The Commons: Diane Finley’s words are used against her

Let us now debate who are the “bad guys” here

by Aaron Wherry

David Christopherson, in furious form, stood to recount the events of Friday morning.

“Last week, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, who once described EI as… ‘lucrative‘ defended her new quota system by describing the unemployed as… the bad guys.’ ”

At least in so far as Diane Finley had in fact spoken the phrase “bad guys,” Mr. Christopherson was correct. It is merely in the entire context of those words that the New Democrat led the House astray.

The official opposition had been pestering the minister on Friday morning about a report that quotas had established for inspectors charged with rooting out fraud of the employment insurance system. In the midst of this, Ms. Finley—on two occasions—suggested the New Democrats were on the wrong side of this matter. “Mr. Speaker, with respect to the employment insurance program,” she said, “it is very important to note that, once again, the NDP is supporting the bad guys.”

Perhaps this was a prepared line—an attempt to turn an attack around. Perhaps Ms. Finley came up with this in the moment in a fit of frustration. Either way, the New Democrats have apparently decided to see Ms. Finley’s oversimplification and raise her a distortion.

“Law-abiding out of work Canadians deserve better than to be treated like criminals,” Mr. Christopherson declared. “Why is the government cutting EI just when people need it to the most?”

Here John Baird was provided an opportunity to be reasonable. “Mr. Speaker, my friend from the NDP has it all wrong,” he scolded. “The minister made no such statements. He is flat-out wrong.”

A few moments later, Nycole Turmel stood to read the charges against Ms. Finley en francais. “Tell the truth!” protested a voice from the government side.

Perhaps for the sake of not being too blatant about all this, each of the men and women on the opposition resisted the urge to yell back, “you first!”

Context, of course, has become something of a secondary consideration in this realm. (Though, as a concept, it at least matters more than nuance.)

Somewhere on the campus of Harvard right now, Michael Ignatieff is, for instance, still picking bits and pieces of things he once said out of his rear end. By the time he was defeated, he likely wished he’d never written or spoken a word before being anointed Liberal leader.

Mr. Ignatieff’s successor, Thomas Mulcair, is presently mocked for proposing a “carbon tax” he opposes (or, rather, a “carbon tax” the Conservatives once proposed).

What distinguishes the New Democrats from their Victorian predecessors as official opposition is a willingness to engage in this stuff—a certain shamelessness with which they approach this business. The Liberals, for instance, would never have even conceived of presenting the Harper government’s change to the health care funding formula as a $36 billion cut. Mind you, that at least has some basis in what the Finance Minister actually conveyed during the last election campaign. Ms. Finley, on the other hand, is innocent of this specific insinuation—the New Democrats attempting a particularly ungraceful leap of the imagination to pretend otherwise.

“Mr. Speaker, it is rather that member who should apologize to Canadians,” the Human Resources Minister scolded, “because I did not say that.”

(And now having felt the sting of this sort of nonsense, Ms. Finley will no doubt be issuing an apology to Mark Holland.)

The New Democrats were on somewhat surer ground when they stopped pretending that Ms. Finley had attempted to insult anyone but New Democrats. “Mr. Speaker, when Canadians questioned Conservative legislation on privacy concerns, we were accused of standing with child pornographers. Now the Conservatives are resorting to name-calling again, accusing anyone who opposes their EI cuts and quotas of defending fraudsters. Canadians who have lost their jobs, through no fault of their own, deserve better than a minister who calls EI too lucrative and who guts it at every turn,” Chris Charlton explained to the House this afternoon.

Her question then veered back to the day’s opening gambit. “When will the minister stop demonizing the EI recipients and admit that the vast majority are hard-working people who simply want to access the benefits that they themselves paid for?”

Ms. Finley offered her response. “Mr. Speaker, I am totally in support of making sure that EI is there for those who need it when they are eligible for it. That is the whole purpose of it,” she said. “But to do that, we have to maintain the integrity of the system. That means rooting out fraud. That means going after people who are cheating the system and claiming taxpayer dollars to which they are not entitled. We do wish that the NDP would support us in rooting out these people so that those who are entitled to EI, who are eligible, will have the funds there for them when they need it.”

