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What kind of prime minister would Mulcair or Trudeau be?

They’d be different, but different how?


 
(CP photo)

(CP photo)

Asked yesterday about a report that, from here on, he is planning to not attend question period as much as he has, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair assured the assembled journalists that he’d still be there more often than Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. What’s more, Mulcair’s commitment to the institution would endure, even if he is somehow able to occupy the Prime Minister’s chair. Indeed, the NDP leader guarantees it.

“I can guarantee you,” he said, “that when I’m prime minister, I will be here for question period.”

So there.

Something like Garfield (the cartoon cat, not the 20th president of the United States), Stephen Harper does not typically appear for QP on Mondays, generally restricting himself to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Perhaps Mulcair would show up four times per week. Or perhaps he’d make every effort to arrange his schedule so that he was in town and available at the appointed hour as often as possible. Maybe we might simply expect that a Prime Minister Mulcair would appear more often than has Prime Minister Harper.

So that’s something to think about.

The next 13 months (or less) will, of course, be full of things to think about. Mulcair and Trudeau will be asking us to think about them as prime minister. Harper will be asking us to think of same, only with a decidedly more unflattering spin. The NDP leader is already eagerly putting down markers: a new federal minimum wage, billions more in health care spending, higher corporate taxes of some degree. There will be more of that. And Trudeau will have his markers and Harper will have his and each will have complaints about the other’s.

That Mulcair and Trudeau would be different prime ministers is inherent. The former would be some kind of NDP prime minister, the latter some kind of Liberal prime minister. But those are differences of ideology, partisanship and choice. And while those differences matter, they don’t tell us whether either would be a different kind of prime minister. Whether, beyond policies and priorities, either would govern any differently. And, if so, by how much.

If you have spent any time complaining about how the current Prime Minister conducts things, this might matter.

This afternoon, Mulcair charged the current Prime Minister with breaking his word by not bringing this country’s current involvement in Iraq before the House for a vote. Unless the NDP leader’s charge here was merely hypocrisy, we might thus expect that a Prime Minister Mulcair would ask the House to approve such a mission.

As to the question of the exact number of members of the Canadian Forces to be deployed to Iraq, Opposition Leader Mulcair ventured that Canadians “deserve” complete openness and honesty from their Prime Minister. So, presumably, a Prime Minister Mulcair would be so direct in his disclosure—at least on matters of military deployments.

On the matter of Mike Duffy and the $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, Opposition Leader Mulcair wondered if Prime Minister Harper would invoke parliamentary privilege to avoid testifying at a trial. So one might expect that a Prime Minister Mulcair would submit to examination under oath—at least in the event that his chief of staff ended up cutting a cheque to a sitting senator to repay questionable expense claims. (Mulcair also wondered why Harper hadn’t fired every single official who was involved in the transaction, which at least puts Prime Minister Mulcair’s hypothetical PMO on notice.)

Both Mulcair and Trudeau wondered this afternoon if the Prime Minister would release a newly uncovered report on the Champlain Bridge, which connects the island of Montreal with the South Shore. So surely both Prime Minister Mulcair and Prime Minister Trudeau would be more proactive with government research, perhaps even with matters unrelated to the Champlain Bridge.

These are all good things to know (and write down and keep handy on the off chance either ever does anything as prime minister to betray these principles).

But what else?

Trudeau entered the House just before 2:15 p.m. today through the front door, coming to within visual and shouting distance of the cameras and reporters gathered in the foyer. (Mulcair, if memory serves, does likewise each day.) Would he do similarly as prime minister, or would he avoid the foyer and slip in through the back door? For that matter, would he maintain his fondness for open town-hall gatherings at which the electorate can question him?

A year ago, Mulcair proposed a bill to strengthen the mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Presumably, he’d have to be fairly shameless not to enact such a bill upon forming government, but would he also increase the PBO’s budget to allow for a more robust check on public spending?

Trudeau has tabled access-to-information reform and Mulcair supported NDP MP Pat Martin’s bill on the same subject, so surely that would be among the first acts of either’s government. But what else?

Would either submit to regular news conferences in Ottawa? Would they permit reporters to pose follow-up questions? Would they make speeches in the House? Would they publicize the times and locations of cabinet meetings so that reporters might regularly question ministers? Would they have the finance minister present the fall economic update directly to Parliament? Would they themselves submit to periodic appearances before parliamentary committees? (The Liberals having moved a motion to have the Prime Minister testify about the Duffy affair and the NDP having supported that motion.)

Would their answers in QP be more straightforward? Would their power to prorogue Parliament be curtailed? Would they have their House leaders make great effort to avoid the use of time allocation? Would they amend the standing orders to limit the use of omnibus bills? Would House committees be prevented from too easily moving their proceedings in camera? Would those committees and their members be made independent of the party whip? Would we get a full accounting of budget cuts? How would Supreme Court appointees be selected? Would these prime ministers be less partisan somehow? Less controlling someway? Would either be pleased to see their caucuses vote in favour of the Reform Act’s rules?

