While Rome burns


Full column for today is below, but an update of sorts.

The Liberals sent out a press release this afternoon that says changes to employment insurance come into effect on April 1. Asked to respond, Jim Flaherty’s press secretary, Chisholm Pothier, sent over a statement that says changes to employment insurance can become active before April 1 and the Liberals are “playing politics with the lives of Canadians.”

The Conservative party has also now sent out a letter to supporters that takes personal aim at Michael Ignatieff, talks of a possible election and asks for donations of $100 or $200 to help fight Liberal “obstruction.” The letter is signed by Conservative senator Irving Gerstein.

Meantime, I spoke to Marc Roy, an aide in the office of Liberal senate leader James Cowan.

I’ll reprint Roy’s version of events and Pothier’s statement here for the record.

Pothier. The Liberals are absolutely wrong. They are playing politics with the lives of Canadians whose EI is about to run out.

If the budget bill was passed today, the EI extension takes effect immediately. A person who is in the last week of their EI benefits would gain the five week extension today. A person whose benefits ran out in the past two weeks would get a five week extension because the measure takes effect retroactive two weeks. Many Canadians whose EI benefits are ending or have ended, will not qualify for the 5 week extension if the Liberal Senators delay this bill for another 3 weeks.  The Liberals will be leaving them in the cold.

The Liberals are playing partisan games with Canadians who are particularly vulnerable in the midst of a global economic recession. This is offensive and Canadians need to know that. And why are they playing with people’s livelihoods? To stand on some sort of symbolic victory for the unelected Senate, to say they held up the government’s budget for a couple of weeks?

Vulnerable Canadians cannot afford symbolic Liberal victories and stupid partisanship at this time of crisis. This is Ignatieff’s lame attempt to change the channel from not keeping his word when he said he was going to make sure his Senators pass this bill “expeditiously”, it points to his lack of leadership.

RoyBasically, until Flaherty came before the Senate finance committee yesterday, all the Senate government leadership was asking of the Liberal opposition was completion of the study by the end of the month. That’s all they were asking. Until yesterday when Minister Flaherty came out and asked for immediate passage. We had already agreed to the request by the government to complete the Senate’s work by the end of the month. And that agreement stands.

Senator Day, the Liberal chair of the national finance committee, has worked out a schedule with Senator Gerstein, the Conservative vice-chair, that would have the committee hold approximately 40 hours of hearings and report back to the Senate chamber on the 26th of March. And we have also agreed, and we were completing willing, to consider third reading of the bill immediately upon the committee reporting. That’s usually done in a day.

The Conservatives are playing games and saying that we’re delaying the bill. On Wednesday, we sat until 6:30 and sat back again at 7:00pm in order to receive the message from the House that the bill had been passed. On Thursday, we gave the bill second reading in one day and sent it to committee. The absolute next sitting day was the Tuesday. In the morning, the finance committee met and already we were hearing from the minister. So in two days we had second reading, sent it to committee and already had the minister testify before the committee … The committee sought and received from the Senate approval to meet outside the regular time frames …. and they’ve already started that. They had hearings until 6:30pm tonight.

We will continue on this pace and we’ve agreed to a timeline with the vice chair, who’s a Conservative, on holding all these hearings and reporting back to the Senate on the 26th.

The Senate government leadership has never requested the bill any sooner than the end of the month. And this was something totally new thrown into the mix by Minister Flaherty yesterday … They said, As long as you finish this study by the end of the month, it’s fine with us. That’s always what they had said … I would just specify that we originally asked the gov about their time line for the budget before it came to our Chamber and they replied that all they wanted was for the Senate to complete its work before April 1st.


While Rome burns

  1. Typical. we’re in a true crisis and the Conservatives still try to get points. They’re just as bad as Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans.

    • I’m still not convinced that Happy Harper actually belives we are in a crisis.

      “If the budget bill was passed today, the EI extension takes effect immediately.”

      If what Flarhty’s mouthpiece says is true, would it not have been smart to put that measure into the Fiscal Update rather than all that partisan stuff? Surely a lot of unemployed Canadians have run out of EI since they locked out parliament.

