud to win an election.

  12. Now this is getting scary. We have a government that denies ALL accountability for anything they do. Canadians aren’t stupid, they will eventually take to the streets and the Vancouver/G8 riots will look like a playground scrap.

  13. Ummmm remember that little boat contract for $35 billion?????? Anyone???

  14. Simply another leaf to stack on the overpilled misleeding expenditures and lies the government continues to attempt to conceal. I say sooner or later, it will all crumble. And once it does, the uproars should follow shortly afterwards. Yet, as always, shall we sit silently and watch as they continue to pull the wool over our eyes? Who will dare stand against the government here in Canada? What will it take for everyone to see what is really happening?

  15. Thank Christ! At Last! A voice from the wilderness that strikes at the heart of Conservative bullshit. I truly hope that Mr. Mulcair is being gentle with the turds. He’s already got Harper backtracking on F-35s. I hope that he picks prisons as the next stupid idea that will bankrupt BC and create a new criminal class. Slice him, dice him, use the F word when you talk to him in Commons. The arrogant SOB needs to eat a little crow for his continuous outflow of lies and distortions. He only knows how to attack. I hope Mulcair makes him defend. He can’t stand criticism.

  16. It’a getting pretty difficult to feel much more contempt for these people acting as a Canadian government. I, for one, no longer recognize them as such and certainly hold no respect whatsoever for those who so very obviously treat Parliament and the office of the PMO with such utter disregard and contempt. They continue to sully the principles on which our country was founded, and by association, the very peoples of our country.

  17. I am all for Mr Mulcair go for it NDP and do not let that go away.

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