44

The Commons: Ah yes, the lives that are at stake

Perhaps we’ll soon get around to debating actual policy


 

The Scene. The Prime Minister’s empty chair did not seem likely to answer, but Michael Ignatieff went ahead anyway and wondered whether Mr. Harper might commit to restoring the funding of 11 women’s groups whose cuts came a day after a Conservative senator profanely advised an audience of aggrieved advocates to mind their p’s and q’s.

John Baird stood in Mr. Harper’s place to claim both facts and platitudes. “Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear,” he said, “this government is giving a record amount of funding to support women’s groups. We do have one big criteria, we want less talk and more action.”

The House was left to judge the applicability of this. Mr. Ignatieff was not satisfied and rose again to expand on his exposition.

“Mr. Speaker, when women’s groups speak out, they get their funding cut,” he reviewed. “When public servants like Richard Colvin testify, they get smeared. When independent watchdogs try to do their job, they get fired. When Parliament asks tough questions, the Conservatives shut the Parliament down. When will the Conservative Party and the government stop intimidating their critics and start listening to them?”

There was much whining and yapping from the government side.

Mr. Baird rose again. “Mr. Speaker, this government is always open and transparent,” he ventured to great gales of theatric laughter from the Liberal side. He continued here to expound on the Accountability Act, the Access to Information Act, and the Canadian Wheat Board.

Mr. Ignatieff grimaced, shook his head and then tried once more with his back-and-forth poetry of good and evil. “Mr. Speaker, instead of welcoming debate, the Conservatives stifle it; instead of answering questions, they duck them; and instead of treating our institutions with respect, they try to shut them down,” he said.

“This is a big issue here. It is about whether the government respects democracy. That is the fundamental issue,” he continued, now lecturing. “When will the Conservatives stop the smears, stop the attacks, stop the intimidation and start showing the Canadian people some respect?

His eyebrows dropped low as he glared this last bit.

Mr. Baird came up grinning, struggling seemingly to take even himself seriously as he invoked an upcoming vote on firearms registration.

The pattern of the day was thus set. The opposition side persisted in pursuing questions of the government’s willingness to hear dissenting opinions—what Bob Rae deemed the government’s “STFU strategy”—and the government persisted in insisting on speaking to other things entirely. Mr. Baird, at one point, recalled the words of Martin Luther King Jr. And thus exhausted, he turned matters over to his protegé, Pierre Poilievre, who did the Transport Minister proud with references to both the Lobbying Act and the coalition.

In the midst of it all, if briefly, discussion turned to the matter that was the inspiration for Nancy Ruth’s four-word call to quiet.

“I know that Canada hosting the G8 will make a difference to the lives of mothers and children in developing countries,” International Development Minister Bev Oda said when pressed by Gilles Duceppe about the government’s attitude toward abortion, “because we want to actually save lives and make their lives better.”

Ah yes, the lives. The actual human beings whose lives will be impacted by whatever is done here, whose lives we are essentially, if quite indirectly, speaking of. Herein lies the debate we are apparently not supposed to pursue.

Pressed more, Ms. Oda, seeming newly feisty or perhaps simply frustrated, went even a bit further.

“What I want to ensure is that that side of the House has done its homework,” she said under questioning from the Bloc’s Nicole Demers. “If they go to the USAID website, they will find that the USAID does not support the funding of equipment, the training of people who perform abortions, neither does it support research into abortion. They should do their homework. We know the facts and we know how to really make a difference for the lives of mothers and children.”

This was, apparently, a reference to Section II, Part 6 of the Mandatory Standard Provisions for U.S. Nongovernmental Recipients, a document freely available through the website of USAID, the agency of the American government charged with managing foreign aid.

Mind you, also available at the website of USAID is an explanation of President Barack Obama’s decision in January 2009 to rescind the so-called Mexico City Policy. And then, at the website of the Secretary of State, there is what Hillary Clinton has had to say on the issue.

And so it would seem there is some discussion to be had about what precisely the American approach is here. And then, one assumes, there would seem to be the makings of a rather serious debate about the Canadian policy.

And perhaps we might even, at some point, talk about that.

Or perhaps we would rather shut the f— up.

The Stats. Shutting the f— up, 15 questions. The oil industry, five questions. Helena Guergis, four questions. Economic development, three questions. Firearms, the Supreme Court and the environment, two questions each. Ethics and Haiti, one question each.