      I guess it is clear who is “playing politics with the lives of Canadians whose EI is about to run out.”

  2. What the hell are these guys up to? Stirring up the base?Running scared? Beats me, what’s to be gained? Other than the obviously ludicrous attempt to make the libs look bad – are they so worried?

  3. There was indeed a time when I was thinking of joining the Conservative party (as a Red Tory, naturellement). Things like this are why I decided not to; why it is now unthinkable for me to ever associate myself with that disgusting pack of cheats and scoundrels. There’s a culture of lying in Harper’s party that is simply unacceptable to anyone who is a) moral and b) minimally intelligent.

    • Wow, J@ck, there was a time I was considering joining the same party (as a fiscally responsible citizen, naturellement). Wotta big tent that’d have been, eh? Things like the complete abandonment of fiscal responsibility are why I will now not ever.

      • There’s always big tent Liberalism, MYL. The Liberals did, after all, balance the budget and keep us in surplus for more than a decade, which should appeal to you, non? Fiscally responsible Tories are about as dead as Red Tories these days, and I see no signs that either type will presently be rising from the grave. And there is a tradition of libertarianism in the Liberal party that would fit you like a glove.

        I mean, in a sane epoch we would be divided on many a difficult issue, and the partisan spirit would be fruitful because rational; but nowadays everyone who thinks telling the truth (as best one can) is more important than PR is actually in the same, unofficial party. I don’t know if our Holy Alliance in that regard fits with any particular slice of the official political spectrum, but it seems to me the Liberals lie the least.

        (BTW, it’s not actually my fault I have to spell my name “J@ck” half the time, wordpress has a grudge against me.)

        • … it seems to me the Liberals lie the least.
          High praise, indeed.

          • But, if true (as I believe it is), highly significant. We can’t start a new party, so don’t we have to choose at some point?

          • Yes, we do. On election day, at a minimum. For now, I will be leaving it at that. No membership from me, and certainly no unfairly-heavily-subsidized political party contribution.

        • I consider myself a member of that Holy Alliance of Rational Truth-Seekers, but I have not yet convinced myself that liberals lie the least. Memories of Martin’s 2006 campaign, possibly the most duplicitous campaign in Canadian history, are still burned into my brain.

          • Well, that’s a very fair point.

          • I could still see myself voting for Ignatieff, if he conducts himself well over the next six months.

          • Everything changes with the leader, Martin was an unprincipled fool!

          • Indeed he was. I had such high hopes for Martin, too. Back during his finance minister days I was convinced that he would be a great PM.

          • Martin’s rise and fall was almost Shakespearian – the father, the son trying to live-out his unrealized destiny ; the hubris, the fall from grace.
            The more i look at it, the more i think that Chretien was a very good PM! It seemed to me his downfall was chasing Laurier’s record – he stayed too long!

          • kc: “Martin’s rise and fall was almost Shakespearian”

            LOL. It was like Henry IV (both parts) played backwards.

          • LOL.

          • JM
            But which one of the tragedies would it be? And what part Chretien?
            Perhaps Chretien as the murdered Duncan,Martin as Macbeth. Who would be Macduff? Perhaps Chretien has two parts to play? Or maybe another tragedy?

          • In this case I’d have to go with Othello.

          • Memories of Martin’s 2006 campaign, possibly the most duplicitous campaign in Canadian history

            I forget, was 2006 the year the Tories said the Liberals support child pornography, or was that the election before?

          • LKO, that was 2004. Some zealous idiot in the Conservative war room sent out a poorly-worded press release that was immediately retracted, but the media caught a whiff of it and turned it into an embarrassment for Harper. Big whoop. That doesn’t even come close to Martin’s 2006 campaign of calculated lies and deception. You should read Wells’ or Coyne’s scathing post-election indictments of the Martin campaign.

          • Has anyone here heard of “IN-and-OUT?”

            Lately, I mean.

          • To be clear, LKO, I think the whole 2004 incident was repulsive and Harper richly deserved the flak he got for it. I’m just saying that it’s all relative. I’m not trying to let Harper off the hook for anything, I’m just saying that the Liberals were once synonymous with deception.

