The Year of Parliament

Aaron Wherry on 2013: Mark Warawa, Brent Rathgeber, the Reform Act and a tomato analogy

by Aaron Wherry

(Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press)

When, on the morning of June 2, 2011, the 41st Parliament convened for the first time to commit its first necessary act, the election of a Speaker, the first concern was whether or not our 308 elected representatives would be sufficiently civil with each other. The word “decorum” was uttered some 16 times that day.

After Andrew Scheer was chosen on the sixth ballot, opposition leader Jack Layton stood and swore that his side would never be heard to heckle. Bob Rae then stood and swore that his corner would assume no such vow of silence. “I am looking forward to the first sign of life from the official opposition, to the first heckle and to the first joke,” Mr. Rae chided. “I, myself, will be keeping book on how many days, indeed hours, it will be before he sees that happen.”

If the House of Commons is somehow now a nicer place than it was previously, it is probably only slightly and periodically. And if Question Period is a somehow more relevant forum it is not quite because the atmosphere is less frightful, but because the official opposition, blessed of a slowly unfolding crisis for the government side, decided that it would useful to adopt a more prosecutorial tone—the straightforward query, particularly when deployed as part of an extended inquiry, often being far more effective than the blood-curdling harangue.

But if the House of Commons now seems to matter more than it did, particularly over the last 12 months, it is because the questions about the conduct of its members have become more numerous and more profound. The 41st Parliament began with some vague sense that something had to change. In 2013—a year of and about Parliament—the question became whether almost everything should, maybe even must, change.

***

“Imagine for a moment a parliament that functions well, a parliament where debate is intelligent, informed, witty and, above all, respectful. Imagine a parliament where our interaction leads to more inclusive public policy, and thus to win-win situations for all Canadians,” the NDP’s Denise Savoie, runner-up to Mr. Scheer, had mused in making her appeal to the House on that first day of the 41st Parliament. “I am not proposing a utopian project, but an objective that must be met to reverse the cynicism that Canadians feel toward their politicians and democratic institutions … Our outgoing Speaker said recently that federal politics had become less democratic and more partisan since he was a rookie MP. I hope that one of the rookie MPs here today will retire as MP one day and can say the exact opposite. Let us say today that the 41st Parliament was the turning point. Let that change begin today.”

This was at least a lovely little dream.

A year and a half later, we might still be waiting for a change to come. Or great change might have already begun.

So far as 2013 is concerned, the fun might’ve started on March 21. It was on the morning of March 21 that the three members of the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs met to discuss the voteability of more than a dozen items tabled by backbench MPs. Just one, Motion 408, was ruled out of order. That motion, tabled by Conservative MP Mark Warawa, proposed “that the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.”

The reasons for rejecting that motion were dubious, but Mr. Warawa might not have attracted much more attention if he hadn’t been scheduled to deliver a statement in the House that afternoon and if he hadn’t been told he would not be permitted to deliver the statement he wanted to make and if he hadn’t then stood in the House on the morning of March 26 and complained that his privileges as a duly elected Member of Parliament had thus been infringed upon. Nine other Conservative MPs stood in the House and pledged themselves to this cause. And the Speaker subsequently invited any MP who wished to speak to ignore their whips, stand and seek to be recognized.

“So it is up to us now,” Brent Rathgeber wrote of his fellow backbenchers.

A month before Mr. Warawa rose on his point of privilege, Mr. Rathgeber had used his blog to consider the future of the parliamentary budget officer. In the midst of that, he had fired a shot across that backbench. “It is understandable why the Executive Branch might be insulted when the PBO challenged its numbers; but it remains a mystery why some Members of Parliament were similarly dismissive,” he wrote. “I understand that Members of Parliament, who are not members of the executive, sometimes think of themselves as part of the government; we are not. Under our system of Responsible Government, the Executive is responsible and accountable to the Legislature.”

This was not quite revolutionary in concept, but it might’ve sounded revolutionary in the current context—a Parliament in which voting against one’s party 1.42% of the time is the height of rebellion.

