Public service pay and witness protection: Politics on TV, Dec. 11 edition

Talking public sector pay with the PBO, witness protection with Vic Toews, and F-35s and Nexen with Bob Rae

Message of the day

“Harper’s foreign investment policy is a game of ‘Mother, May I?’”

Hot Topics

  1. Public sector compensation
  2. Witness protection
  3. Bob Rae

Questions not answered

  • Will the Prime Minister meet with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence?

Public Sector compensation:

Power Play led off with Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, whose new report shows that the federal public service has about 375,000 employees earning an average of $114,000 per year (which is an all-in number that includes employer benefits), so that the number can be useful when examining the impact of staff reductions. Page said that compensation is a bit of a “black box” in the Estimates, while his report creates a baseline in order to help understand the impact of freezing direct program spending.

Page was also on Power & Politics, where he clarified that his point is about the excessive rate of growth as compared to the private sector, and not a comment on if it’s too rich or not. Page added that he hasn’t yet seen the spending plans for departments, so he hasn’t yet been able to analyze if the cuts will have an impact on service levels.

Witness protection:

Power Play had an interview with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews about the bill he tabled today on enhancing witness protection in Canada. Toews said that the bill will allow for other types of witnesses to access the program than just those testifying against organized crime, including national security and terrorist testimonies. Toews said that the new legislation will help to coordinate with provincial protection programs and streamline the administrative process, and provide penalties for those who disclose the identities of officers handling these cases.

Bob Rae:

Power Play had a wide-ranging interview with Liberal interim leader Bob Rae, who said the government got the F-35 procurement “ass-backwards” by telling the military they could chose whatever equipment they wanted without a plan for why we needed it or an eye to the longer-term costs, and that there is no question that the government hid the truth from taxpayers. Rae said that Canada will likely wind up with a different plane than the F-35s – one with two engines. On foreign takeovers, Rae said that the government’s policy is not coherent and is a game of “Mother, May I?” that allows Harper to maintain control.

Worth Noting:

  • Paul Dewar said there needs to be a message of prevention when it comes to Assad using chemical weapons in Syria, and that it needs to come from the UN Security Council. Irwin Cotler said there is a risk that those chemical weapons may also come into the hands of rebel groups with al-Qaeda or Hezbollah links.
  • Alberta’s Intergovernmental Relations Minister Cal Dallas said that they are looking for clarity as to whether the new rules apply to sovereign wealth funds, and where other kinds of investments become problematic. Dallas said he is looking forward to “engaging discussions” over the next few weeks.
  • Matthew Kellway said that he believes the government is still planning on adopting a sole-source contract for the F-35s because everything is done behind closed doors.
  • Alexandra Mendez noted that the Liberals engaged in a research and development process for the F-35s in order to get industrial benefits, which has happened – not to actually commit to buying them.
  • Joël-Denis Bellavance noted that one of the points in the infamous Seven-Point Plan is that the acquisition costs of new aircraft can’t exceed $9 billion, which means we may get fewer planes than we need. Stephanie Levitz suspects the communications rollout is designed to keep the F-35s in the news over Christmas and not Nexen.
  • Megan Leslie said she believes that the Conservatives will head down the path of “right to work” legislation as it becomes more prevalent in the US.
  • AFN Saskatchewan Regional Chief Perry Bellegarde said there is a groundswell movement about the unilateral imposition of new laws on the First Nations without consultation, and there will be legal, political and activism strategies coordinated going forward.
  • Martin Patriquin said that Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike is part of an effective media strategy by the Aboriginal communities, and it could get dangerous for the government if it starts attracting international attention.
  • Megan Leslie said that bankruptcy protection laws could be changed in order to ensure that environmental clean-up costs are given precedence over other creditors.
  • Bill Browder of Hermitage Capital Management said that Canada needs to join the fight against Russian corruption. Browder’s exposing of corruption in Russia resulted in his expulsion from the country, and cost the life of one of his lawyers, who is now being prosecuted posthumously.
  • Joël-Denis Bellavance said that the government changed their mind on the bill to mandate bilingual officers of parliament after a split in caucus and pressure from Maxime Bernier.

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