And so we were back to the pre-Friday disagreement over how exactly to go about administering and officiating employment insurance.

Half a dozen questions later, the discussion turned to crime prevention. The New Democrats were generally displeased with the approach of the government side. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews rose to restate the traditional response.

“What the federal government does do is provide the laws that allow the officers to arrest dangerous individuals and put them into custody,” he explained. “Unfortunately, we have not received support from the NDP to do that. At every turn those members have opposed measures to keep violent and dangerous criminals off the street.”

And so, again, the New Democrats were apparently on the side of the bad guys.

The Commons: Diane Finley’s words are used against her

  1. What’s meant by the quotas?
    Does that mean investigators have to find a certain number of false claimants each month to meet their quota? Because I think it should be pretty obvious to anybody how this is just a bad idea.

    Alternatively, does it mean that investigators have to look at a certain number of cases each month? Unless that number is quite low, I can’t see this being a good idea either, as it would simply encourage investigators to gloss over how ever many are needed to meet the arbitrary number.

    • What happened in the Klein cutbacks on welfare fraud when i lived there. Rumour said they even threatened or intimidated social workers who failed to come up with the target number of bad guys. Of course it was a disaster – throwing single mums and special needs folks off welfare in some cases in stead of where they should have cracked down first – able bodied young guys. BC picked up the model. Probably standard in every province by now. Bet it still doesn’t work.

      • When BC brought it in they put attack dogs in charge of the local Income Assistance offices it was a mess. One lady who lived in the same building as I asked me to read a letter for her because she was almost blind.
        The letter stated she was losing her disability benefits because she wasn’t completely blind. Her eyeglasses were like a inch thick for god’s sake and she could barely see and she had two children to care for, they reverse the obscene everybody gets cuts after about a year. IA rates have been stagnate for over a decade in BC and remain the lowest in Canada.

  2. Violent and dangerous criminals aren’t on the streets, they’re in their homes, wreaking havoc and physical battery, emotional abuse – on their families.

    • LOL

      Great link. Isn’t that always the way of things. Tax fraud/avoidance is a public good if you work for it then it’s your entitlement. Benefit scamming at the low end by those who don’t or can’t work, while a drop in the bucket by comparison, is a one way ticket to opprobrium and sanctimony of the middle and political class.

      There’s no hypocrite like a well off or middle class hypocrite eh.

  3. Passage of time alert: it wasn’t “last May” when Mr Ignatieff was defeated; it’s two years this coming May.

    • I’m so old. The years are beginning to blend together.

      • Harper’s time is zipping by that’s a good thing, I thought it would all dread time but the NDP has put up a good fight.

  4. “Context, of course, has become something of a secondary consideration in this realm. (Though, as a concept, it at least matters more than nuance.)”

    Yes indeed. These days I believe an unguarded nuance can get you a two year mandatory minimum. More if you happen to be just visiting.

    As for UI fraud…I’ll start worrying about that kind of fraud when this govt stops abusing the public purse to fund their own ads, and absurdly transparent new Natural Governing Party self promotion schemes ( after being all over the liberals for same) To hear these guys tell it you could be forgiven for thinking Harper personally led the charge at QHs.
    This is easily the most shameless bunch of hypocritical shysters, self promoters and wide boys we’ve ever sent to Ottawa…and that’s saying something.
    http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/02/04/government-ad-spending-up-72-per-cent-since-the-recession/
    Pathetic at a time of lay offs in the NPs, EC scientists getting pink slips, and proven enviro monitoring programmes being dustbinned, cut backs to refugee health benefits, you name it.

    • By some accounts, they could clean up on senator fraud, too

  5. Of course EI fraudsters are the ‘bad guys’.

    They’re stealing EI money from the people who actually might deserve it.

    • That is just silly Glynn. I can only hope it was meant to be parody or sarcasm. It’s a insurance scheme. No one ‘doesn’t get paid’ because they have given the money to another. Gawd, I so wish that I thought that your statement was sarcasm.

