Parliamentary darts and laurels
Sure, MPs reached consensus on Afghanistan. But they’re using the Constitution for bumwad!
Yesterday’s vote on Afghanistan was “arguably this oft-angry Parliament’s finest hour,” Don Martin writes in the Calgary Herald. Sure, the debate was “testy and partisan with the odd ‘Taliban Jack’ cheap shot thrown in,” but it “was generally respectful and reflecting of divided Canadian opinion.” How unfortunate, he notes, that 20 Liberal MPs couldn’t be arsed to show up and state their position on “by far the most important foreign policy decision of the year, if not the decade.”
John Robson, meanwhile, still can’t understand how the Speaker of the House managed to misread the Constitution, and the Standing Orders of Parliament, so disastrously that a private member’s bill could be allowed to enact a very expensive tax break for RESPs? Tax relief, the Speaker concluded, isn’t spending. “But a measure that for reasons of broad public policy reallocates what could well be billions of dollars a year is definitely ‘management of all revenues of the State,'” Robson writes in the Ottawa Citizen, quoting to the Standing Orders. “MPs just passed an Opposition money bill and no one cares that there’s no such thing.”
L. Ian MacDonald is of like mind. “The fiscal framework is the preserve of the finance minister,” he writes in the National Post, “and any private member’s bill that touches it should be ruled out of order.” But more to the point, he asks, did no one in Stéphane Dion’s camp suggest to the Liberal leader that endorsing this initiative “could come back to bite him”? Indeed, the Tories quickly turned the RESP issue into a de facto confidence motion, and the Liberals stood down yet again. “We’re beginning to lose count of the number of occasions on which Dion has threatened to defeat the government, only to fold like a cheap suit,” MacDonald quips from atop his world-famous cliché machine.
The National Post‘s John Ivison believes that in limiting the number of immigrants granted permanent residency status on grounds of “family reunification,” the government is making a “bold,” commendable effort to reduce the enormous backlog of applicants. The Liberals, he argues, never cared about such things—abandoning efforts to bring “discipline” to the process for fear that the ethnic vote would rise as one and smite them. And they are sure to paint the Tories as mouth-breathing anti-multiculturalists for attempting it. “But most voters want governments to show leadership and solve thorny problems,” Ivison optimistically opines, “even if they don’t always agree with the solution.”
Chantal Hébert, writing in the Toronto Star, argues that Stephen Harper has very good reason not to adopt all of the recommendations Justice John Gomery made in the wake of his inquiry into the sponsorship scandal. Heck, the likes of Bob Rae, John Manley and former Saskatchewan NDP premier Allan Blakeney agree, arguing they would shift “the burden of policy accountability from elected officials to the civil service” and further threaten Parliament’s relevance. Gomery needs to understand, says Hébert, that while his ostensibly draconian recommendations would indeed have prevented Adscam, “so would cutting a hand off prevent stealing.”
Oh, never mind “the merits of his specific proposals,” the Citizen‘s Susan Riley scoffs. The sight of Gomery’s former admirers now shooing him away as some “self-promoting crank” is odious enough, she argues, and emblematic of the party’s abandonment of “a new era of openness” for the basic tenor of the “bare-knuckle Chrétien years, minus the odd progressive policy.” Oh, and then there’s the Tories’ “feeble half-measures on climate change,” their “whittling down of the federal treasury,” and their Liberal-supported decision to plough on in Afghanistan until 2011 “instead of cutting our losses in 2009,” etc., etc., ad nauseum infinitum. Riley’s dying to cast her ballot, in short, but alas, no one out there deserves it.
Elizabeth May believes a Hillary Clinton victory “would be a big change and helpful to me,” the Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe reports, because it would finally break the “ultimate glass ceiling”—by firing Peter MacKay out of a cannon through it, perhaps. The fact that all female federal party leaders in Canadian history have been single, May contends (losing us completely in the process) is evidence that “[e]xpectations of women in society are still determined by a patriarchal mindset.” (That’s presumably what caused Campbell to dissolve her second marriage just before becoming Prime Minister.)
The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner suggests all the “bluenosers” wallowing in moral outrage over Eliot Spitzer’s dalliances redirect their anger towards “the street prostitutes who will never see the inside of a five-star hotel”—i.e., the real victims of “pimps, robbers, and violent johns,” and, indeed, of criminalization. The only evidence supporting the legal status quo in the U.S. and Canada, he says, comes from “a small handful of feminist academics whose ideological commitment has overwhelmed their concern for scholarly rigour,” supported by their enablers in government.
It is “pretty damn startling,” Christie Blatchford suggests, that five students at the same First Nations high school in Thunder Bay have died under mysterious circumstances since 2005—and entirely understandable that their parents and others in the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, to which all of the young men and women belonged, are calling for a coroner’s inquest.
Lorne Gunter points to auditing firm Arthur Anderson, which was shamed and litigated into non-existence in Enron’s wake, as an example of the power of failure in the free market. “No regulator or government prosecutor could exact punishment that swiftly, and few could make it so deep,” he argues in the Edmonton Journal, and the entire industry was compelled to pull up its socks. And yet, he laments, central banks continue to bail out financial institutions that hand out dodgy loans, thus falsely insulating them—and by extension consumers—from the consequences of their actions and precipitating new crises down the road.
The Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson sees Monique Jérôme-Forget’s budget, delivered yesterday in Quebec City, as a key step in provincial politicians figuring out how to behave in a minority government. The Action démocratique was desperate not to precipitate an election, he argues, and managed to extract a child care tax credit in return for its self-interested support—which left the Parti Québécois free to vote against it. MacPherson seems grateful to have avoided last year’s “budget psychodrama.”