The Commons: Gerard Kennedy has some questions

Given his new penchant for holding the government to account, Kennedy could almost be mistaken for a member of the NDP

The Commons: Gerard Kennedy has some questionsThe Scene. The Prime Minister was pleading humble competence, all shrugs and up-turned palms. But then Michael Ignatieff, having tried his first two questions in French, had to go and repeat his accusations in English.

“Mr. Speaker, Canadians should be able to count on their government to help them find jobs no matter how they vote and no matter where they live, but instead we have a government that is using infrastructure money like a rewards program,” the Liberal leader alleged.

Mr. Ignatieff leaned forward and put his fingers together. The Conservatives groaned.

“Quebec’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average, yet Quebeckers are receiving the lowest per capita infrastructure funding in all of Canada,” he continued. “How does the Prime Minister explain this? How does he explain his own numbers?”

Turns out he explains it quite simply.

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Harper reported, “of course, that is completely false.”

“Your numbers!” a Liberal cried in confusion.

And soon enough, Mr. Harper’s pointy finger was back out, poking a hole in the air before him.

“We are working with provincial and territorial governments across the country and of course there will be a more or less rough per capita distribution on all of these programs,” he ventured. “The fact of the matter is 7,500 projects have been identified, 4,000 that are under way. Rather than flailing around trying to come up with excuses for an unnecessary and wasteful election the leader of the opposition and his party should be supporting the economic action plan, should be supporting these projects in Quebec and all across this country.”

Perhaps he should. But then he already did. And now it’s Jack Layton’s turn to carry that load.

Next it was Marlene Jennings’ turn, the Liberal rising to show-off a jacket that featured no less than four zippers. So far as she could tell, the government was steadfastly avoiding full disclosure of its ways and means. John Baird rose to dismiss this concern. Ms. Jennings rose to suggest he was not answering her question.

“Where’s Denis?” begged one Conservative. “We want Denis.”

Mr. Baird stood and begged for sanity. “Mr. Speaker,” the Transport Minister declared, “we have put aside partisan politics and are working very well with every provincial government.”

The Liberals found this particularly hilarious.

All was mere preamble though to another airing of Gerard Kennedy’s grievances.

Previous to perhaps two weeks ago, Mr. Kennedy was most famous for having shifted the balance of power to Stéphane Dion at the surreal Liberal leadership convention of 2006. As you might’ve noticed, this did not work out particularly well for anyone, save perhaps Stephen Harper.

But here is Mr. Kennedy now, looking into things, doing research, adding and subtracting large numbers, carrying the one and generally making it his job to hold the government to account on a daily basis. And such is the current state of things that such stuff has seemed no less than revolutionary. Indeed, if you weren’t paying sufficient attention, you might assume Mr. Kennedy was a member of the NDP caucus.

“Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister forgot a few things when he was bragging in New Brunswick about how he was looking after the economy,” Kennedy offered today with his first effort. “He forgot to tell Canadians that he was really just looking after himself, how he gave his own MPs in New Brunswick an average of 44% more in grants than opposition ridings in the province. Would the Prime Minister care to confirm to Canadians today what Mr. Landon, now a former candidate in Markham, has already made public—that Conservative ridings get more than other ridings and that the only jobs the government is interested in are jobs for themselves?”

The Prime Minister would not. In his place, Mr. Baird boasted of the government’s fine work in Mr. Landon’s former riding.

Mr. Kennedy was unimpressed with this response, and with volume and force befitting his surname, he stepped up his prosecution.

“Mr. Speaker, if that minister had the courage to actually put the numbers out, we could tell how he is letting down Canadians right across the country. If the Prime Minister was not so nailed to his chair, he would stand up and say how it is fair that some Canadians are punished for not voting for him,” he yelled, not bothering to intake air between words.

“The Prime Minister gave his six MPs in New Brunswick $18.5 million more on average than the other ridings in the province at the expense of the families that are unemployed in the province of New Brunswick,” he continued, his face turning an impressive shade of maroon. “He made sure his people were four out of the top five. Why should Canadians anywhere in Canada trust him to look after their interests?”

His Liberal mates stood to applaud his performance.

“Mr. Speaker,” observed Mr. Baird, “there is a lot of bluster.”

Coming from the Transport Minister, there is perhaps no higher compliment.

The Stats. The economy, 11 questions. Forestry, seven questions. Employment, four questions. Taxation, three questions. Afghanistan, immigration, government interference and crown assets, two questions. The Philippines, farmers, seniors, the auto industry and sports, one question each.