      Not much wonder I have so little faith in conservative minds.

      • People who defraud insurance companies make it necessary to increase the premiums paid by everyone.

        People who defraud EI make it necessary to reduce the payouts to everyone else or increase the EI paid… and since the latter is politically unpalatable, the former is the route chosen.

        Why else do you suppose the eligibility requirements are being tightened? It’s because nobody wants to hike the amounts pulled out of paycheques.

  6. Three working titles for her autobiography…SO!…..Something Wicked This Way Came….and…Let Them Eat Sh*t..The Diane Finley Story.

  7. Keep up this good work. Writing this column in a fair and common sense manner will galvanize some few, but hopefully enough, Canadians to try to elect people who can not stoop to childishness in discussion of issues that matter. This parliament is an embarrassment. It is of course not the issues themselves by which they embarrass us all as Canadians, for they are very very difficult to resolve. It remains astonishing to me that grown people run our country at the level of a funny movie about trailer trash people. All the wasted (hot) air! All the wasted time and money and resources to talk like idiots. Pathos can be funny and often this is, but not as the rule! Please, someone, get them to a counselor, mediation and into a grade two class to re-learn manners and to get some poise back. The best suit in the world would look like a clown suit on people behaving like this. Shame on them all.

  8. I am not sure why people are aghast now when this isn’t the first time that a federal government has taken a hard line with EI recipients. I had a baby in 1988 and filed for maternity benefits. I got a call at home to bring in “proof” that the baby was born. When I subsequently moved to another city, even though I was still on maternity benefits and not looking for work, I got called again to come in and they harassed me because I brought my baby with me. They wanted to know how I was going to get a job if I didn’t have a babysitter and why I had relocated. When I told them I was getting maternity benefits they seemed unsure of why I was called and told to present myself to their office in the first place. In my experience, the people working for this department and their leadership have always been pretty nasty. Then there are those who work in occupational health and safety and have quotas to get people off of disability….let’s not pretend that doesn’t exist. They bring nastiness to a whole new level.

  9. what about the government putting fundamental basic right to primary school education when they let Carleton Board of Education capitalize at the expense of immigrants in 1989 WHEN IT WAS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO!

  10. how about when Revenue Canada had to have a copy of court orders and they used H & R block to do this then they tried to tax Immigrants on money they should have got but did not! Support and custody office of enforcement were ordered in the court room in January of 1990 and they were in CONTEMPT OF COURT, HOWEVER BECAUSE OF ERRORS BY IMMIGRATION THE WOMEN AND TWO KIDS UNABLE TO GET PROVINCIAL SERVICES EITHER WHICH ALSO WENT AGAINST THE JUDGES ORDERS, CANADA IS SO CORRUPT

  11. WHEN 1 800 O CANADA EMPLOYEES ARE NGOs and act as use of representatives and then when they have got all the information they dump their clients, NGO was given a mandate by Industry Canada conflict of interest when immigrants have charter cases when legal aid denied access to courts for civil constitutional torts against the government, Government corrupt

  12. Victims of abuse are put on the street because of poor community resources who do not represent immigrants rights because they were afraid to get their funding cut, because the court ties up money in escrow preventing victim getting housing and legal aid did not cover civil litigation until 2005 and when community and social services ottawa do not have a program to treat the victim and exacerbates the injury to the point the victim ends up on disability with post traumatic stress and has to pay $750 to store belongings due to discrimination by the Municipal government of Ottawa Ontario

  13. victim now has cancer and due to 23 years of abuse at the hands of the Conservative and liberal government refuses treatment and is reporting Canada to Her Magistrates court in london for crimes against humanity I am British and Canada broke all the rules of law by going against the court and obstructed justice since 1989

  14. do not talk to me about accountability here in ©anada they are just covering their butts, why because they broke the rule of law, and cut off rights and discriminated for economic gain oh what Canadians do not know about their government and judicial system!