    • Yeah, who would have thought you could actually make the liberals look principled after adscam [ i’m sure they haven’t changed that much, they just never were as bad as Harper said, nor as persil white as da liddle guy said either. ] But these clowns are expunging memories of adscam by the hour! It’s not fair, god’s a liberal i guess!

      • Reality has that pesky liberal bias.

        • Chris gives fact to liberalism, and kc offers up fiction. No fair: there’s nothing left!

          • Hmmm, maybe principled was a bridge too far? Still it is the conservatives who’re unwittingly providing the contrast. Or was it the reference to a liberal god that offends? Wishful thinking on my part ; no doubt god can make his/her own mind up!

    • I’ve never joined the Conservative Party but as a ‘born and bred’ Albertan of the Lougheed era they could always count on my vote until Harper came along.

      Your words ring true Jack. There are no principles in the Harper Party anymore if there ever was in the first place. The naked power grab is so blatant I wonder how they poll as high as they do. When the poll numbers slip PMO and his Irish dwarf minion create a Conservative-faux-crisis (TM) like we are witnessing here.

      I guess they go with what works. Government by ambush to score points with the base and raise more cash. The WWF of political parties.

      • If Lougheed had lived here, we in Ontario could have avoided Mike Harris.

    • I think that most of the folks on here (with the exception of Sisyphus, myself, and a few others) would find themselves comfortable in any number of the provincial Progressive Conservative parties, particularly in the east, but the PC party of old died with Brian Mulroney’s re-election- which leaves me with this (rather scary) thought- is the last truly conservative PM we’ve had John Diefenbaker?

  4. wow. just wow.

    membership in a political party is like becoming one with the tool of governance instead of insisting the array of tools be something you work with…

    i notice for blind-partisan types it’s far easier to let oneself be used rather than to be a responsible user (voter) and builder (citizen) and put the “political tool” to use.

    asking for money to benefit their party when some of their members may actually be losing their jobs is pretty cold.

  5. Of course its all dependent upon their supporters and enough media people to buy and repeat this chicanery to make it stick. It’s the Bush-Rove factor on a budgetary issue, playing with people’s abilities to believe that no money can be spent until April 1st. Except the money that was approved last year, which for whatever reason the CONs are more than willing to evaporate unspent, no matter how many jobs have been waiting for the funding.
    Total chicken-*h*t, but at some point the media has to step up and stop repeating the message and do its job. I’m afraid we have learned nothing from the mistakes down south.

    • It’s all about Bush/Rove, dan. It’s always going to be about them. All roads lead to Republicans on your internal blame map. Most of us are sick of Republicans but we don’t try to inject them into every third comment. This is Canada, dude.

  6. “. . . at some point the media has to step up and stop repeating the message and do its job.”

    I really wish somebody in the “media” would step forward and call politicians on the BS. Why all the pussy-footing and innuendo? If one side or other is gaming the system, then say so, for chrissake. Have an opinion for a change. Get a goddam spine. Or is the boss calling the shots? Yeah, that’s it. The boss must be telling reporters what to write.

    One of my favourite live TV news moments was watching Don Newman box Baird about the ears a while back. True reality TV, not the namby-pamby drivel we normally get in all its wink-wink, shrug-shrug glory.

  7. Yes, I’m fed up to the neck with irony.

  8. So forgive me, who is right? I appreciate knowing what the two sides say (immediate vs. April 1) but I’d appreciate it more if the media would tell me who’s right.

    • Since the Liberals agreed today to pass the budget immediately, so the EI changes can take effect right now, it would seem the government was right all along.

  9. ‘Hey, you filthy Liberals, you’re holdin’ us up from givin’ the Canadians their monneh. They need their monneh! What’s that, filthy Liberals? You say we’re spreading dirty lies? No! You’re dirty liars, all of ya!

    ‘Hey, Canadians. The Liberals are dirty, filthy liars and they won’t let us give you your monneh! Monneh that you need! Give us some of your monneh so we can brainwash ya—er—get ya your monneh! Yeah! Give us your monneh!’

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