I know, I know – this is so unITQ-like in its non-live-bloggingness, but I’ll be honest with y’all – I wasn’t actually going to cover this afternoon’s Public Accounts meeting until I noticed that David Christopherson had a motion on the table to invite the Parliamentary Budget Officer to committee to “discuss his roles and issues related to his independence,” at which point I *obviously* couldn’t not show up, what with being a PBOWatcher and all.
Anyway, right now, the committee is preoccupied with last May’s Auditor General report on First Nations child and family services, and since I came in late, I’m mostly just half (or maybe a quarter) paying attention to the discussion at the moment. Sometimes the teensiest tiny bit distracted, but when it comes to accountability, ever vigilant, that’s the ITQ motto.
Okay, still not *really* listening, but I have to say that Christopherson really is one of the most underappreciated MPs on the Hill: He has such a blunt, no-nonsense way about him. Right now, he’s raking various Indian and Northern Affairs officials, and somehow, he does it without coming across as a self-important blowhard.
Meanwhile, the government members keep wanting to go back to The Residential Schools Apology, and how it made everything better, which, when you think about it, would be a question better posed to a First Nations person than bureaucrat. And there I go again, paying attention. Confound you, Public Accounts committee, with your sneaky way of making me care about stuff before I can activate my trusty apathy shield.
I’ll update again when the debate gets underway – my bet is within the next few minutes, but you never know with this committee.
Okay, it sounds like they’re winding down – Christopherson is up again, and he seems to have gotten over his fit of existential pique at the infuriating intransigence of the bureaucracy, and even made one of the witnesses laugh. Not that I’m paying attention, of course.
This has to be the last question, right? The chair – Shawn Murphy – looks as thoroughly committee’d out as I feel — he is resting his chin on his hand and trying to look attentive, but even with that pose, you can usually tell the difference between “thoughtful” and “holding your head up so you don’t fall asleep on the desk”.
Ooh, Yasmin Ratansi just dismissed the department’s response to the Auditor General’s report as “bumph”. Fightin’ words!
I’d just like to interrupt this liveblog for a moment to give an enormous shoutout to Colleague Glen McGregor, who just brought me the half-full can of Red Bull that I unwittingly abandoned when I wandered downstairs and into this meeting — without even lecturing me about the terrible, horrible things that aspartame will do to my poor abused brain. (Note to Glen: the tray was a nice touch.)
Okay, here we go: first up, a motion on a report from the steering committee, which is mostly odds and ends involving reports already completed, and in some cases tabled, but to which the government hasn’t yet responded.
David Christopherson has some sort of issue with the order of the reports – not a philosophical issue, it seems to have something to do with the list of reports; eventually, he realizes that he actually agrees with the chair, so all is well.
Wait, no, it isn’t. Apparently, the reports selected were the result of some sort of compromise between the opposition and government, and now the other side is grumbling over Christopherson’s amendment.
“I just want to short circuit the process,” he insists. I don’t think that’s what he meant, but it may be an appropriate choice of words.
Okay, I’d like to move onto the main motion now, please.
Hey, look – that worked! Christopherson withdraws his amendment, and the motion to pass the report goes through unanimously.
Alright, now we’re onto the main motion, and the parliamentary secretary for the Treasury Board, Andrew Saxton, reads through the government’s official objection to this motion, which, he argues, is out of order, because that’s not within the mandate of this committee. Christopherson contains his frustration with difficulty, and points out that as one of the four committees to which the parliamentary budget officer reports, the motion *is* in order, although he hints that he agrees that this may not be the appropriate committee to hear him on this issue.
Christopherson – who is on the verge of losing his temper – snaps that he doesn’t disagree that there are better committees to deal with this, but he’s the only MP who seems to be willing to “grab” the issue and put it on the table. If nobody else on one of those other committees will do so, he will. “This is an untenable situation,” he points out.
Untenable, yes – but not beyond the problem-solving powers of Shawn Murphy, who proposes a compromise: the motion will be tabled, but not debated, for three weeks, in order to allow the Library of Parliament to get up and running and deal with the issue. If it doesn’t, well, at that point, the committee will revisit the issue in that light. That’s enough for Christopherson for the moment – provided that three week deadline is on the record – and the motion passes unanimously.
Meeting adjourned! There, wasn’t that worth the wait?