Stephen Harper and John Baird, seven answers each. Stockwell Day, six answers. Diane Finley, three answers. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Peter MacKay, Jason Kenney, James Moore and Tony Clement, two answers each. Jim Flaherty, Gary Goodyear, Bev Oda, Gerry Ritz and Josee Verner, one answer each.

The Commons: Gerard Kennedy has some questions

  1. ROFL – I like Baird .. I wished I lioved in his riding so I could vote form him … well done!

    • Being in Baird's riding has a lot going for it:

      - You'd be getting more infrastructure money than any other riding in the province on a per capita basis

      - and even though stimulus money was supposed to be targetted to tackle unemployment, Baird's riding has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the province

      - you'd also be assured that any real competition for mayor that is not of Baird's choosing wouldn't have a chance

      - and with Baird speaking occasionally in the riding, those cold Ottawa winters are no more

    • If you did, you'd know that Rusty reneged on federal funding for an Ottawa LRT system that would be humming along today, were it not for his meddling. He pulled this stunt while he was TB President, during a municipal election campaign that was won by a conservative multi-millionaire. The city had to pay for a multi-million-dollar settlement to Siemens, which had been awarded the contract. This incident is an example of how money committed by the Harper government did not translate into shovels in the ground or jobs created. Quite the opposite!

      • You did not complete what you meant by the opposite. Ottawa taxpayers are now on the hook for 30 something million penalty to Siemens. There are rumors that each household may be asked to pay $200. John Baird and Larry O'Brien are not names you want to mention to some people in Ottawa today, but of course, the Cons supporters will say it is all the fault of the opposition parties.

  2. "If the Prime Minister was not so nailed to his chair, he would stand up and say how it is fair that some Canadians are punished for not voting for him"

    An excellent line.

    And ladies in gentlemen, if these accusations are true — and I'm guessing they are given the precision in the Liberals' accusations — then you have plank 1 in a Liberal election strategy.

  3. "If the Prime Minister was not so nailed to his chair, he would stand up and say how it is fair that some Canadians are punished for not voting for him"

    An excellent line.

    And ladies and gentlemen, if these accusations are true — and I'm guessing they are given the precision in the Liberals' accusations — then you have plank 1 in a Liberal election strategy.

    • … and give the nation a reason to vote CPC… Hey! I vote for Steve and I get money!

      • If everyone really feels that way, we are well and truly finished as a nation

      • Now despite all the negative marks you've received, I thought it was really a funny comment!

        • I might end up in negative territory soon at the rate that one is being graded. Must have hit some truthiness bones.

  4. Gee, I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are not a few voters, especially 10 ridings in QC, that might be saying to themselves "I'd better continue to vote CPC if I want jobs." Given the fact that the Tories are only a few seats short of a majorty, it seems like a good idea to be generous to your supporters. By harping on this fact, our friend Mr Kennedy may simply be reinforcing voting intentions in CPC-held ridings and encouraging those voters in swing ridings to think again.

    It's not as if the golf course in Shawinigan was built in a Tory riding.

    • The government of Canada belongs to everyone. This sort of cronyism is precisely what Harper so vehemently campaigned against during his time in opposition. Now it's de rigeur Conservative policy to pork barrel while the Canadians who really need the jobs sit in the cold. What happened?

      • I guess someone has no sense of humour. People take these boards too seriously.

  5. Speaking of lines, the following is pathetic:

    “Mr. Speaker, Canadians should be able to count on their government to help them find jobs no matter how they vote and no matter where they live."

    Oh for a politician with the courage to say find your own damn job, this is a government not an employment agency.

  6. Speaking of lines, the following is pathetic:

    “Mr. Speaker, Canadians should be able to count on their government to help them find jobs no matter how they vote and no matter where they live."

    Oh for a politician with the courage to say, Find your own damn job, this is a government not an employment agency.

    • Yes, because it makes sense for a government to not care if people are out of work.

      After all, it's not as if the government budget relies on people being productive.. oh wait..

      • Not that the ship hasn't long sailed on this, but let's not forget we're talking about the current citizens, the current government, but future generations' money.

        • Alas, the ship sunk long ago, never to return…

          • I wish our constitution had included, even as part of the philosophical preamble, a sense of responsibility to future generations. It's lens through which one could, and should, judge the legislation and policies of the day more explicitly. It wouldn't be the most radical thing in the world, but it might allow for a wiser approach to everything to spending, to environmental policy, to education, and so forth.