Almost precisely three months after publishing those words, Mr. Rathgeber would resign from caucus after his fellow Conservative MPs voted to amend his private member’s bill, consequently raising the salary disclosure threshold for civil servants from $188,000 to $444,000. “I will continue to support the government generally, but not unequivocally,” Mr. Rathgeber explained. “I will support the Government when warranted—which incidentally was always my understanding of the proper role of a Government Backbencher, save for in matters of Confidence.”

Kevin Page’s term as the first parliamentary budget officer ended in March with serious questions hanging about Parliament’s ability to properly scrutinize the government’s spending of public funds. Mr. Page’s pursuit of the information necessary to analyze the government’s budget cuts was picked up by his successors. In September, Thomas Mulcair demanded that the PBO take the government to court over its refusal to disclose. In a briefing note this month, the PBO summarized the extent of our reigning lack of knowledge. “Direct program expenses savings have been the primary measure to improve the fiscal outlook in successive budgets following the recession. Little information has been provided to assess service impacts, the likelihood of achieving spending targets, and whether short-term restraint will require higher spending in future years,” PBO officials explained. “The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has rejected PBO’s requests for information which is necessary to analyze the approximately $10 billion of budgetary authorities which went unspent in each of the past three years. The Government has failed to provide a concrete explanation for historical and projected revisions to these lapses, which were responsible for roughly $3.6 billion of the unexpected improvement in the budgetary balance in 2012-13 and which account for a significant portion of the Government’s budgetary improvement going forward.”

In the fall, the Prime Minister asked the Governor General to prorogue Parliament, putting off the return of the House by several weeks for no obvious reason. When the House of Commons returned in October, the Harper government tabled another omnibus budget bill, this one including amendments to the Supreme Court of Canada Act. A procedural amendment then made it more difficult for independent MPs to compel the sort of vote marathons that had brought attention to last year’s over-stuffed budget bills. The New Democrats moved unsuccessfully to limit the circumstances in which committee business could be conducted in secret. Conservative Senators voted to suspend three of their former colleagues and the federal and provincial governments appealed to the Supreme Court for a definitive answer on how we might go about figuring out what to do with the upper chamber and its residents. The Finance Minister chose again to deliver the economic update to a luncheon audience far from Parliament Hill. The RCMP alleged that the Prime Minister’s Office had engineered changes to the Senate committee’s report on Mike Duffy (notably against the objections of one of the Government Senate leader’s aides). By year’s end, the NDP had counted some 37 uses of time allocation or closure to manage the time permitted by the government for debate of a bill in the House of Commons.

Unto this world was born the Reform Act, and the angels sang to herald its arrival and lo were the despondent and yearning drawn to it from far and wide like a shining beacon of hope and change. And lo was this followed by much agonizing about what horrors might occur if the bill’s measures were ever actually implemented.

Perhaps the Reform Act would bring salvation. Or perhaps it would turn our elections over to felons and Holocaust deniers. Or perhaps neither. It might be symbolic. It might be a good nudge in the right direction.

At issue now is simply and entirely the role, purpose and usefulness of the Member of Parliament. From that and those questions about what we expect and want from our MPs follow all other matters that might be discussed about the state of our politics in the first part of the 21st century, from what we expect of House committees to why we vote and why we don’t vote.

Government House leader Peter Van Loan says “Parliament is working better than ever right now.” Ask NDP MP Pat Martin about the state of things and he’ll email you to say that our parliamentary democracy is “in tatters.”

“What’s left is really only a facsimile of a democracy,” he writes, “like those tomatoes you get in January that look like the real thing but taste like the box they came in.”

So we are somewhere between better-than-ever and never-been-worse. Has the House of Commons ever been better than it is? Has it ever been worse? Whatever it is, has it always been thus? It’s possible to answer each of those questions in the affirmative with some grounds for saying so. But the questions are of limited value. Perspective is important, but the present is what matters and it should be judged on the basis of whether or not it is sufficient.