Before question period this afternoon, three Conservative backbenchers were sent up to mouth attacks against the leader of the third party (and a NDP frontbencher was sent up to deliver an NDP infomercial). Would Prime Minister Trudeau or Prime Minister Mulcair refrain from asking the members of his caucus to do such stuff? During QP, Conservative backbenchers were sent up to lob pre-arranged questions—one a direct attack on the leader of the third party—at ministers. Would Prime Minister Trudeau or Prime Minister Mulcair spare their backbenchers this task?

(Of course, we might ask whether they should do any of these things, in particular.)

Not all that might be lamented about the manner in which we are governed can be blamed on the current occupant of the Prime Minister’s chair. He did not start the larger fire that is periodically said to be engulfing our Parliament—and, credit where it’s due, he did introduce the Accountability Act and create the Parliamentary Budget Officer—even if he could otherwise be accused of fanning those flames. But what of Mulcair and Trudeau? The NDP leader’s least flattering moments have been his periodic displays of a certain zeal in battle—his comments about the privacy commissioner, for instance, or his reference to race in the case of Conrad Black—but he and his party have also shown a certain fealty to the institution (even if there has been political gain in that for them). For the Liberal leader, it is still too early to say how serious he is about doing things differently, or, at least, what exactly and precisely that could all mean, even if his Senate gambit is probably the best chance we have of doing something different with the other chamber.

That both men have used their single opportunities for private members’ bills in this Parliament to table proposals for reform is something. But soon, enough one of them might be prime minister—at which point they would face all of the pressures that make expediency so alluring.

That an opposition leader might himself feeling differently upon attaining higher office is perhaps not quite unprecedented. But perhaps, after some years of teeth-gnashing over the state of things, we might hope for some marked change, whenever the opportunity arrives.

Showing up for question period is something. But it is also not much.


 

What kind of prime minister would Mulcair or Trudeau be?

  1. Well, I think its about time reporters start asking those kinds of questions, but since Harper and the cons have raised the bar so high with getting away with no recourse from the public for their actions, it gives the next government a lot of leeway to break any rule in the book. Reporters can act in the best interest of the public and ask these tough question from these leaders in order to put on them record. All of our institutions have been twisted into a pretzel over the past 8 years and its time for some leader to take the mantel, restore reform them back too some kind of normalcy. Ideology is becoming a cancer in our institutions.

    • Ideology: a system of ideas and principles on which a political or economic theory is based

      I blame Harper for the cancer. It’s high time this country had a PM utterly devoid of ideas and principles and I know just the guy.

      • Ideology is fine as a set of principles, however it is not fine when it trumps reason, facts and common sense. That is what Harper and his gang are guilty of.

        • “That is what Harper and his gang are guilty of.”

          …among a long list of other things…

        • GAYLE1

          Harper has been a litany of, lies, deceit, corruption, thefts, uses underhanded politics, underhanded tactics and he cheats to win. Harper has no, honor, decency, scruples, ethics nor morals, what-so-ever. Harper has not one saving grace. Harper doesn’t have any principals.

      • Ideology is also a body of doctrine, myth, that guides an individual, to a social plan, that of Fascism. It’s a system that drives ideas exclusively from sensation. sounds a lot like your guy.

      • Didn’t Gretzky leave Canada decades ago to live in the USA? I’m not a hockey fan so could be wrong.

  2. I do not expect either opposition leader to reverse all the things they complain about Harper doing. But what I would like reversed is the concentration of power in the PMO (is either guy talking about that?), more civilized and mature Question Periods, omnibus bills, and governing on ideology instead of facts, research and good sense.

    • Harper could double the concentration of power in the PMO and it still wouldn’t come close to the level enjoyed by the little guy from Shawinigan. What makes you think it would be more widely dispersed by the youngling, whose record to date, at least regarding the vetoing of Liberal candidates, strongly suggests central control akin to his most admired nation?

      • You are quite wrong about that. Though I make no excuses for Chretien things are definitely worse under Harper.

        As for the rest, maybe reread my comment and try again.

        • How so? Though I’m sure you’ll airily dismiss them as inconsequential, Harper did change open up the SCC selection process to greater scrutiny, establish the Parliamentary Budget Office and enhanced the independence of other parliamentary offices. Yet the centralization of power in the PMO is “worse” now?

          And before I respond to your comments about QB civility, etc., please respond to mine about how things will be so different – PMO control-wise – under Trudeau v. 2.0.

          • The kids in short pants handing out scripts to MP’s to use in Members Statements and QP , the excessive and endless forcing of people to speak from talking points and to censor their own opinions in favour of those talking points. The insistence that all public announcements be vetted by the PMO rather than the department/Ministry it originates from. It is called message control and it is unprecedented.

            The SCC process involves vetting by an all party committee – but they are not permitted to discuss what happened in that committee. Not exactly open – especially since Harper can appoint anyone he wants anyway. Harper managed to almost completely neuter the PBO and make an enemy of his first appointee who he apparently did not think was actually going to do the job he was hired to do.

            You will have to give me some examples of this”enhanced independence” you talk about.

            As for your question, again I suggest you reread my comment and look for the words where I say I think it will be different under Trudeau or Mulcair. In other words, perhaps you should not ask me to defend a position that I did not take.