            More radically, I suppose it would be possible to include a consideration of future generations as a requirement for any and all legislation. I know most anything could be rhetorically rendered as satisfying the concern, but it would at least force us to think and talk about it a bit more (beyond bland symbolic appeals).

          • To be fair to our Founding Fathers, I think part of the reason the Senate was set up as it was, was to take the "long view" of things. If you pass something, you are likely still going to be around in fifteen years when the sh$tstorm hits, so you might want to mention to the HOC that this isn't a particularly prudent course. And yet it still gives the HOC the leeway to deal with the here and now.

            One of the things this government would like to change, of course.

          • Fair enough. But in the same way that any legislation must satisfy constitutional criteria such as the Charter, it would be worth asking if any benefit could come from also having it satisfy an obligation to future generations.

            Maybe it's too ethereal a concept to be effectively used. But the foundation of western democratic constitutions was formed in a time when resources were seen as limitless, human impact of a planetary scale was unimagined, and even wealth was seen as something that could be endlessly generated through more exploration, exploitation (resources, etc.), population, and so forth. Heck, one could argue such a worldview was still largely present in 1982.

            I'm not saying it would fix anything, just that it may be a concept that is now more explicitly part of mainstream philosophical awareness, and as such should at least be considered as part of the explicit guidance for policy and legislation.

      • You hardly get productive people by initializing them by encouraging them to be dependent on the government to find them jobs.

      • I suppose Harper's waiting for a majority to find the courage to say that? Some so-called leader!

  7. Wherry, if you're not working on a novel of some sort, you really should consider it. Fiction, biography, journalistic (perhaps something in a fictionalized account of the House?) – I don't care, but your prose is freakin' brilliant.

    • I'd buy it. You have a way with words Mr.Wherry.

  8. Of course the Liberals yesterday were claiming that EAP wasnt creating jobs….now they are claiming they aren
    t getting their share of the money that apparently isnt creating jobs….

    Thank goodness they arent in government, they might have to have a coherent message.

    • There are 308 ridings, remember? Each one of them deserves their fair share. Alas.

      • Tory ridings got twice as much money as Liberal ridings. Oh, I forgot. There are twice as many Tory ridings as Liberal ridings.

        Everybody. Take a valium. This program is being coordinated with provincial and municipal governments. In case our partisan friends haven't noticed, not all provincial and municipal governments are Tory.

        If I'm not mistaken, the riding with the sngle largest per capita grant was one of the Windsor ridings held by the NDP because of auto bailout money. NDP. I repeat. NDP.

        • Do you know what "per capita" means? We're comparing Conservative ridings to *all* others.

          It's easy to put a foil on top and point to it in an effort to argue against favourtism. One riding to distract from the rest isn't going to cut it. Further, no auto bailout money has flowed yet.

        • Do you know what "per capita" means? We're comparing Conservative ridings to *all* others.

          Why has the government insisted on filtering through 3 levels of bureaucracy? They chose the least efficient method that's most prone to abuse and then this somehow is allows them to wash their hands of responsibility? Give me a break.

          It's easy to put a foil on top and point to it in an effort to argue against favourtism. One riding to distract from the rest isn't going to cut it. Further, no auto bailout money has flowed yet.

        • Do you know what "per capita" means? We're comparing Conservative ridings to *all* others.

          Why has the government insisted on filtering through 3 levels of bureaucracy? They chose the least efficient method that's most prone to abuse and then this somehow is allows them to wash their hands of responsibility? Give me a break. Tell me, who has the final say for funding approvals?

          It's easy to put a foil on top and point to it in an effort to argue against favourtism. One riding to distract from the rest isn't going to cut it. Further, no auto bailout money has flowed yet.

        • Do you know what "per capita" means? We're comparing Conservative ridings to *all* others.

          Why has the government insisted on filtering through 3 levels of bureaucracy? They chose the least efficient method that's most prone to abuse and then this somehow is allows them to wash their hands of responsibility? Give me a break. Cabinet has the final say in all project approvals.

          It's easy to put a foil on top and point to it in an effort to argue against favourtism. One riding to distract from the rest isn't going to cut it. Further, no auto bailout money has flowed yet.

        • Do you know what "per capita" means? We're comparing Conservative ridings to *all* others.

          Why has the government insisted on filtering through 3 levels of bureaucracy? They chose the least efficient method that's most prone to abuse and then this somehow allows them to wash their hands of responsibility. Give me a break. Tell me, who has the final say for funding approvals?

          It's easy to put a foil on top and point to it in an effort to argue against favourtism. One riding to distract from the rest isn't going to cut it. Further, no auto bailout money has flowed yet. Your arguments are bogus.