Have tomatoes in January always tasted like cardboard? Do they taste more or less like cardboard than they did for previous generations? Should we consider ourselves lucky to have the tomatoes we have? Are we basically surviving as a nation with these tomatoes? Maybe. But maybe we should settle for nothing less than delicious-tasting tomatoes of only the finest flavour and texture.

And so maybe 2013 was the year it became fair to wonder about the quality of our tomatoes—or at least rather difficult to avoid the questions some have been asking about our tomatoes for years.

Even if the Reform Act fails to accomplish anything else, it at least makes necessary that conversation. It requires a discussion about how things work and how things should work. (And to that discussion you can add Conservative MP Brad Trost’s bill on the election of committee chairs and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart’s bill on e-petitions.)

As dispiriting as the team sport can be—the behaviour in Question Period that tribalism inspires, the competing pep rallies and scripted promos—it still basically serves us well. As dehumanizing as the talking point is, message discipline might simply be necessary, at least so long as the vast majority of us are not actively engaged in our politics. Nuance might not ultimately be as useful as the battle of entrenched points of view.

But maybe the commissioner of this sport would have been fired years ago amid declining ratings, fan disenchantment and great questions about the game’s ethics.

In the interests of saving the game, we might start with some tangible thing we should have and work backwards from that functional ideal. Something like true and complete accountability and transparency for the spending of public funds. How far are we from that? What would that ideal look like? What would need to change to make it possible? And how could that change be made?

All we might have to figure out is everything. But in that there is great potential.

***

Jack Layton’s second question as the 42nd leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition concerned heckling. He wondered if the government side might join his side in vowing to keep quiet.

The NDP had campaigned on the ideas that “Ottawa is broken” and the NDP would “fix” it—perhaps not all that far removed from the Conservative campaign of 2006, perhaps not all that different from what the Liberals and NDP will campaign on in 2015—and as a token effort in this regard, a ban on heckling had some merit, even if it is perhaps not now as rigorously enforced. There is something to be said for civility. Or at least not needlessly acting like a jerk. But politics will always, and should always, involve conflict and disagreement and there will be fights, though preferably withouts the use of actual fisticuffs. (Both parts of the “happy warrior” tag are what made Mr. Layton an effective and exceptional politician.) And if you accept the theory that a lack of civility is a result of everything else that ails our Parliament, then to attack it is to target the symptom, not the system. In that way, maybe 2013 was the year we had to think seriously about whether we were dealing with a disease, not a cough.

Civility is but the most visceral of qualities by which our Parliament might be judged. It is the easiest thing to point to and lament and, seemingly, the easiest thing to fix. Our politicians just need to be nicer to each other. That’s all.

But then they could be nicer—they could be the nicest, daintiest, politest group of people ever assembled in a room—and we still might not have that Parliament of our dreams, we still might not know how the government is returning the federal budget to surplus. We might still not be maximizing the potential of what should be possible when 308 of our representatives are brought together, by us, to help us improve upon what is.

Mr. Layton’s first question had been to wonder whether the government side was interested in working with others. This was closer to something more foundational. Compromise and cooperation are the vague ideas that we might all agree with—the sorts of things we would tell a polling company we would like to see practiced by our politicians. Perhaps, in a more perfect Parliament, such practices would even be more prevalent.

But if Ottawa is “broken,” it is now for much bigger and more specific and more complicated reasons that niceties and goodwill. It is now because it is unclear whether Parliament is working, whether our politics is broken, whether we have a system that works for us and for the 308 individuals we elect to represent us. It was a difficult year. And if 2013 is to be remembered for anything it might be for making it necessary that we figure out how our Parliament is and isn’t working.

And then we can get better.