          • Message control is far from unprecedented. It has existed in Canadian politics ever since the cult of personality became the primary basis to select our government. Federal politics has become a beauty contest, with message control the cosmetic that covers up the pimples. And what PM beget this? Here’s a hint – his progeny has enthusiastically embraced the playbook.

            The SCC process, while not exactly open, is not exactly closed either and, irrespective of how more transparent it has made the selection process, is a measure none of Harper’s predecessors were prepared to take. Likewise, even a neutered PBO is more than any of Harper’s predecessors did. It’s certainly true Harper disagreed with some of the conclusions and recommendations of the former PBO. Harper has also disagreed with some of the conclusions and recommendations of the federal justices he’s appointed. As did Martin. As did Chretien. As did Mulroney. If Harper didn’t disagree with decisions of appointees, no doubt you’d be calling them shills.

            If you do not think it would be different under T2 or Mulcair, you’d be railing against the power, rather than the person exercising it. However, you are not. Notwithstanding this, if parliamentary reform is your axe to grind, I wish you well in convincing your fellow political travelers to embrace it and promote it as a plank of your preferred party’s next election platform. It will sell really well out here.

          • Trudeau certainly began centralizing power within the PMO, but the message control we are now seeing is all Harper. That was a nice try though.

            The SCC process, and the PBO, have done absolutely nothing to make the process more open. Harper does this because people like you will think that simply because he says it is so, it must be so.

            Thanks for those examples of enhanced independence! Oh wait…

          • It’s now clear – don’t know why it took me so long! Emily”1″ Gyle “1” – she has a disciple! First clue should have been the comparable lack of cogency.

          • My my. Instead of responding to my points and/or answering my question, you resort to a personal attack. I will take that to mean you have no reasonable response to either.

            Cheers!

  3. Turdeau 2 will never be PM, nor will Mulcair.

    • Well, since Harper won’t be after the next election either, who does that leave – Elizabeth May?

      • since Harper won’t be after the next election either

        Only in the land of lollipops, fairy tales and unicorns that the left dwell in.

        • If only chest thumping won elections…

        • I’m afraid you will dwell in the same country as the rest of us. A country given to Communist China. I assume you can figure out, the ramifications of the Harper-China FIPA?

          How about Harper’s Omnibus Bill that gives Communist China permission to sue Canada if, anyone tries to block China’s takeover of our country?

          I talked my Engineer son into applying overseas. To take his family and just go. Many Canadian Engineers are leaving Canada.

          • You son is probably leaving because his mother’s ranting is an embarrasment.

  4. “That an opposition leader might himself feeling differently upon attaining higher office is perhaps not quite unprecedented. ”

    Hardly. In fact, I think Harper probably holds the record for the schizophrenic difference between what he said as Opposition leader and what he has done as PM.

    • And his minions, who were wailing away at the unaccountability of the liberal governments (remember the liberal dominated unelected unaccountable senate” talking point that ended the day it became conservative dominated?), and who now offer every excuse imaginable for Harper’s failure to live up to his promises (or who wear blinders so they do not have to see it).

  5. Harper reneged on everything he said last election. Now as Oct 1st, Harper has sold Canada to Communist China. Who in their right mind would vote for the worst PM, in the recorded history of Canada.

    However, most of us think, the Communist Chinese will win the vote for Harper. China can certainly give Harper a fortune, to assist him. There are also, the Jews, Ukrainians, East Indians of whom, are being given Engineering jobs in Canada. Harper gave BC’s ship building contract to Poland.

    The minute China knew they owned Canada? They are bringing thousands over for, the Northern BC mines. Chinese will also build, the Enbridge pipeline. They are building their LNG plant near Prince Rupert. BC’s 400 year old Douglas Firs are being hacked down, near Port Alberini. China is doing a, massive resource project in our High Arctic.

    Rumor has it, Harper signed a deal with, the Communist China Army. That does make sense because, both Harper and Communist China are seriously disliked.

    I will take, Mulcair, Trudeau, Elizabeth May or Attila the Hun, long before Harper.

  6. I am a small c ethical conservative, and why I do not vote Conservative. Harper, Baird, Mackay and others need to be run off.

    So I sent Trudeau $500 today. As Mulcair from France citizen is economic and political disaster waiting to happen. Our ballot has pathetic choices money chose for us and none of the parties represent the people who make Canada work. Its all about Ottawa statism bloat, illusions for our money and BSing us every inch of the way.

    I am in Calgary SW, Harper is my MP, I hope he loses. I am a disenchanted small c conservative and think this Conservative-statism government needs to go. Just wish we had candidates that were not puppets, and would represent the people who make Canada work, biut we are just tax sheep to them.

  7. Trudeau as PM: He would quickly ruin the country’s finances and economics with bad policy designed to win support of his base.

    Mulcair as PM: He would quickly ruin the country’s finances and economics with bad policy designed to win support of his base. But in Mulcairs case….at least the bad ideas would be his own.

    Trudeau is an empty suit….and any policy coming from him would have been filtered through Gerald Butts, or some other backroom lad.

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