Held accountable in the House


Some years ago, speculation arose that the Prime Minister of the day was preparing to prorogue Parliament, consequently delaying the delivery of a potentially damning report into his government’s conduct. Suffice it to say, the leader of the opposition and his de facto deputy of the day were quite displeased by this possibility and said so during Question Period that fall afternoon.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, we learned this past weekend that the Auditor General’s report will be a scathing indictment of 10 years of mismanagement, incompetence and corruption by the Liberal government. What we are also learning, once again, is that the Liberals, apparently, want to prorogue the House. They want to run out of town, get out of town just one step ahead of the sheriff. Is the Liberal government committed to staying here as planned throughout the month of November so that it can be held accountable in the House for its actions?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, we ought to congratulate and acknowledge the fact that the Leader of the Opposition seems to have engineered the takeover of a once great political party. We look forward to seeing how he goes about selling his views on Confederation and regional economic development in all those parts of the country where the PC Party have had faithful adherence over the years. As to his question, I do not think there is any need for us to talk on a draft leaked report. As is the case with Auditor Generals’ reports, we know that departments have the opportunity to respond, and they will do so before the report becomes final.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. We are entering into a partnership for Canadians, something the Prime Minister and the next Liberal leader were incapable of doing. The Auditor General will report that the government bent the rules in its own interest: Challenger jets for the Prime Minister instead of new helicopters and new equipment for military personnel; federal funds to Liberal friends through advertising contracts instead of federal funds to health care and the other needs of Canadians. The Prime Minister approved the deal. The former finance minister signed all the cheques. Now is it true that the government will prorogue the House so that it will not be held accountable for its shameful record?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not know what kind of partnership they put together but over the last 10 years, not only has the disunited right had 10 leaders, but the official opposition itself has had three different names. We will see what comes. Before we start to get into the details of a possible Auditor General’s report, I think we should give the departments, which may be mentioned in any report that is being prepared by the Auditor General, the normal right to respond before that report becomes a final document.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, of course no leader over here is being driven out of town by his own party.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. It would be helpful if hon. members would confine their remarks to the questions instead of a sort of general brouhaha. The hon. Leader of the Opposition has the floor and we will want to hear his question.

Mr. Stephen Harper: We seem to have struck some sensitive chords over there on the other side. Mr. Speaker, there are already leaks concerning the Auditor General’s report. The Prime Minister approved these agreements, and the new Liberal leader signed the contracts. The report will reveal the Liberal legacy: 10 years of mismanagement and corruption. Will the government agree to change the rules to ensure that this report is tabled, even if this House is not sitting?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, they ran the last two leaders they had out of town and now they are joining with another party. I guess they will run this leader out of town as well. Clearly, there is no report. Perhaps there will be a report prepared by the Auditor General, but any department mentioned in reports should have an opportunity to respond. We cannot discuss something that is at the draft stage.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, an amazing thing happened–

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. I remind hon. members that we are wasting time. We are not going to get through the list of questions if there is this much noise greeting everyone who stands up to ask a question today. I know there is a lot of enthusiasm in the House and there have been many political developments of interest to all hon. members but we need some order if we are going to have questions and responses. The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Mr. Speaker, an amazing thing happened on March 28, 2002. Against the advice of his own officials, the Prime Minister demanded two new luxury jets. The requisition order and the contract were signed and DND took delivery of the aircraft. All of this was done, incredibly, in one day at a cost of $100 million. The Auditor General now wants to tell Canadians the real story behind that unprecedented purchase and other examples of government waste and mismanagement. Will the Prime Minister amend the Auditor General Act to allow her to present her report, even if the House of Commons shuts down early, as is planned?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we all know what the signature of the hon. member is worth on a document, ostensibly one that is serious. There is nothing new in these allegations. We have debated this in the House before. We think that Canadian ministers should fly in planes that are made by Canadian workers and that we need to showcase them to the world. Let us wait and see what the Auditor General’s report really does have to say.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, I can tell by the look in the Deputy Prime Minister’s eyes that he and his Liberal colleagues are united in fright. It took eight hours to buy two planes for the Prime Minister: eight hours, 10 years and no decision on Sea King helicopters. What a shocking, self-serving, disgraceful abuse of public office. Will the Prime Minister amend the Auditor General Act to allow her to present her report if Parliament shuts early, or is the Prime Minister so obsessed with saddling his replacement with this scandal that he will hold back on the truth?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I recognize that rhetoric. It is what the Reform Party used to say about the PC Party only a few weeks ago. Let us just see how convenient this marriage turns out to be. We have an Auditor General with the right to file a report. She prepares a draft report and submits it to departments so they can make their comments and respond to it before her report becomes final. Let us see what her final report has to say.