John Baird, 13 answers. Bev Oda and Dave Anderson, four answers each. Pierre Poilievre and Dave MacKenzie, three answers each. Rob Nicholson, Rona Ambrose and Keith Ashfield, two answers each. Stockwell Day, Tony Clement and Jason Kenney, one answer each.


 

The Commons: Ah yes, the lives that are at stake

  1. If you go to the website for MATCH International, one of the aid agencies that had its government funding cut to zero this week, you will find that they were up to nefarious activities like helping women in Africa set up micro-businesses, assisting them with legal aid and educating them on sexually transmitted diseases and their reproductive rights. The good thing about MATCH's program was that they worked with other national aid groups that were already in place in Africa.

    Ms. Oda told the press that MATCH was cut off from CIDA funding because of unspecified "performance issues". If that were the case, one would hope that after 34 years of CIDA funding, someone from the department would have approached MATCH first and helped them straighten out whatever performance issues needed improvement rather than surprising them with no warning.

    My suspicion is that they had their funding cut because their mission statement includes the words "feminist vision" and we all know how that seems to rankle the Conservatives and throw them off their game. I guess it's more important to spend that $400,000 annually on one additional MP than to help women in Africa.

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

  2. If you go to the website for MATCH International, one of the aid agencies that had its government funding cut to zero this week, you will find that they were up to nefarious activities like helping women in Africa set up micro-businesses, assisting them with legal aid and educating them on sexually transmitted diseases and their reproductive rights. The good thing about MATCH's program was that they worked with other national aid groups that were already in place in Africa.

    Ms. Oda told the press that MATCH was cut off from CIDA funding because of unspecified "performance issues". If that were the case, one would hope that after 34 years of CIDA funding, someone from the department would have approached MATCH first and helped them straighten out whatever performance issues needed improvement rather than surprising them with no warning.

    My suspicion is that they had their funding cut because their mission statement includes the words "feminist vision" and we all know how that seems to rankle the Conservatives and throw them off their game. I guess it's more important to spend that $400,000 annually on one additional MP than to help women in Africa.

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

  3. If you go to the website for MATCH International, one of the aid agencies that had its government funding cut to zero this week, you will find that they were up to nefarious activities like helping women in Africa set up micro-businesses, assisting them with legal aid and educating them on sexually transmitted diseases and their reproductive rights. The good thing about MATCH's program was that they worked with other national aid groups that were already in place in Africa.

    Ms. Oda told the press that MATCH was cut off from CIDA funding because of unspecified "performance issues". If that were the case, one would hope that after 34 years of CIDA funding, someone from the department would have approached MATCH first and helped them straighten out whatever performance issues needed improvement rather than surprising them with no warning.

    My suspicion is that they had their funding cut because their mission statement includes the words "feminist vision" and we all know how that seems to rankle the Conservatives and throw them off their game. I guess it's more important to spend that $400,000 annually on one additional MP than to help women in Africa.

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

    • ' someone from the department would have approached MATCH first and helped them straighten out whatever performance issues needed improvement'

      Why would the govt be expected to fix ANY arms length organization?
      If their performance was poor, they should be cut.
      And they are replaceable, with an organization offering the same women's services.

      • Based on past performance with arms length agencies, I thought they would at least try to stack the board with narrow-minded partisans to hound the executive director to death.

      • If their performance was poor, they should be cut.

        Agreed. However, we don't know why they were cut. If it was a performance issue, were they notified beforehand that they were not meeting performance expectations? Were they given the opportunity to re-align themselves with the new standards that (one assumes) the Government has developed as criteria for funding?

        Are the new standards available for public scrutiny? Are the decisions themselves available (in writing) for public scrutiny?

      • It is standard practice for governmental funding organizations to sit down with NGOs whenever the NGOs aren't meeting performance targets, and develop a plan to fix the problem.

    • I have to tell you, your blog has become possibly the most important for me to read, (right after Maclean's) within a matter of three days. Zero to number one. I have already passed the link on to a number of people. Keep up the good investigations!!!

    • According to the CBC, Kim Bulger, head of MI Canada, said that the auditor general asked the organization to reduce the number of countries MI operates in. This raises the question of efficiency by the AG. Bulger is quoted by the G&M saying that MI's contract was about to expire (which is entirely different from being cut).

      Given that the AG is well shielded and nearly impervious to political influence, isn't this just a story about an organization who's contract was renewed and now the organization is using current events to cry wolf?

      This is a story about a lost contract and sour grapes and little else.