      • Hard not to disagree with that one, Is fair share the same as equal? How are you defining "fair", it is a fairly broad term

        As a research point, try and find rejected projects….excluding Millers ridiculous srtreetcar proposal, is there a higher rejection rate in Liberal ridings vs con ridings, and can they find a con riding project where a certain project was accepted and yet the smae project in a lib, bloc or ndp riding was either rejected or given substaintially less money?

        If you can demonstarte that then I think Kennedy has a stronger case.

        He is doing the right kind of work but it is fodder for the spin cycle for the moment.

      • … to some extent. Ridings with 32,000 people in it (ie. Charlottetown) should probably not get the same amount as ridings with 125,000 people in them (West Van-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky)

        • Should it not be proportional, relative to unemployment?

          Of course a small municipality won't be able to afford anything to begin with. Or if they are, they'll have to go deep into debt because of the imposed 1/3 funding formula cooked up by Flaherty.

          This is where the Gas Tax distribution formula would've saved so much headaches and would've actually had shovels in the ground *this* construction season.

        • Should it not be proportional, relative to unemployment?

          Of course a small municipality won't be able to afford anything to begin with. Or if they are, they'll have to go deep into debt because of the imposed 1/3 funding formula cooked up by Flaherty.

          This is where the Gas Tax distribution formula would've saved so much headache and would've actually had shovels in the ground *this* construction season. Any potential for political interference would've been avoided.

        • Should it not be proportional, relative to unemployment?

          Of course a small municipality won't be able to afford anything to begin with. Or if they are, they'll have to go deep into debt because of the imposed 1/3 funding formula cooked up by Flaherty.

          This is where the Gas Tax distribution formula would've saved so much headache and would've actually had shovels in the ground *this* construction season. Any potential for political interference is removed.

        • Should it not be proportional, relative to unemployment?

          Of course, a small municipality won't be able to afford anything to begin with. Or if they are, they'll have to go deep into debt because of the imposed 1/3 funding formula cooked up by Flaherty.

          This is where the Gas Tax distribution formula would've saved so much headache and would've actually had shovels in the ground *this* construction season. Any potential for political interference would've been avoided.

  9. Excellent writing, enjoyable and kind of informative.

  10. "Mr. Speaker, Canadians should be able to count on their government to help them find jobs no matter how they vote and no matter where they live, but instead we have a government that is using infrastructure money like a rewards program,” the Liberal leader alleged.

    Gulp.

  11. "Mr. Speaker…we have a government that is using infrastructure money like a rewards program,” the Liberal leader alleged.

    Gulp.

  12. "Mr. Speaker…we have a government that is using infrastructure money like a rewards program,” the Liberal leader alleged.

    *Gulp*

    • But can they get through on the Aeroplan phoneline, and are they able to find a seat when they want to travel…..

        • "We have a problem"…on that we agree.

          Lesson learned.

  13. And the lesson is . . . vote Tory. Of course when the Liberals were doling it out under Uncle Jean the lesson to be learned was vote liberal. Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose. One is quite amazed to see the Loyal Opposition drawing everyone's attention to this basic political fact. And one is hard put to see how this will benefit their political prospects.

    • Those people who voted for Harper's party in protest of this kind of thing happening with the sponsorship scandal may be convinced to turn away from Harper's party with the Stimulus Scandal. (Name coined right here folks, remember that)

      Personally, I hope they all vote for the Rhinos. Just think, if the people who didn't vote came out and voted for the Rhinos, we could have a majority government that is completely honest in its intentions.

      • Don't worry, Rhinos. If most CON voters are like-minded to the echo chambers here on the blog, there will be no principle left standing once Harper is finished with either his party or his government…

  14. My respect for Gerard Kennedy has increased. I wonder if Liberals still see him as a viable future leadership candidate?

    • I had hoped so after the Dion nomination. For about one hot minute there was the potential for a Dion-Kennedy-Trudeau leadership lineage (which would've been decidedly in the Left of the Liberal camp and probably would've meant that we'd see the Left unite sometime in our lifetimes).

      that was a great weekend ;)

    • I think Kennedy's lack of fluent French and a university degree as well as his support of Dion in 2006 have taken some of the shine off. My Liberal friends tell me they see him as a future cabinet minister, not a leader, but .one never knows.

      • That lack of a university degree may yet work in his favour. He'd have to do something about the French, though.

