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The Commons: Economic porn

John Baird addresses the pressing questions: Where’s the PM? Where are those pictures of the PM? And where does that stimulus money go?


 

bairdThe Scene. You’ll forgive the Prime Minister if he’s a bit shy, if he’s just not that interested in the traditional trappings of leading your very own G8 nation.

So it was last week, with the best and worst of the international community gathering in New York, that Stephen Harper could stomach but one highfalutin dinner before jetting back home for a Tim Hortons run. And so it was today, with the business of Parliament resuming beneath the stained glass and chandeliers of the House of Commons, that Mr. Harper jetted off to furthest New Brunswick, where, as luck would have it, a lectern had been set up in front of an idle locomotive and a representative sample of Canadian blue collars.

There the Prime Minister found a crowd eager to hear him explain how well he was handling this economic unpleasantness and applaud his assurances thereof. Now, sure, here you may argue that the Prime Minister needn’t go to New Brunswick to find individuals willing to applaud his pronouncements on cue. Indeed, you might point out, the Canadian public pays something in the order of $157,000 to each of 142 individuals whose job it is to stand every so often in the House of Commons and do exactly that.

But then you would be ignoring the fact that those 142 individuals do not constitute even a majority of members of that august chamber. And the rest constitute an unruly collection of scoundrels and skeptics, many on the record as not entirely believing in the Prime Minister’s propensity for fulsomeness.

“The government reports to the people of Canada,” the Prime Minister’s press secretary observed over the weekend. And let it never again be said that the individuals who constitute this place in any way represent such Canadians.

All the same, the constitution compels these 308 individuals to every so often gather and debate the issues of the day. And with the Prime Minister away—and the Finance Minister gone to keep him company—the government turned this afternoon, understandably, to John Baird. For sure, if there is anyone who can make something of this painful inconvenience, surely it is the Transport Minister, a man well-known for his measured tone.

Michael Ignatieff, chief among the villains who insist on doubting this Prime Minister’s cause, rose first. The government, he said, was reporting that 90 per cent of stimulative projects were underway. The Conservative side applauded. But, Mr. Ignatieff continued, this was perhaps not true. The Conservative side groaned.

“Mr. Speaker, what the Prime Minister was very proud to announce on behalf of the Canadian government and to report to all taxpayers is that 90 per cent of the emissions contained in the economic action plan are indeed underway,” John Baird responded, having clarified with the Prime Minister his exact level of pride shortly before QP.

“Not true!” yelled Ralph Goodale from the opposition side.

“When it comes to measures to allow more credit for Canadians,” Baird continued, “when it comes to tax cuts for Canadians, when it comes to infrastructure projects, this government is working hard to get the job done. Our number one job is to focus on the economy, to focus on jobs. The Liberals’ number one job seems to be to focus on an unnecessary election. That is disgraceful.”

The Conservatives stood to applaud. Mr. Ignatieff came back incredulous.

“Mr. Speaker, okay, let us talk about jobs,” he offered. “In January, the government made one of its empty promises about creating 190,000 jobs. Instead, we lost 450,000. Today, in this report they are promising again, incredibly, to create another 250,000.”

The Conservatives yelped and cackled.

“What is the OECD and the Royal Bank telling us?” Mr. Ignatieff continued. “They are saying we are going to lose 250,000 next year. This dog will not hunt. When will Canadians be able to trust a government that does not tell the truth?”

This seemed a rhetorical question that did not necessarily require response. Mr. Baird stood all the same.

“Mr. Speaker, I will tell you what is happening right across the country,” he said. “Infrastructure projects are being tendered, contracts are being issued, shovels are in the ground, engineers and architects are at work. We are working hard with the provinces, with the territories and with the municipalities in every corner of this country to get the job done. What Canadians expect is for all of us on this side of the House and that side of the House to work hard, to focus on the economy, to create jobs and not try to plunge Canada into an unnecessary and self-interested election, which is what the leader of the Liberal party would have us do. That is not in the best interests of Canadians. That is only in the best interests of the Liberal party.”

It was here that Mr. Baird revealed himself to have not even the faintest idea of what he spoke. Indeed, even a cursory glance at recent polls shows an election to be anything but in the best interests of the Liberal party.

Mr. Ignatieff moved on.

“Mr. Speaker, let us talk about infrastructure,” he said, singing the title of one of Salt-N-Pepa’s least catchy hits. “According to the Conservative candidate in Markham, infrastructure funds are being spent to help Conservative ridings instead of helping families in need. Canadians actually want a government that helps all Canadians in time of need. How can Canadians trust a government that is running an infrastructure program that is basically a rewards program for Conservative candidates?”