      • I support women's groups, but they had better note expect blank chequer each year. Thats my money, and I have never heard of them!

  4. Bev Oda has learned from her boss about completely lying about something when she speaks of what the USAID site says. She has likely seen the website since Jan 2009, but it sounds like a good response right now.

      • As Wherry pointed out in a link above, you have to look at the explanation of Obama's decision, which is on that website.

        • Her staff did the research. They scoured the website for a refernce. She was told, and was fully aware of the status of the website. She was given her speaking notes, and a specific answer in case the website issue was raised.
          That's how it works.

  5. Why cannot the opposition challenge the government when it is clear they are lying. Why cannot the opposition read from the USAID website and quote from Ms.Oda's comments and challenge her to explain the discrepancy. Why are so many open ended questions asked when a closed end question is so much more effective. It is time to elevate question period or get rid of it. It serves no purpose now.

    • I completely agree with you about the open-ended questions. Ignatieff isn't nearly as effective on the floor as Bob Rae. I'd like to see some enthusiasm, some theatre, when stuff is this important. They are emotional issues; show some emotion and ask questions that require direct answers. Otherwise they just sound like a whine and the issues are too important to lose them in the delivery.

  6. I think the Harper government, including Oda, should be questioned as to why they keep on trying to mislead Parliament.

    • I saw her – wonderful and an excellent representative for women. She needs to be on more.

      I saw her on CBC as well. She was followed by Charles McVety – this guy is an idiot. Also, I wonder if McVety is crossing the religion/policitics and how he gets away with it.

      • McTeer and Joe Clark are Progressive Conservatives, not Harperites. Senator Elaine McCoy is another good one, a Progressive Conservative, not a member of the Conservative caucus. She has her own blog and just tore a small strip off Rona Ambrose for her reaction to the STFU issue.
        http://www.albertasenator.ca/hullabaloos/?article

  7. And once again, Aaron points out the inconsistency between Harper party statements and the facts.

  8. If the Libs and their sycophants on this board think that Canadians are consumed with abortion in 3rd world countries I guess the Nanos poll results should put them at ease (or not). Canadians are ignoring the Libs and their daily rants. Do they not realize that Canadians are split on abortion? They need anti abortion Canadians to support them in the next election. Doing this kind of smear job is not going to achieve those results.
    As for cutting women's programs I fully support funding cuts if they are not achieving results. With a $40 billion deficit we will have to do a lot more cutting of these feel good programs which achieve little but spend much.

    • They will force abortions on women in the congo- how??

    • I truly dislike arguments that begin by postulating about the concerns of Canadians. Left to their own devices long enough, most Canadians — and most people living comfortably in a G8 country — will let their horizons narrow until their only concern is the quality of their lawn. The job of political leaders, opinion leaders, journalists, intellectuals, artists and social activists (to name a few) is to broaden horizons, highlight the things that matter, provoke thoughts and debates about issues that are not necessarily top of mind for most people but that are important in our world. So the Liberal leader believes that women's health in developing countries is an important issue for our time. Good !! Let him convince us, let's talk about it, figure out if he's right. But telling someone to let go of an issue because it's not "consuming Canadians" at the moment is a travesty of democratic ideals.

      • It would be good if Iffy wanted to have a debate about the health of women in the 3rd world. However, we both know he has little interest in the subject. He wants a wedge issue and that is abortion. He thinks he is going to win brownie points by raising the issue. However, the Libs forget that they need the votes of those who do not support abortion and there are many. So he takes this one sided position, tries to embarass the government but in the meantime is alienating thousands of women (and men) voters.

        Woman living in 3rd world countries have some really basic problems which we take for granted here in Canada i.e. three square meals a day, pre and post natal care, clean water etc. etc. However, none of that is being raised by the Libs. Just this issue of abortion which many Canadians do not want to see discussed.

        I have to say your desires are ultruistic. However, until we get an honest media who is prepared to raise issues in a balanced, unbiased way with some knowledge, other than the talking points of the various parties, we are not going to solve many problems in this country let alone in the 3rd world.

        • Onlky ignorant rightwing men think you can talk about maternal health without talking about contraception and access to safe, legal abortions. Harper was stupid to think he could pretend to care about maternal and child health care without bringing contraception and safe, legal abortions into it. He should have consulted some intelligent women first, but he's silly enough to think he knows it all.

        • Well, it started as a debate on women's health. I can't into Mr. Ignatieff's motives — or Mr. Harper's for that matter — because I don't know them. But I agree that the issue is spiraling into wedge politics.

