Gun control and the fiscal cliff: Politics on TV, Dec. 16 edition

Talking about the "fiscal cliff," the F-35s, and the renewed gun control debate in the States

Message of the day

“America faces a long and divisive debate over gun control.”

Hot Topics

  1. Jim Flaherty on the “fiscal cliff”
  2. Kevin Page on the F-35s
  3. Gun control in America

Questions not answered

  • Does the government plan to replace the Parliamentary Budget Officer?

Jim Flaherty:

Question Period spoke with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who said with regards to the US “fiscal cliff,” avoiding recession is the biggest concern for Canada, but he is hearing that there is room for at least some “patching” until a long-term solution can be found. Flaherty said that he will be discussing a contingency plan with the provincial finance ministers when they meet over the next few days, but he’s not anticipating a need to get to that point. With regards to the ratings agency downgrading provincial credit ratings, Flaherty said that they are all on the path to balanced budgets, though some will take longer than others.

On CTV QP’s The Scrum, Gloria Galloway said that she feels the Americans will find a way around the fiscal cliff, if only for the sake of American pride. Tonda MacCharles said that it’s clear that the provinces are preparing contingency plans to deal with the cliff if it is reached. Craig Oliver noted that the debt ceiling is tied to the fiscal cliff, which could be another point of negotiations. John Ivison said that Flaherty has mentioned there is a stimulus plan to be had if necessary, and that our economic recovery is tied to theirs, noting how much our exports increased in the past year.

Kevin Page:

The West Block spoke with Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who said that the process to date around fighter jet procurement has been a failure, and that Parliament is looking for a debate, but can’t get the list of requirement – even KPMG and his own office only saw a limited version of that list. Page said that the public trust is broken, and the process can’t be reset until that debate happens. Page said that it was clear from the AG report that the department had higher numbers than those presented to parliament, which was clearly misled. Page said that while his tenure is up in March, he doesn’t see the momentum to replace him, which could be a problem for the reports that are currently underway in his office.

Chris Alexander was put up to rebut Page’s comments, and after he delivered the usual “no money spent, no decision taken” talking points, he said that the government itself found the process undertaken two years ago to be inadequate, which is why they put in a more robust process after the AG report. Alexander said that the terms of reference for the options analysis has been put forward and the process will be public.

American gun control:

After a report from CTV’s Omar Sachedina updating the news out of Newtown, Connecticut, Kevin Newman spoke with columnist David Frum, who said that while he hopes that this incident is a turning point in the gun debate in the States. Frum said that while the crime rates are falling, incidents of mass slaughter are sharply rising in part as a function of mental illness and the changing technology. Frum said that looking to the weapon is the wrong place for change because it becomes a race for technology, but that better screening is needed. He also said that leadership can’t come from the president, but from a lobby group like MADD.

Also on Question PeriodStu Auty of the Canadian Safe School network said that these incidents can happen in Canada, and that ministries of education across the country have their own policies and procedures in place. He said that what is different in Canada is weapons availability. Doran Horowitz, director of national security at CIJA, said that so long as society has a propensity for violence, the more critical question is to ask what we’re doing to mitigate threats, such as situational awareness and security training.

When CTV QP’s The Scrum weighed in, Oliver said that Americans have a deep and emotional mythology attached to the gun, which couples with their impatience and quick move to violence, and it means that Canadian-style gun control can never happen. Galloway said that the Second Amendment was written at a time when modern weapons were not even imagined, while MacCharles said that Canadians still have a lively debate about guns and gun control, especially with the demise of the long-gun registry. Ivison was reminded of the Dunblane school massacre in 1996, which created the appetite for strong gun control in the UK.

Tom Clark gave an essay about the tragedy, and said that Canada needs to be a friend while America looks into the dark corners of their gun culture, which will be a painful and polarizing debate.

Worth Noting:

  • John Baird said that Canada is prepared to work and engage with the new Syrian opposition coalition, but that the government is not ready to recognise them as the government-in-waiting because of concerns over inclusivity of minorities and radical groups in their midst.
  • Senator Pamela Wallin said that auto industry in Michigan priced themselves out of the market, and the “Right to Work” legislation in the States is a return to balance. Wallin said that Canada’s economy is strong enough that it’s unlikely to happen here, but union transparency is the bigger issue.
  • Anne McGrath said that unions are an easy target, but they are essential to a thriving middle class, so it’s poor economics to attack them. McGrath said that unions are transparent, and already send out their salary information to all of their locals as part of the Canada Labour Code.
  • Tonda MacCharles noted that the Prime Minister has asked his caucus to let him know who won’t be running in the next election, as he makes plans for his next cabinet shuffle.

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