Mr. Baird was ready for this one.

“Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to report that in the great riding of Markham—Unionville, the city of Markham applied for 14 infrastructure stimulus grants and does anyone know how many were approved?” he asked. “All 14 were.”

This was, of course, reference to the assertion of one Gordon Landon, a Conservative candidate and prospective member of the Prime Minister’s cheer section. Last week, Mr. Landon claimed that partisan interests were motivating government spending. The Liberals claimed this as evidence, the Conservatives dismissed this as nonsense, and Mr. Landon found himself uninterested in speaking publicly.

A short while later, the House arrived at precisely the sort of matter for which this place exists. Recently, Martha Hall Findlay reported, several pictures of the Prime Minister disappeared from a government website—in reference to a controversy that needn’t be recalled here in the excruciating detail with which it has already been investigated.

Pourquoi?” she asked, quite simply.

There was some confusion on the government side, no minister directly assigned the task of managing Mr. Harper’s scrapbook. After a few awkward seconds, Mr. Baird stood to offer response.

“Mr. Speaker, we are very focused on infrastructure projects right across the country. We are working hard with our provincial, territorial and municipal governments,” he assured. “We would not have had the amount of success on infrastructure spending or the type of co-operation we have with the provinces if it were not for the leadership of the Prime Minister who has put politics aside and is getting the job done.”

Ms. Findlay insisted on asking her question again. “Mr. Speaker, I was actually prepared to respond to at least an attempt at an answer but that was not even an attempt at an answer,” she said. “I will volunteer that hastily making drastic changes to the website in the middle of the night sure looks like a guilty kid trying to cover his tracks. Why will the government not admit that its hands were caught in a taxpayer-paid cookie jar?”

Given a second opportunity, the Transport Minister was better prepared to respond in kind. “Mr. Speaker, while the Liberal party is trolling the Internet looking for pictures of the Prime Minister, it is this Conservative government that is working hard to create jobs to inspire more hope, to inspire more opportunities for the Canadian economy,” he shot back. “That is our priority, not logging on to the worldwide web in the middle of the night like the member opposite.”

Alas, without the pleasure of seeing Mr. Harper in person, we are left to gaze longingly at whatever images we can find of our reclusive Prime Minister.

The Stats. The economy, 13 questions. Employment, five questions. The environment, government advertising, democratic reform, H1N1, taxation and nuclear waste, two questions each. Foreign affairs, Iran, the Arctic, crime, air safety, the gun registry and fisheries, one question each.

John Baird, 16 answers. Denis Lebel, three answers. Christian Paradis, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Steven Fletcher, Leona Aglukkaq, Lawrence Cannon, Lisa Raitt, Diane Finley and Gail Shea, two answers each. Jim Prentice, James Moore, Rob Nicholson and Peter Van Loan, one answer each.


 

The Commons: Economic porn

    • The picture is genuine.

      The smile in the picture though…

  1. "What Canadians expect is for all of us on this side of the House and that side of the House to work hard, to focus on the economy, to create jobs and not try to plunge Canada into an unnecessary and self-interested election…"

    That's right. Because unnecessary and self-interested elections are so two-thousand-eight while Mr. Ignatieff is so two-thousand-late…

    Also, the very idea that an MP, much less a high-profile cabinet minister, would use the phrase "logging on to the world wide web" is so disappointing. He should check with Senator Stevens – it's a *series of tubes* for the love of god. Get with the nineties, already!

    • That pretty much says it all! LOL!!

  2. Harper hates Parliament so much he avoids it as much as possible. He likes being in random places in Canada, far away from the parliamentary press gallery, the ones who can actual call him on the stuff he pulls. Instead, he will take questions from the local press – fluff questions.
    Local stuff is so boring compared to federal politics in Ottawa.

    • When was the last time you saw anyone in the parliamentary press gallery ask a serious question of the PM. They all take the talking points of the various parties and base their questions on those talking points. To see a reporter ask a penetrating, non gotcha question would be a marvel to behold.

      In fact Harper does show up in Question Period a lot. However, he has more important business to conduct rather than listening to the brayings of the Liberal party who are becoming more of a joke everyday.

    • When was the last time you saw anyone in the parliamentary press gallery ask a serious question of the PM. They all take their talking points from the various parties and base their questions on those talking points. To see a reporter ask a penetrating, non gotcha question would be a marvel to behold.

      In fact Harper does show up in Question Period a lot. However, he has more important business to conduct rather than listening to the brayings of the Liberal party who are becoming more of a joke everyday.

