Bob Rae
3 min

Abrogating accountability

Yesterday was the first opposition day of
the fall sitting, and what did the NDP bring to the floor for debate? A lengthy
 that says the government should immediately create jobs, stabilize
pension plans and fix crumbling infrastructure. Because we’re focusing on the
economy, right?

Now, remind me again – what is it that
supply days are for? According to O’Brian
and Bosc
, the bible of parliamentary procedure, “The setting aside of a
specified number of sitting days on which the opposition chooses the subject of
debate derives from the tradition which holds that Parliament does not grant
supply until the opposition has had an opportunity to demonstrate why it should
be refused.” Because as you will recall, it’s the job of MPs to hold the
government to account by granting or withholding supply.

Could you please let me know where in the
text of the NDP motion it debates why they shouldn’t grant supply to the
government? Oh, wait – it doesn’t, because this is part of that “proposition
not opposition” nonsense, which isn’t actually holding the government to
account. Instead, it’s a rather narcissistic game of playing government-in-waiting
and “bringing forward constructive ideas,” which a) the government will dismiss
out of hand, and b) isn’t really their job. But doing otherwise would require that our MPs
have a modicum of civic literacy, which it appears is too much to ask.

Elsewhere, Liberal finance critic Scott Brison and
Shelly Glover, Canada’s Most Intellectually Bankrupt MP, got into a bit of a
 at finance committee when the government wanted the parliamentary budget officer to vet the costs of private members' bills. Brison objected to the fact
that the government won’t provide the costing data for their own bills, and
that it would swamp the PBO with too much work to make his watchdog role
effective. And considering the sheer volume of private members’ bills that will
never, ever see the light of day, he’s right about that point. Things heated up,
and eventually Brison called Glover “stupid,” and once order was restored, he apologized
and said he should have said that she was “misinformed or intentionally
dishonest.” When the episode played itself out again later on Power & Politics, it wasn’t helped by
NDP finance critic Peggy Nash's shamelessly playing the sanctimonious high-road
card. One can understand Brison’s frustration when he’s faced with a
parliamentary secretary at committee with no background in finance matters and
who repeats talking points instead of discussing economic policy – but it
was a boneheaded thing to do and serves only to provide Glover with more ammunition
when she goes crying to the media playing the victim card about how those mean
Liberals bully her because she’s a poor little girl.

Here is a more detailed look at Peter
MacKay’s use of the Challenger jets, which contradicts some of what Harper said
in question period yesterday. We should also remember to put some of these
figures in context (the $3 million includes fixed costs, and it’s spread
out over four years). Add to that, there is speculation that these leaks are
coming from military brass who are unhappy that Harper threw General Natynczyk
under the bus, and are their way of warning Harper not to cross them.

What’s that? The information commissioner
is worried that cabinet ministers are using private email addresses to avoid
public scrutiny? You don’t say!

The Conservatives have reintroduced their
copyright reform bill and say they want it passed by Christmas. So, time
allocation once more?

Soon-to-be legendary policy wonk
@P41Questions examines who has been talking to the government as part of their
five ongoing policy reviews and finds a certain number of voices that are
consistent between them. Are these just creating an echo chamber for the
government, or are these particular few groups getting undue influence on
government policy? I’m guessing six of one, half a dozen of the other…

With news that the government wants to cut
10 percent
 out of the CBC’s budget, Bob Rae suspects that it’s a bid to make the Conservatives look reasonable amidst the petitions to privatize it entirely.

And Aaron Wherry looks at Brad Trost incident as an example of competing influences, where an MP breaks ranks to make himself
relevant, but a Parliament of 308 mavericks means an unworkable parliamentary
system. Interesting to contemplate.

Up today: The Supreme Court hands down its
decision on Insite, Harper is in Quebec City to announce the tax harmonization compensation deal with Quebec, and NDP MP Nathan Cullen announces his bid for the NDP

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