          You point the finger at the media and surely, they carry some of the blame. But they are not the only ones who reduce every single issue to matters of electoral strategy and subscribe to "talking point" politics. I think we all share equally the responsibility for our sterile political landscape.

  9. According to Ignatieff, “Mr. Speaker, when women's groups speak out, they get their funding cut."

    Which women's groups specifically have spoken out AND had their funding cut?

    I've done a online database review (CPIQ) dedicated to Canadian periodicals and Match International does not show up once in 18 months aside from now.

  10. "When will the Conservative Party and the government stop intimidating their critics and start listening to them?"

    When the former doesn't keep them in power. Until then Bob's your uncle.

  11. “Mr. Speaker, when women's groups speak out, they get their funding cut,” he reviewed. “When public servants like Richard Colvin testify, they get smeared. When independent watchdogs try to do their job, they get fired. When Parliament asks tough questions, the Conservatives shut the Parliament down. When will the Conservative Party and the government stop intimidating their critics and start listening to them?”

    Even in Ignatieff's fingernails-on-the-chalkboard voice, this is a pretty effective line.

    • TJCook….a pretty effective line?…..maybe true but nobody is listening to him. Most thinking Canadians just dismiss this kind of drivel for what it is….silly. The Nanos poll clearly shows the Libs have no traction and until they change their leader that will continue to be the case.

      • hollinm is clearly going to get some mileage out of the Nanos poll. Until someone finds out that Nanos kissed a Liberal girl in grade 3 or something and Finley starts a letter writing campaign.

        • Obviously I am happy the trend is in the "right" direction but a poll is simply a poll and there is no election imminent.

          It is the leadership polls that tell the story of a leader. Harper has consistently been number one, albeit only at 33%, but the story really is Iffy. He is polling behind Jack Layton and that is something for the leader of the Official Oppposition. If he continues with his multiple gaffes each day those leadership numbers are going to fall even further.

          Iffy cannot seem to take the high road. It must be Donolo and the gang around him telling him what to do. Clearly its not working for him or the party. Usually when you are in a hole you stop digging. He wants to get in the mud rather than letting the usual henchmen handle the dirt. I guess its because he has no real issue with the policies of the government and therefore has only the so called scandals to talk about.

      • Nanos is good, Ekos is even better.All of a sudden Frank has the conservatives polling higher

        • hmmmmm. wonder why?

  12. Less talk and more action. We understand by that no debate .The Conservatives have the tendency to ridicule the opposition rather than answer the question. I find the opposition are to the point and they do not get personal? The Conservatives continue to admonish the Liberals for their record -this is true because of Liberal scandals – but this set of Liberal M.P.s were not convicted or not charged with illegal acts from past Liberal scandals so the Cons have been at it for 4 years berating Liberal scandals. The Liberals are now saying be better than us because we went through our scandals and you promised better government than us. But the Conservative attitude seems if you the Liberals can commit to scandals then we can be excused.

    • What a poor defense for a corrupt party. The MPs probably did not do it but I bet there are many of the same individuals involved in the party apparatus who were involved in some shape or fashion. The party was found guilty via a judicial inquiry. They had to pay back $1 million to the taxpayers of Canada. It is indefensible to defend the party and their corrupt past.

      Problem is Canadians don't see the so call scandals at all. Unless the Conservatives can be caught with their hands in the cookie jar or something serious like that Canadians are going to cut them a lot of slack and the polls are showing it.

      There are far too many of these sorts of organizations (not just women's organizations) who live off the teat of government but who really accomplish very little. It would be interesting to see if the AG could go into these organizations and do a value for money audit. Then the fireworks would start. She can't do that but it would be a very revealing exercise.

      Most Canadians think government wastes too much money and we need to ensure every dime is being spent wisely and accomplishes something other than just creating a huge bureaucracy providing jobs for a few people with little to show for it.

  13. Why does Johnny-Baird have to parrot Harpers 'let me be very clear'. Its like they are all closet Nixon clones.

  14. Like I said yesterday: people don't care for mud slinging.
    The CPC is definitely guilty of behaving like children, but so are the Liberals.
    Everybody loses.

    • The constatn Conservative whine is "The Liberals did it too!" Well no, many Liberals did not do it, but almost all the Conservatives are immature lying whiners who are doing their utmost to destroy good government in Canada.

      The Conservatives are much worse.

Sign in to comment.