      • You mean more important photo opportunities and a preference for the news not to lead with Ignatieff asking him directly about why he is paying Tory ridings so out of proportion to non-Tory ridings, why only 12% of infrastructure money has actually been spent, etc. and with Harper not having any answers.

        That is why Mr. Photo Op was in New Brunswick today.

      • How about the question on this trip — how much of the money has actually been spent?

        Would that not qualify as a serious question?

  3. I kinda liked John Baird's image of Liberal MPs trolling the Internet late at night. At least it shows a sense of humour, something which Mr Baird could use more often to great effect.

    • Is that because we know what Baird is trolling for late at night on the world-wide web? A new candidate for Markham-Unionville, perhaps?

  4. Nice post. You left out Jack Layton and the deference he was afforded by the same John Baird.

    By the way, I've been noticing something — ever since Jenni Byrne moved away from the PMO, Pierre Polievre has all but disappeared from TV. Which is good. Unfortunately, he's been replaced by John Baird, which is bad.

  5. I can only imagine the herculean task it is co-ordinate three levels of government towards the same objective in so short a time.

    It is amazing that so much has been accomplished in such a short time.

    • Yeah, and it should have all been avoided. Had the government respected the will of Parliament and enacted the Liberal Gas Tax motion that was adopted, infrastructure funds would've been distributed directly to the accountable, elected officials that run the municipalities. You know, the guys who actually know what's happening in their cities and towns. Instead, we have remote areas who couldn't dream of qualifying because of the onerous financial burden imposed by Flaherty's 1/3 deal. What's amazing is that anything got done at all.

    • Yeah, and it should have all been avoided. Had the government respected the will of Parliament and enacted the Liberal Gas Tax motion that was adopted in March, infrastructure funds would've been distributed directly to the accountable, elected officials that run the municipalities. You know, the guys who actually know what's happening in their cities and towns. Instead, we have remote areas who couldn't dream of qualifying because of the onerous financial burden imposed by Flaherty's 1/3 deal.

      Instead, we get Conservative ministers trying to divvy up the cash between them all, a Conservative strategy machine figuring out what swing ridings are to receive as many hero-sized cheques as possible, and on top of that 3 levels of government bureaucrats pushing paper. All while the regions with the most unemployment sit around waiting for money that never comes. What's amazing is that anything got done at all.

    • Yeah, and it should have all been avoided. Had the government respected the will of Parliament and enacted the Liberal Gas Tax motion that was adopted in March, infrastructure funds would've been distributed directly to the accountable, elected officials that run the municipalities. You know, the guys who actually know what's happening in their cities and towns. Instead, we have remote areas who couldn't dream of qualifying because of the onerous financial burden imposed by Flaherty's 1/3 deal.

      Now we have Conservative ministers trying to divvy up the cash between them all, a Conservative strategy machine figuring out what swing ridings are to receive as many hero-sized cheques as possible, and on top of that 3 levels of government bureaucrats pushing paper. All while the regions with the most unemployment sit around waiting for money that never comes. What's amazing is that anything got done at all.

  6. This government? Focused on the economy and infrastructure?

    Wow, the lies get bigger every day.

  7. Didn't Harper also do something after the "Tim Horton's run" that involved being a G8 leader? Something involving Pittsburgh and the G20? I can't remember.

    I guess Wherry can't remember either, because his BTC column leaves the reader with the distinct impression that the Prime Minister is "not that interested in the traditional trappings of leading your very own G8 nation" because he "could stomach but one highfalutin dinner before jetting back home for a Tim Hortons run".

    • 60,000$ for a cup of coffee! Don't think Canada can afford this guy any longer. He's making Jean Brault and Radwanski look positively cheap by comparison.

    • Yup. He dropped in long enough to play defense for the bankers.

      Earned himself a nice part-time sinecure when he finally decides
      that Canadians are not worthy of him.

    • Sorry, Harper was just visiting. Then back to Fox News for a coffee clatch of insipid right-wing talking nada featuring a chilled latte of liberal allusions. If there was a G8 leader available for a photo op, I'm suspecting so-called Harper was locked in the little boys room.

    • Wherry doesn't like to spoil the story with facts. Or maybe he doesn't realize that the G8 members are also members of the G20.
      I also like the way he consistently ridicules the House of Commons, yet today he decides And let it never again be said that the individuals who constitute this place in any way represent such Canadians. So now he'd like us to understand the virtues of the House. How convenient.
      It's also gratifying to hear Wherry's respect for the people of Saint John (furthest New Brunswick, representative blue collars). Sounds like Siberia, the way he says it.