        • What, after all this CON initiated anti-intellectualizing and tut-tuting of people from the educated classes from Harper himself? Here's a guy who got a masters in economics and never bothered (or couldn't) put it to use… Seems like its just as much wallpaper to help attract the charming Ms Teskey.

      • University degrees are overrated. He wouldn't be any worse than the university-educated candidates. See Dion for reference.

        • All other criteria being equal, I'll choose the person with the university degree every time.

          But a degree would only be one of many criteria.

          • That would be a mistake. Some university degrees indicate nothing more than four years spent being indoctrinated, which is a net disadvantage. "Wymyns Studies" comes to mind.

          • That would be a mistake. Some university degrees indicate nothing more than four years spent being indoctrinated, which is a net disadvantage. "Womyns Studies" comes to mind.

          • So you meant that some university degrees are over-rated?

          • Or perhaps it's a weighted average, so if some are overrated then the aggregate are overrated…unless there are some more that are underrated.

            Or perhaps we are now quibbling over semantics, as so many university courses do.

          • Thanks for the responses….they have clarified the situation.

    • I agree, while not all of it may be correct, it is a different level of crticism than the name calling and hand waving that usually goes on. So I have revised my opinion of him as well…..he was in the "himbo" category before.

      But Two Yen below has it right, I think. His lack of fluency (which can change) and his support for Dion will be very hard to live down (cuts to judgement). But you know, Peter Mackay has probably revived himself to be a viable candidate next time. Immeadiately following the merger he was pretty toxic.

      Lesson is, do well at whatever your job is. People notice.

      • Kennedy, has my respect, noticeably not backing M. Ignatieff in either 06 or 08. His election win over Peggy Nash was also quite impressive.

    • I certainly do. I've always had a huge amount of respect for him, even before he got into federal politics, and I'd vote for him in a cold minute as Party leader.

      If, you know, I was actually allowed to vote for someone other than Ignatieff as Party leader.

    • Given the month's events I think they may want to see him as a viable present leadership candidate.

    • They should have seen him as a viable present leadership candidate in 2006, and played a good long game. Of course, if Mackenzie King himself were still around today, contemporary Liberal strategists could probably find a way to only get him a slim minority, so it's hard to be revisionist about Gerard Kennedy. Nevertheless, I get the sense that people who are serious about governing will have the time of day for him in future leadership contests.

  15. His claim to fame coming into politics was his food bank work and he was clearly NDP or partiless. The liberals made a huge mistake inviting him to theirs.

    • I didn't realize the NDP have a monopoly on caring.

    • We could have Kennedy vs Pearson leadership runoff. Call it Foodbank vs Foodbank

      • You know, being executive director of Toronto's food bank is hardly a matter of schlepping hampers around. One could argue it provides a better skill set, in terms of management/leadership and public/political engagement, than working as a policy wonk or an academic (without diminishing those vocations).

  16. Mr. Wherry

    You missed the question to peter mackay regarding his department's order to ignore afgan forces sexually assaulting young boys on the base and in country.

  17. Wherry, your Liberal leanings are showing again. While Mr. Kennedy is a formidable attacker of the govt side, he really is weak on his facts. He is cherry-picking when it comes to numbers to try and support a deceitful position.

    But that's politics I guess

  18. I don't yet know whether Kennedy's charges are true. But if they're even partly true, the Conservatives should be firing Baird yesterday and Harper should be facing a leadership review.

  19. I don't yet know whether Kennedy's charges are true. But if they're even partly true, the Conservatives should be firing Baird yesterday and Harper should be facing a leadership review.

    That said, if Kennedy's charges are false then he should resign. This sort of allegation had better not be slander.

    • And if your suggestion of slander is, actually, slander, you should resign.

  20. Well done.

    If the final tally of funding/riding turns out to be relatively fair, and if Kennedy's allegations turn out to be disingenuous as you suggest, then Kennedy should be forced to resign. These were serious allegations.

    • So serious that Baird had nothing to respond with but his own bluster.

  21. H2H I agree – but the bloody government should be able to provide this data fully!

    The City of Toronto is home to approximately 8% of Canada's population. If Toronto's $200M is its entire share….then one would expect the total stimulus funds nationally to be, oh, about $2.5 billion. ($2.5 billion x 8% = $200 millon)

    All of yours and my speculation is entirely irrelevant. The government has the data and thus far hasn't provided it – whether this is a bureaucratic issue or a political one I don't know. But I want the data!

  22. It says something when a blog commenter, admittedly high-calibre, has an explanation 15 times more coherent and detailed than the Minister's answer in the House.

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