Held accountable in the House

  1. Are these jets currently in use by Harper? If so, what a hypocrite.

    • I don't exactly rate him as a hypocrite simply for using what's been made available for the PM's travel. I think he's more of a hypocrite for the proroguation business, but I am curious about what happened to the planes. Had they already been delivered? Could the order have been canceled? Are they nice, or really really nice?

  2. I wonder what happened to those luxury jets.

  3. Further evidence that in politics, words have no meaning.

  4. Manley must have been on drugs or very obtuse as he never managed to answer any of the questions put to him. In fact all he did mange to do was comment on the merger of the opposition parties……..he is making a mockery of parliament, outrageous, a threat to parliamentary working effectively and a blight on Canada…….sound familiar?

  5. Wow, I guess it took Harper's Conservatives only two minority gov'ts to get as smug as Chretien's Liberals did after three majorities.

    That's progress baby!

  6. Hey look, the government of the day is answering questions by sidestepping the question completely and instead lobbing partisan shots at how the Conservative Party was formed. From John Manley no less, always regarded (correctly, I believed) as one of the classiest, least partisan politicians on offer.

    But sure, the rest of you go on pretending that the Harper conservatives are setting a new low in Parliamentary discourse, rather than just continuing one that no-one ever bothered to notice until Harper took over.

  7. Funny, I thought that we were all supposed to "Demand Better"…I gather it's now switched to "Hey, dontcha think Blue is much prettier than Red?"

  8. I think there is the potential for a great episode in QP taking a page from the original Star Trek series. SH leader of the Opposition Reform Party could get time-shifted forward and come face to face with SH leader of the "governing" Conservative Party.

    Just one of the intriguing lines to be followed… if SH bashes heads with SH … does anyone get a hair knocked out of place?

  9. LoL! The irony is pretty funny.
    In defense of the current prorogation, the argument has been that the public does not care.
    I imagine that this was the case back then too – possibly even more.
    Methinks it was the coalition drama that made many Canadians aware that the word/concept existed……..

  10. Silver spooning democracy much?

  11. I do "Demand Better". I'm just not as afraid to demand it of both sides as our media are.

  12. Why would you demand better of the opposition??

  13. Because they want to be the government…why would I want to vote to install them as the government if they suck?

  14. This is all very interesting, but what I enjoyed most from this exchange is John Manley"s smugness about the
    Liberals grip on power.

    It's quite amusing in retrospect.
    Eat crow, Johnny boy.

  15. Heh, I needed the laugh, thanks.

  16. I'm sure the new head of the most powerful business association in the country didn't choke on his crow.

    • Hopefully his prognostications on the direction of buisness in Canada are better then those on the future of the CPC.

      I actually like Manley (for a Lib), and was suprised to see him so partisan in this exchange.

      I was also quite amused to see how wonderfully, laughably wrong he was.

  17. Yes, because things turned out so poorly for him…

  18. I think we had better QP card writers back then than we do now. The dialogue was much smarter.

  19. So as long as your side are the asshats in power and their side are the asshats in opposition, the Earth still orbits the sun.

  20. I think one could make a pretty compelling case that the media has been demanding better from Ignatieff than they have of Harper…and so far he's come up short.

  21. No you're excusing the failures of today by pointing to the failures of yesterday. You're not demanding better of anyone, you're just rationalizing. There is no question that the Chretien Liberals were crooked, corrupt and very often, beneath contempt. But that doesn't improve the Conservatives of today… not even a little bit.