  8. Somehow people think that the federal government actually goes out and builds sewers and roads, and bridges. All they do is contribute to the funding (and rarely pay all of the costs since these are largely provincial/municipal responsibilities). The feds have done what they were suppose to do -contribute to funding the projects. The actual responsibility of building the infrastructure belongs elsewhere AND there can be any number of reasons why the money had not actually been spent – ranging from slow/cumbersome bidding projects, getting construction crews onsite and ready to work, environmental assessments, getting the rest of the money together, redesigining plans etc. etc. etc. Frankly I'm surprised any money has actually been spent.

    • "Spent" money when speaking of the Federal government means the money has left Ottawa. We still don't know how much that is and I'm beginning to feel like we never will.

    • "Somehow people think that the federal government actually goes out and builds sewers and roads, and bridges."

      Which people?

      • Uh… the ones who are crying about these projects not moving forward quickly enough, and blame the federal government.

        I have no actual data, but I think about 30% of them don't accept evolution as fact either.

  9. Admittedly, that plan to magically grow us out of deficit by whenever will be more easily achieved by spending as little of the promised money as possible.

  10. the government reports to the people of canada…

    This is such an offensive statement and position.

    If the government/PM does not report to the House to which it (they) are held to account, i.e. the elected representatives of the people, then the purpose of the House (and Parliament as a whole) is completely overridden. The purpose of the election is not to fill a grand room with a bunch of suits and if you are lucky enough to have an obedient and large bunch of sheep, then you get to govern with absolutely no true accountability (i.e. to the House–our elected representatives–with the appropriate and significant constitutional powers of inquiry and review). If you are dissatisfied with your reps, elect better ones.

    The way that this misrepresentation of the true nature of our democracy, and…well… the hypocrisy about everything, sickens me. We should keep in mind that authoritarianism may be established by the appeal to common people and the "trust" in the leader, by dismissing and belittling their actual representatives. It is ironic that the "tyranny of the majority" (a pejorative term used in the last Parliament…again, again, and again….represents the offensive attitude of this government toward some of our most important constitutional principles–democracy, the rule of law and constitutionalism) in fact describes the effective function (and power) of Parliament in our democracy.

    We are not a republic, unlike the United States. If a certain leader likes that system so much (as it just seems to be working so well–and not dysfunctionally at all!), perhaps we should treat him as "just visiting."

    And speaking of which, everyone should re-read and marvel at analogies with Machiavelli's The Prince.

    As a reminder, we (the majority) didn't choose the PM. Maybe his party should keep that in mind. It might fare better (even majority better) with governance less based on propaganda, misrepresentation and bullying, and instead an honest presentation of ideas.

  11. Hmmmm….meanwhile back at the taxpayer funded, Con campaign photo op in N.B. – the big Kahuna would even let a Liberal MP at the event. Just a few supporters……why did the media even bother?

  12. There I go again – meant to say "the big Kahuna WOUDN'T even…..

  13. Whining Werry is a Liberal. He also misses the point that Iggy is an uptight school marm asking for report cards and always saying, "it's not good enough". If I were Harper, I would go passive-aggressively to NB too, where people actually want to hear about the update and not play gotcha. This left Ottawa to salivate over plots and take-downs in Quebec – sweet. I think the PM used his time well, skipping salivating global warmers, terrorist leaders and the Ottawa news bureaus to be with people who matter to Canada: our companies and people.

    Besides, we DO have media there in NB and I watched it live from the west coast. Wake up dinosaurs as there is a world outside the Ottawa bubble. I thought Baird defended the fort well. He has an amazing capacity for speaking fast and getting all his points in! That is a wow.

    • This kind of hectoring rant reminds me of Catholic school. Memories…*sigh*

  14. Boy, it doesn't take much to get Louise excited does it?

    You see, Louise, that report was for ALL of Canada – which is represented in parliament.

    Harper is a woos – he's afraid to stand up in the House.

  15. This story doesn't sound un-biased at all. It in fact sounds like the whining of a Liberal supporter. The facts are that the 12% number the Liberals are bandying about is total BS and they know it.
    The writer (Wherry?) sneers at the PM about his choice of a photo op at Tim Horton's as opposed to a photo op at the G8, but then ignores Harper's appearance and contribution to the G20.
    I'm not impressed

  16. “The government reports to the people of Canada,” the Prime Minister's press secretary observed over the weekend. And let it never again be said that the individuals who constitute this place in any way represent such Canadians.

    Is this the first salvo in the Tory plan to eliminate the House of Commons? I smell a secret agenda (lol).

  17. Trolling the internet.I can see them doing that, good one JB

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