  15. it was immigrants being forced on to the system in the early 90s when mulroney was in power and when immigrants had to pay for health because of not being able to get a job with benefits, wish someone would give the stats on how many immigrants were on welfare during Mulroney and Peterson tenure… now they state Health records missing, immigration records missing and Education records missing and robo calls to boot! and my MP: who refuses to look at when immigration went against the court order and cut off access to even an appeal 1989! oh did i HIT A NERVE how terrible of me… Canada has hit rock bottom

  16. Oh did I mention Jean Francoise Page standing committee of justice and human rights who told me that they would not help me… he is of course just a clerk of the committee! anyone would think that the Parliament had something to hide and they do!

  17. Does anyone living and residing in Canada know anything about the constitution Act and its being implemented into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Well let me tell you, the government and the judicial system are to abide within it yet why is it that legal aid cut off access to the courts since the signing of the charter of rights and freedoms for immigrants and the working poor Canadians who could not get a lawyer for a civil constitutional tort against the government until 2005 when Clare :Lewis the Ombudsmen of Ontario made it possible! and why did he end up being a commissioner that handled complaints against legal aid lawyers who went against the code of conduct and then denied that the lawyer did anything wrong, I will tell you it is because they would not let as it would put the judicial system and government in total disrepute of the law. Tell me how is Canada eliminating abuse against women and children when they do not have any recourse in Canada and they put the victims on the street exacerbating even their mental well being Immigrants who could not get affordable housing have know-one to help them, so they are isolated and alone and destitute. It is despicable and the government should be held to account!

  18. yet Senators get housing allowances and victims of abuse are put on the street in Ottawa, Canadians born in Canada get the jobs with benefits and immigrants suffer inhumane treatment

  19. What is it about Ontario civil liberties that they sent me to BC civil liberties and a bunch of lawyers took the Attorney General and legal aid to court, only after they heard from me in 2005!! the government needs to govern themselves accordingly if you ask me

  20. What about Joan Smith in June of 1989 forced to resign but they put her on the Standing committee of the Ombudsmen to prevent immigrants getting help by them. Meanwhile milking immigrants with high priced costs to health and education, and putting them in bed bug and roach housing corporations through the Provincial and Municipal governments, how is Canada integrating immigrants into society when they treat them like dirt under the carpet. it is disgusting, that the press are not allowed speak of
    Charter of Rights, and it is further disgusting when the media are afraid to look into issues of National importance when it comes to protecting the rights of immigrants in Canada, WE ARE ALL SUPPOSED TO BE TREATED EQUALLY YET WE ARE NOT.

  21. Your posts were shrill enough without the all-caps, Judy.

  22. Any government who appoints a non lawyer as am Attorney General who does not know the law has to be hiding things from the people they are supposed to protect in their country so why did the NDP government in 1993 put Marion Boyd? it is quite simple really because the solicitor general who was responsible for law enforcement and who was also forced to resign went on the Standing committee of the ombudsmen, to prevent immigrants who had constitutional torts which are entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms from accessing justice, especially when lawyers were not obligated to take people on a contingency, and legal aid denied access to civil constitutional torts, they told me that it would not pay them to do so! and they did this when they took away access to Provincial services even though It was ordered by the Superior court of Canada that I was to remain in Canada as a resident and then Immigration Minister Barbara McDougall would not let me, this went against the orders of the court, the reason that the court let me was I lived in Canada for 3 years 1984 – 1987 and due to misguided information by lawyers and a mediator Peggy Malpass went back to England because they told me I could not get Provincial services living in Canada on my husbands Ministerial Permit, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states regardless of status the government took away my rights even to access the Supreme Court of Canada when I returned and the judge ordered I remained and they abused me and my children in many other ways including exploitation of women by lawyers, and kept me and my children in abuse and cut off Fundamental basic human rights and civil rights. and you people in Canada should put yourselves in our shoes for a day and you would not be able to cope, no wonder so many people are complaining about mental health, physical abuse, financial abuse ask your government why they think this is JUSTICE and how come I had to wait 18 years for compensation and they tried to give me a $5,000 cheque as if that covers what they did to me and my children

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