The Year of Parliament

  1. The Sideshow and the Unbearable Lightness of Justin
    It seemed fairly clear that over the past year that Parliament’s function for the opposition had precious little to do with being part of a governing body. Instead it was a platform to try to get into power by latching onto the issue of the day. As was the case prior to the last election, issues that mattered to THEM dominated the political space. You will recall that “a crime against democracy” (prorogue) was talked about non-stop. This go around it is what Harper knew about someone paying back over- claimed expenses (try and wrap your head around that one to find a real – non ginned up- wrong.)
    In both cases one could reasonably argue this isn’t stuff that concerns struggling families who are trying to maintain food on the dinner table.
    Of course it doesn’t help matters that the opposition is fueled by the tawdry, “scandal” happy, largely left leaning echo-chamber that is today’s Ottawa media. Like the overzealous talent agent that applauds wildly for the aging singer who has precious little to offer the public, they convince their client that they can do no wrong.
    Yet, while this side show has been taking up the political oxygen, real issues have arisen. Real needs exist with real (non-political) Canadians. And to tackle these very real weighty issues, the Liberals have anointed perhaps the lightest leader in modern politics anywhere in the Western world.
    Trudeau’s only sustainable “job”, if one can call it that, was trading on his family’s name by charging speaking fees. Having quit a brief stint at teaching, he languished in University going from program to program without accomplishing even a degree, let alone academic accolades. Anywhere but the leftist Ottawa/Toronto political echo chamber he would be considered an utter failure, unable to garner even a low level management position.
    All the sideshows in the world will not change the unbearable lightness of Justin.

    • “..without accomplishing even a degree..”
      Wrong. He has two.
      But don’t let “facts” get in the way of your “sad” little “rant.”

      Wow, dropping quotation marks around random words *is* fun.

      • After his stint in teaching? Read the context. I thought most knew you couldn’t be a teacher without a degree. Check Wiki.
        The venom Liberal supporters show towards those who point out the stark reality of Justin’s lightness wholly unsurprising.
        You can keep believing the Torstar and ignore me, you will feel much, much better I can assure you.

        • Check wiki, eh?
          “Trudeau has a Bachelor of Arts degree in literature from McGill University and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of British Columbia.”

          Two degrees.

          And I’m not a Liberal supporter, but thanks for playing. Here’s a copy of the home version.

          • You omitted virtually the very next lines which showed after his stint at teaching, going in and out of two different programs, with no degree, no accomplishments. I appreciate these facts do not favour your attack. But anyone in the world can go to Wiki to see for themselves.
            Justin gets degrees toward teaching, does that for a bit, then quits. Goes into another university program and quits. Then goes into yet another university program and quits.
            This is how he spent adult life into his 40′s. A perma-student. I understand that to you that this is a sound track record of success. Perhaps that may be a reflection of your standards, Liberal supporter or not.

          • Oh, but I did read that part, Richmeister. And believe it or not, I get the point you’re trying to make, ever subtle that it is. I am, however, amused that you mention the word “facts” since you said he has no degree. That’s a factual error. He does have a degree. This is my point. See, you had a perfectly serviceable, if unremarkable rant going there and you overshot on the hyperbole. Kind of detracts from the argument.

          • Except, like your selective quote from Wiki, you omitted the pretext of my statement which was “Having quit a brief stint at teaching, he languished in University going from program to program…”
            You see, my point was clearly after his teaching (which presupposed whatever degree one needs to get that).
            Your allegation of overshooting is premised on you misstating my statements.
            Let’s recap: you deliberately omit the most salient fact about the Wiki entry, you deliberately omit my statement referring to Justin’s post-teaching experience, you use those misstatements to falsely accuse me of misstating Justin’s experience, then (while resorting to base insults (sad, rant)) you dole out advice on giving a quality argument.
            My goodness, you ARE a Trudeau supporter.

          • I don’t think “pretext” means what you think it does. Nevertheless, it seems consistent with your intent.

          • Tee hee.

          • I think the best part of this is where you distracted him from trying to distract everyone else.

