University of Toronto
3 min

A serious test of our democracy

A raucous question period was led off by Michael Ignatieff pointing out that when a minister misled the House about altering a document, the prime minister applauded her rather than reprimanding or dismissing her. This is a serious test of our democracy, said Ignatieff. In response, Harper made some dissembling point about elected ministers versus unelected officials, but didn’t actually answer any questions. Denis Coderre asked what the difference in the gravity of offences between Maxime Bernier and Bev Oda was. John Baird stood up to say that Oda was always very clear on what happened, and hey, by the way, we raised the chocolate ration from four grams to two. Doubleplusgood! Duceppe stayed on topic, asking about Oda, but Jean Dorion veered off to those pesky Ben Ali family assets that remain unfrozen in Canada. Jack Layton returned to the Oda issue (although insisting the documents were “forged” when, in fact, they were altered. Yes, there is a huge distinction between the two). Harper responded by reading out transcripts of Oda before the committee – but only the parts that agreed with her recent non-apology apology, not the stuff that contradicted it.

Round two saw Judy Foote and John McKay continue on with the Oda affair by asking for clarification on what principles Kairos offended to cause them to lose their funding. Daniel Paillé asked about cabinet confidences with respect to expenditure reductions, and Serge Cardin asked about usage-based billing. Bonnie Crombie asked what other groups had their funding cut like Kairos did, and Bob Rae brought up Jason Kenney's connection to the Kairos cut. (Kenney said in a speech in Jerusalem that the group was anti-Semitic.) The House then completely lost it when a Conservative backbencher got up to ask the prime minister about this summer’s royal tour by William and Kate, which was a failed attempt to change the channel.

Round three had questions on the no-fly list and scaled-back and soon-to-be shuttered border crossings. Scott Brison weighed in with a pair of questions on government secrecy surrounding the cost of their legislation. Questions were also raised on whether Canada is really in talks with the UK on a joint shipbuilding program, support for a Bloc private member’s bill and the Canada Pension Plan.

Sartorially speaking, I didn’t really see anything that was worthy of snaps yesterday. I will give style citations to Marlene Jennings’ hot-pink long jacket, Hedy Fry’s pastel floral top and Bev Shipley’s black suit with pale yellow shirt. (No more yellow with black!)

A University of Ottawa professor with 30 years experience with CIDA says that this whole “not” issue on a signed memo is unprecedented. Officials don’t send memos to be not approved. This lends credence to the theory that Oda signed it to approve the project and retroactively denied the funds (likely at the behest of the PMO). Andrew Coyne reflects on this theory, whether this incident is indeed a test of our democracy, and challenges Michael Ignatieff as to how he’s going to respond to that test.

The government's failure to release the statement of requirements for replacement of our CF-18 fighters is another troubling example of government secrecy. Parliament is not able to see the policy decisions that are being made in the choice to purchase F-35s. Such a document could give parliamentarians an idea of what kind of language is used in it (apparently a term like “survivability” is a clue that we would want the F-35s for overseas bombing missions rather than continental defence), but hey, we couldn’t possibly produce those kinds of documents.

In the Toronto Star, Heather Mallick comments on the use of denunciation by this government – a particular Stalinist technique it's reviving with vigour. She points to a rather odious use of it against Amir Attaran during members’ statements in the House on Monday.

Yesterday marked the passing of 40 years since the “fuddle-duddle” incident with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Have a look. The more things change…

Up today, the privilege motion against Oda could return to the House. There will likely also be questions about Lisa Raitt’s conduct, now that the lobbying commissioner has come out against three lobbyists who fundraised for her.
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