    It was their behaviour that made the Liberals unpalatable, and the same type of behaviour from the Conservatives makes them unpalatable as well.

  22. An aside – does anybody know how many Chretien-era Liberal MPs still hold seats?

  23. That's because the Liberal front bench, on average, is more degree-endowed than the Tory front bench. There are at least three college dropouts in Harper's cabinet — so you can only imagine what the staff must be like.

  24. And THAT my friend is why you don't have a majority.

  25. Denis Coderre, Ralph Goodale, Joe Volpe, Marlene Jennings

    Just a few off he top of my head. I imagine there are still a lot of the backbenchers. The Chretien front bench is pretty much gone. Sad to say, I'm not even certain if Dion is still in the caucus.

  26. Interestingly enough very few members of the conservative front bench served in the Manning era Reform party. Most had a background in provincial politics like Clement, Flaherty, Ambrose, Vernee, Raitt, Paradis, and Agullakk and only became MPs after 2004 and 2006.

  27. I think in Ontario there's more longtermers like Sgro and Bevilaqua. I think Dion is still ostensibly an MP isn't he? He sure has been muzzled pretty effectively though.

    I bet if you were to limit your search to 1990s Liberal MPs you'd end up with no more than a dozen or so (and most would be, as you said, backbenchers)

  28. The media either attacks or defends Harper, while it waffles on Iggy, waffled on Dion, waffles on Martin. The media seems unable to take a stand either way on Liberal leaders.

    I demand equal-opportunity waffling.

  29. Other way 'round, you probably believe the sun orbits the earth.

  30. I'm not excusing the failures of today. I've made no secret that I'm disappointed in Harper. You won't find many posts of mine in the archives here that have much good to say about him.

    But I don't excuse those who try to claim that Harper is any worse than his predecessors, or that its the Conservatives who were responsible for the rendering of MPs into little more that talking-point-repeating parrots, just because a complicit media kept quiet about it until February 2006.

    This kind of stuff is exactly what I'm talking about. No one had a problem with this kind of exchange way back when. No-one! And when the Liberals are eventually returned to power as we all know they will be one day, we'll go right back to this kind of crap being ignored and stuffed under the carpet by the Aaron Wherry's of the world, until the next time they are tossed out…only then Parliament will be in even worse shape after however many years the Liberals are allowed to get away with dragging Parliament further into the gutter.

    How are things ever to get better if this kind of stuff is OK when the Liberals are in power, but not for anybody else?

  31. Commenters and their heresy… :P

  32. This is one possible reason the Liberals can't seem to get their act together. All the senior Liberals with leadership potential were driven out of the party by the Chretien-Martin infighting. Maybe they could use some provincial stars (who aren't Bob Rae).

    Harper & Flaherty are Friedman neocons, while Manning's group are Hayek libertarians. The two groups have very little in common other than a shared hatred of left-wingers. (As opposed to the Chretien Liberals who tried to merge Friedman monetism with Keynesianism. No wonder the party imploded.)

  33. How's that Sea King replacement project coming along? Last I heard we might have one commissioned by 2013, but isn't it about time to announce another delay that's no fault of the manufacturer and we just pay for?

  34. By my count, 38 Liberals who were elected prior to Chretien's ousting are still in seats today. Among them:
    Carolyn Bennett
    Scott Brison
    Denis Coderre
    Irwin Cotler
    Stephane Dion
    Wayne Easter
    Hedy Fry
    Ralph Goodale
    Dominic LeBlanc
    Dan McTeague
    Judy Sgro
    Paul Szabo
    Joe Volpe
    Brian Wilfert

    …for what that's worth.

  35. Dion hasn't really been muzzled he was just moved to the backbench, which is kind of the same thing I guess, cf. Coyne's most recent post.

  36. This is why John Manley should have run for the leadership.

  37. Bad behaviour is not made better by saying that the other guys did it first.

  38. Wherry, would it kill you to give us the actual date of this QP? Some of us may wish to consult Hansard for the full context of that days events!

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