          • Trudeau’s breathtaking inexperience, lack of anything approximating an accomplishment, and his palpable shallowness on virtually any subject (perhaps save for pot), is………a distraction.
            As much as the iceberg was a distraction to the people on the Titanic I suppose.

          • And that made even less sense.

    • “Parliament’s function for the opposition had precious little to do with being part of a governing body”

      True even of those on the back benches of the governing side. Ask Rathgeber.

      ” This go around it is what Harper knew about someone paying back over- claimed expenses”

      You CPC trolls keep trying to spin it that way, but it goes far beyond that. The issues include rule-(and possibly law-)breaking, influence peddling and attempted control of an independent body (the Senate), attempted influence over an independent audit, and complete lack of accountability for the other principals involved and esp. for the PM (who has no problem holding non-CPCers accountable for wrongs but seems to think he and his own should be given free passes). It speaks to the level of corruption and hubris that has settled on this administration.

      So please knock off the “nothing to see here” routine. We both know it’s utter BS.

      • If you say “possible” enough times, it could include “possible” murder, or even “possible” genocide. Anything is “possible” it seems.
        We are well aware of how deep the “possible” becomes by the politically driven out to destroy. Recall prorogue wasn’t just a procedure used a myriad of times before. No, it was virtually a crime against democracy on that occasion (note how after the election such “crimes” are quickly forgotten).
        However, when you put the “possibles” aside, it seems that there is literally next to nothing Harper did that the average Canadian would think is even remotely wrong.

        • That’s a pretty sad attempt at misdirection. The only “possible” I used has to do with laws being broken. I’m pretty sure they have – and it certainly isn’t the only time this government has broken the law – but it has yet to be proven in court so a disclaimer is required. I would have used “alleged” except no charges have been pressed… yet.

          • Do let us all know when Harper’s inevitable trip to the slammer in shackles arrives. You and your supporters best keep a close eye on the courthouse steps, it’s bound to happen any minute now.

          • The more likely scenario is Harper skates, and appoints those who get convicted to the Senate. It won’t be the first time…

      • Yep, no different than the Liberals and NDP.

        Just spends on who gets more of our money for doing little for it. Take Mulroney-Airbus, happening all over again but this time we can call it Harper-Boeing.

        A bankrupt Air Canada, with negative cash flow, junk credit just bought $6.5 billion of Boeing planes and not one media in Canada is reporting who is paying for it!!!! NOT ONE!!!

        Liberals support it as it is a Quebec company, NDP support it as it is Quebec and UNION bailout in disguise, and buddies lining people pockets for Conservative support. Just like Airbus, Mulroney starts it, Lib/NDP bought them anyways and Mulroney even got $2.1M from Liberals for his involvements.

        Three parties and not one represents the over taxed productive people in Canada that make this nation work despite government malfeasances.

    • I don’t know how the MSM or Canadian citizens, taxpayers or consumers can believe a word coming out of harpers mouth anymore or even his MPs for that fact. Your guy lies through his teeth and you seem to still believe in him. either your a fool or an idiot. Trudeau is fresh, energetic and bold and dosnt need to be repackaged. your guy(harper)(the mailroom clerk who stole the 2011 election, robocalls) is nothing but repackaged corruption. And when your guy(harper) is smiling at Canadian citizens, he sucking another couple of billion out of the taxpayers tough. so you have a happy new year.

    • Soudas’s poddle is Out already i see!

    • Hi Biff

      I see you are out with the misdirection and derailing the conversation again.

      Good luck with that.

      Cheers!

    • That is true of all of Ottawa. The idea is to purvey the false perception of how important Ottawa is, when in fact its all a show to deceive people out of their money for their favorite bailout buddies.

      None of the parties represent mainstream middle class productive people in Canada other than to tax is on income/spend like slaves.

      No options on my ballot for less taxes and less government waste. Media assures such efforts are not allowed to grow and represent us, selling only the statism line.

      Only options on the ballot are placatory parties of statism, and the choice is limited to who gets more of your money from doing less value to you and your family.

