Dissecting the decision: Politics on TV, Oct. 25 edition

Talking about the Supreme Court decision on Etobicoke Centre, counterfeit goods, and veterans' funeral costs

Message of the day

“Something broke in the last federal election.”

Questions not answered

  • What will the government do about the revelations of those counterfeit parts?

Etobicoke Centre decision:

Power & Politics opened with Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who said that even though he didn’t win, “democracy wins” because Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has said that as a result of this case, Elections Canada is changing their procedures and training, and will now include periodic checks on paperwork on voting day. Wrzesnewskyj says the elections laws need to be updated, and that the 4-3 decision points to this problem. He also said that he spent nearly half-a-million dollars of his own money on this challenge, which isn’t recoverable, but that it was worth it because it shone a light on the problems with Elections Canada.

Wrzesnewskyj was also on Power Play, where he added that legislation has to change because the political landscape has changed – we have political actors who are willing to do whatever it takes, combined with the practice of “micro-targeting.”

Don Martin then spoke with former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who said he would like to know how widespread these problems were during the election so that there could be a bearing as to how widespread it is. Kingsley was especially struck that the majority decision says that the constitutional right to vote is more important than procedural safeguards, which could open up future challenges to things like why someone would need to prove their address if they can prove their identity.

Solomon later had an MP panel to discuss the ruling, comprised of Pierre Poilievre, Craig Scott, and Irwin Cotler. Poilievre stuck to partisan points such as quoting the line from the decision about rejecting “the Liberal candidate’s attempt to disenfranchise voters,” while Scott said that both the majority and minority accepted that there were problems, but that the majority was content that the issue of enfranchisement was more important than procedure. Cotler reiterated that this decision was not about fraud or corruption, and that it will put a greater emphasis on oversight in the upcoming by-elections.

On P&P’s Power Panel, John Ivison said that if the lower court decision had been upheld, the court would be flooded with other challenges. Tom Flanagan said that by embracing the substantive test, it was a better practical decision to keep from opening the floodgates. Ian Capstick said that the ruling was interesting, but wouldn’t have any effect on robo-calls or campaign tactics on the ground. Liza Frulla said that Elections Canada needs to take note of this and ensure there is better training.

Later on Power Play, journalists Laura Stone and Bill Curry weighed in, and Curry noted that a split like this is rare, and that the lesson for parties is to beef up on scruitineers to catch these kinds of problems as they happen. Stone said the onus is now on Elections Canada to ensure their workers have better training.

Counterfeit goods:

After yesterday’s exclusive story on the problem of counterfeit parts in Canada and the lack of awareness in our own forces, Solomon summoned an MP panel of Andrew Saxton, Matthew Kellway, and John McKay. Saxton insisted there was robust quality control and traceability clauses within procurement contracts. Kellway said that he suspects that our fleet of Hercules planes have the same problem of fake parts that plague the American planes of the same manufacture, and that the government has an ethical duty to act on this information. McKay said the government seems to be treating this as “don’t know, don’t care” situation, and appears to be waiting for a catastrophe to take action.

On a related topic of counterfeit goods, Martin spoke with Kevin Spreekmeester, VP of Global Marketing at Canada Goose, who said his company is one of the largest counterfeit brands on the planet. Spreekmeester says that counterfeiting is a health issue – counterfeit jackets may not contain down but rather “feather mulch” that contains dust and feces, and that the coyote fur collar might actually be something like racoon dog. Spreekmeester says there were 2100 rogue websites selling counterfeit Canada Goose jackets last year, but right now there are no ex-officio rights at the border that would allow CBSA to seize and hold these products at the border.

Veterans’ funerals:

To discuss the revelation that funeral directors across the country have been subsidizing the burials of veterans who have insufficient benefits, Martin spoke with Phil Fredette from the Funeral Service Association of Canada. Fredette said that Last Post funerals range from $7500 to $11000 because they are mandated to contain certain services, but the Last Post fund only gives $3600 toward their costs. So far, funeral directors don’t want to burden veterans’ families with those costs, but they would like better funding for the Last Post fund.

Martin then took up the issue with his MP panel of Michelle Rempel, Robert Chisholm, and Elizabeth May. Chisholm said he would like to think this underfunding is an oversight, but it has been repeatedly been brought up. May said this was part of a disturbing pattern of closing Veterans’ Affairs offices across the country, and that it’s falling on the Canadian Legion to take up these services. Rempel noted that the government has put a lot of resources into helping veterans and that the minister listens to ways to improve services.

Foreign criminals:

Power Play’s MP panel also took up the issue of Jason Kenney looking for more powers to keep out those deemed undesirable for “public policy reasons.” Chisholm said these decisions should be kept in the hands of officials to keep them free from bias. May said the legislation doesn’t have enough guidance on what “public policy reasons” really means. Rempel said this is a best practice from other countries, and that there would be reports to parliament including clear guidelines.

Defence Cuts:

P&P’s Power Panel also weighed in on that letter that Harper sent to Peter MacKay about his insufficient cuts at the Department of National Defence. Ivison said that he knows MacKay doesn’t think much of the Leslie transformation report but Harper apparently does. Capstick says that MacKay hasn’t gone after places where savings can be found, but is going after staff instead. Flanagan said that department officials will often try to play chicken with their political masters to try and get them to back off. Frulla said that she has seldom seen so many specific directions from a Prime Minister.

Cuban Missile Crisis anniversary:

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Don Martin took a trip out to the Diefenbunker, where Christine McGuire of the museum there told him that at the time, the facility was on lock-down at DefCon2. Former Canadian diplomat and spy for the CIA John Graham characterised it as a “spooky time,” with thousands of people trying to build fall-out shelters, and that amidst Khrushchev’s game of strategic chess, both sides had people urging pre-emptive nuclear strikes before cooler heads prevailed.