    • The Liberals are not the Official Opposition so why are you wasting all this air on trudeau

  2. Two things are clear from the last year in Parliament: Harper is very, very unhappy about the daily skewering by Tom Mulcair, and Justin is obviously not ready for prime time.
    As Mulcair continues to grow as Official Opposition leader, and Justin is “unplugged’ many more times even the corporate media cheerleaders will be unable to make up for his lack of experience, accomplishment and gravitas
    Justin, without a Question Period script or more care in fending off unanticipated questions, may have to be on training wheels for all of 2014

    • The problem with question period is that Mulcair is asking the vast majority of questions and is turning qp into the Tommy Mulcair show which is not a sign of a leader but rather of a control freak which Harper is often accused of being.

      • Just as Churchill’s mastery of the House turned the UK Parliament into the Winston show.
        Justin is unable to stand up to Harper – and Tom is able – on a daily basis – to skewer Harper and illuminate the contradictions and corruption within not only the Senate but also the PMO!

        • For one thing, Mulcair is no Churchill and never will be. I agree Mulcair makes a good opposition leader but PM material he is not,way to negative on everything and his delegation ability during question period is questionable. Unfortunately, for him and the NDP, they will be relegated to their traditional 3rd party status in 2015 with a Conservative or Liberal minority government. It would be very different if Layton was still leader..

          • Tom Mulcair is the most effective Opposition leader i have witnessed since John Diefenbaker.
            His experience as a senior civil servant, then a cabinet minister in Quebec – who launched the Province’s Sustainable Development Plan and initiated a proposed amendment to the Charter of Human rights to create a right to live in a healthy environment that respects biodiversity. – is impressive.
            He was a leader in the anti-separation forces during two referenda and proposes – like the Liberal-Conservative UK government re the Scottish separation referenda – that any separation vote must be 50% plus one.
            Cdns have seen Tom best Harper on a daily basis – and when Justin is in the House – reading his script – this corporate media favourite who has no experience, accomplishments or gravitas.

          • Mulcair is a lawyer so I expected him to perform well during question period. I was surprised however that it took him so long to start asking questions in the adversaral manner is has been doing lately. After all lawyers are trained to be adversarial and he is good at what he does in asking questions. Unfortunately for him his strong performance during question period is not reflected in the polls. What amases me is that the Conservatives are still in second place behind the Liberals with the NDP in third.

            Secondly being the NDP leader will keep him in the opposition benches for the simple reason of the parties ties to big labour and the majority of the population being closer to the centre and even centre right politically than the NDP is or likely will ever be although I doubt that Mulcair himself is as far left as the majority of NDP membership.

          • To sell Nexen to a state Chinese oil corp ; to export raw bitumen and therefore almost 40 thousand value-added Cdn jobs is not centrist!
            Both Haroer and Justin support the sale of resources and export of them and value-added good jobs to the U.S. and China – because they are tied to big business and the majority of Cdns are gradually waking to the consequences of such a disastrous policy: Tom Mulcair is speaking on behalf of millions of Cdns who want good jobs for themselves and their children by adding value to our natural resources.

          • The Nexen sale is no big deal for Canada because their stake in our oil sands is small because they only own 7.34% of Suncor. That is small potatoes in the big picture.

            Mulcair say we should refine our own bitumen sands. I agree but just do not have the refineries to do so. It costs 4-5 billion dollars just to build one. But Mulcair doesn’t tell us that nor does he tell how to get that kind of money just for one let alone the many that would be needed.

            Of course Tommy will tell you everything you want to hear but is very short on the details in how he is going us their. ie how big are our taxes going of up and you can bet on it that they will go up for all tax payers. Sorry I do not buy a pig in a poke which is what Tommy is trying to sell to the public. The polls indicates that the public are not buying his poke.

            Finally, I can not support a leader whose party is in the back pocket of the big unions

          • You can support a party that is in the back pocket of corporations but not a party where the unions are clearly in the minority – Interesting.
            Nexen allows the Chinese state oil corps to have an entre to further land and resources in Cda – it is a first step.: only the most naive do not realize that geo-political fact.
            tom has said corporate taxes will return to the 2006 level – in the middle of the OECD pack while Harper has driven corporate taxes so low even the governor of the Bank of Cda has said the massive accumulation of profits is “idle money” neither invested in worker training nor new equipment!
            Mulcait takes the same position as the late Premier Lougheed – refine here and ship the value-added product across Cda and to world markets. He and Mulcair remind us that the Americans subsidize their refineries but we are apparently too slow to do the same – in return for jobs and profits here.

          • Yes the labour unions being a minority explains the reason for the position of Vice President For Labour in the NDP executive and set number of members on select committees. Give me a break.

            Just because the NDP has taken the word “Socialist” out of their Constitution’s preamble doesn’t mean they have changed their spots. I have never voted NDP and never will as long as big unions receive special treatment within the party which is enshrined in the constitution.

          • As always, the New Democratic Party thanks you for your posts.

          • I find the NDP’s 50+1 policy regarding separation very hypocritical because they require a 2/3 majority in order to amend their constitution. For me if you talk the walk , you must walk the talk. The NDP most certainly are not in this case.

          • Tell PM Cameron about your 2/3rds idea – the UK parliament says a democratic threshold is 50% plus one – as in other democratic nations: Harper and Justin will not say what their position is — now that’s leadership.LOL

          • Since that is the case, then explain why the NDP requires a 2/3 majority to amend their constitution and some committee decisions. I gather from your comments that the democratic threshold of 50% plus one applies to everyone except the NDP party. Don’t know how you can explain it any other way which makes Tommy the saddest joke of all

    • Yes, people are impressed with Mulcair’s prosecutorial skills. So far that does not seem to have translated into any confidence that asking pointed questions equates to the ability to govern the country.

      Any lawyer can ask good questions. I know a lot of them. I would not vote for any of them to be the PM. It takes a little more than that. Mulcair should maybe consider that.

      You are very hopeful though. It is good to have hope.

      • Justin has difficulty asking good questions.
        He supports the sale of Nexen to a Chinese state oil corporation, and the export of bitumen and tens of thousands of good value-added jobs via the XL pipeline.He flip-flopped on the long-gun registry that we were told was an iconic Liberal policy..
        The Liberal corporate-media-political elite has hope that Justin will return Cda to the alternation of the two rightwing corporate parties – I’m not sure that type of self-serving hope is good enough in a nation facing major,complex economic, environmental and social issues, but we will see in 2015.

        • See, at least this post is about something substantial, rather than “vote for Tom because he asks good questions”.

          It is a bit of a paranoid conspiracy theory, but still an improvement.

          • Your response is only worth a C grade as you failed to respond in any substantial way to specific examples of Justin’s pathetic pro-foreign oil policies.
            If you continue to not respond to specific policy issues you are in danger of a failing grade.

          • It is hard to respond to you in any meaningful way, because instead of rational debate, you say things like “The Liberal corporate-media-political elite has hope that Justin will
            return Cda to the alternation of the two rightwing corporate parties”, which is what I call a paranoid conspiracy theory. You cite his policies that you disagree with, but do not tell us why you disagree with them, and then you complain that I do not respond to “specific policy issues”.

            I think you are like many other NDP supporters – big on ideology, but less so on WHY. Citing your ideology is not explaining the problems with the policy.

          • Did you read my comments about the loss of value-added Cdn jobs via the export of bitumen a – and Cdn good jobs – via the XL pipeline?
            How could you or your leader, justin, possibly believe such a foolhardy policy will help the Cdn middle class – that Justin purports to be concerned about – which desperately needs good value-added jobs?
            Enough pop psychology – how about a specific response to a specific issue such as the XL pipeline sell-out?

          • Well again, simply asserting something is not actually an argument. If I were to reply with “no, that will not happen”, would you consider that to be an argument?

            Make your case.

          • You’ve been looking at the Monty Python debate sketch!
            Very amusing.

            Your case for the sale of Nexen and the XL pipeine is????

          • Nice try pal. You asserted this policy was bad, and your basis for that is the loss of jobs. And it stops there. No analysis, no basis for that assertion, and the fact you continuously fail to answer my question on that tells me you have no idea why it will lead to the loss of jobs, or whether it actually will.

            If you are going to assert Trudeau is a lightweight, it would be more effective if you could actually explain why, without simply resorting to NDP talking points.

            I am done wasting my time with you. I am pretty sure you know I am right, and that you cannot actually explain why there will be a loss of jobs. I have actually looked at analysis, and even the experts disagree on this point, with good arguments being made on both sides. But it is obvious that you have not bothered to do that, because all you are doing is parroting Mulcair.

            In this case, it is not Trudeau who is the lightweight.

            Good luck in 2015.

          • I have been dismissed — OMG!

            Others are ideological but you are value-free. LOL “Good points on both sides” so no decision other than to support the status quo – and hence the vested interests of the corporate elites.

            Any argument you do not agree with is an NDP talking point!

            Your inability to defend Justin’s oil industry pronouncements are striking — one can hardly wait until he announces his new education and “middle-class’ initiatives in 2015 – without any tax increases!

            If you are capable of reflection, perhaps you will some day understand why increasing numbers of Cdns do not see the Liberals as the natural governing party – but rather a self-serving ,entitled group who depend on the corporate media to sustain them.

          • And Canadians do not see the NDP as a natural governing party either — most Canadians see the NDP for what it really is — a compliant tool of organized labour, with a hefty sprinkling of tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorists and hidebound socialist True Believers thrown in for good measure.

      • Even Justin is better than Mulcair. All Mulcair can do is take cheap shots with nothing that is realistically positive or constructive. A union hot head bully mentality with no economic sense, Mulcair has upped his mortgage 11 times on a 6 digit salary with super perks and fat pension accumulation. If he had a economic bone in his body, he would be debt free at his age. He is a freeloader looking for other peoples money as the only solution he knows.

        • You are clearly an expert in things you know nothing about!

          A good prospect for a cabinet post with Harper or Justin!

  3. Governemtn isn’t like a tomato, its more like a potato. All starch used to create fat and bloat.

    No one examines the value of a $280++ billion bloated Ottawa. No one accountable for billions wasted on inflated contracts, buddy deals, bailouts, and shear amount of waste.

    We gripe about 10 cents a litre for gas, yet let Ottawa raking in 10s of thousands from each of us and do so little for it. Raises for MPs, governemtn unions, union bailouts like Governemtn Motors and Air Canada…..10.4% returns on MP pensions guaranteed for retirement 55 yet the slaves get less at 67….

    We have become economic slaves to statism. So well conditioned form grade one to never question the most expensive item in our lives, government. No options on the ballot for less taxes, less bailouts, less waste….after all, Ottawa is about deceiving people out of their money.

    Harper saying in a recent interview, “…it costs government….” says it all. For it if costs government with your money, that means government thinks it owns us like salves, and they are right….. But it is the only effective option on our statism ballots, more government and less for the people.

  4. We can start by having our ‘independent’ media not fall into the trap of he said-he said as if they are both equal in truth and fact. Such as this little gem “So we are somewhere between better-than-ever and never-been-worse.” which gives equal weight to the two MPs. I was thinking tonight what is needed is a full list of democratic declines–certainly since 2005 (when my Democratic Development course places the “democratic recession” as beginning) but I think possibly since 1950 would be good. I’ll try to do it myself, but I do have a full time job, a part time job, and several activist commitments. You, Aaron, are of the ‘independent’ media and would both do a better and more thorough job of it, and well, it IS your job more than it is mine. I know I know, it isn’t my job to tell you what you’re job is. So take it as a suggestion of a really good thing to do.

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