Harm reduction
3 min

Against the party line

I was inadvertently late to Senate Question Period yesterday – I didn’t get the memo that they were starting at 1:30 instead of 2, so I missed most of the proceedings. I caught Senator Dallaire asking some rather detailed questions about the way the government is moving money around in the Department of National Defence, which is actually removing hundreds of thousands of operational dollars (to which Government Leader in the Senate Marjory LeBreton gave a standard reply about the Liberal “decade of darkness”), and Senator Banks asking the government to produce the evidence that mandatory minimum sentencing and longer jail terms will decrease crime, despite all the evidence to the contrary (to which LeBreton claimed that experts would also claim the opposite, and some standard lines about repeat offenders). But time was up before that last question could be followed up on.

Having time to kill before my next appointment, I stuck around to listen to debate on Bill S-8 – the “Act respecting the selection of Senators.” When Conservative Senator Neufeld got up to speak, I was expecting another tired diatribe about how senate elections were oh so necessary to fix the supposed ills of the Upper Chamber. But I was pleasantly surprised to hear Neufeld argue against his party’s position and defend an appointed Senate for all kinds of reasons – and to point out the flaws in the bill. Reasons like the fact that he represents Northern BC – and if he were to attempt to get elected, he would have to move to the Golden Triangle to gain any traction. Flaws like the provincial parties needing to nominate candidates when the Senate is not divided on provincial party lines, and how that’s very important in BC, where the BC Liberals are a mixture of federal Liberals and Conservatives, and are not analogous to any of the existing federal parties. Flaws like requiring the provinces to pay for a federal selection process, and to run it concurrently with another municipal or provincial election, where a senatorial selection would be added confusion and unwanted. Flaws like a lack of consistency between provinces, as the bill would only be a “guideline.” Flaws like vague wording about opening a constitutional process “within eight years,” when it really would need a constitutional amendment in the first place.

It was surprising, and a very good speech in the end – Conservative heckles notwithstanding. Senator Elaine McCoy (who I will remind you is made of awesome) congratulated Neufeld on his independence of thought, which is exactly what a chamber of sober second thought should be all about. But as Neufeld pointed out in his speech, we spend too much time bitching about the Senate without actually learning about what it really does and the good work it does. “It is time to quit kicking the Senate,” Neufeld said. “It is time to start talking about the good things we do.” And I couldn’t agree more.

On the subject of senators doing their jobs, Liberal Senator Percy Downe took it upon himself to ask after the National Do-Not-Call Registry, and found that this government has only collected $250 of $73,000 in issued fines. Is it any wonder this registry isn’t working?

Industry Minister Tony Clement takes to Twitter to try to defend the indefensible (ie – his cuts to the census long-form, and his inability to understand basic stats). David Eaves calls him out on it, and singles out the tough-on-crime agenda as an example of this government’s preference for ideology over good data. The Liberals, meanwhile, say they plan to look at amending the Statistics Act to ensure the long-form remains mandatory. Susan Delacourt, meanwhile, notes
the contradiction of the Conservatives cutting the mandatory long-form
census if it is for libertarian reasons, when you take into account the
party’s own massive voter information database.

What’s that? Treating HIV patients will help stop the spread of infection and save billions in healthcare costs? You don’t say! You know what else would save billions in healthcare? Harm prevention. Too bad this government hasn’t received that memo either.

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled in favour of war resister Jeremy Hinzman, which means immigration officials need to take another look at his case. NDP MP Bill Siksay is one of the MPs advocating for him, incidentally.

The government has quietly declared that CBSA will no longer have to grant access to documents relating to its intelligence and targeting operations directorate. Because this is the government of openness and transparency.

The Chalk River reactor is coming back online, but the government may still sell off AECL, not that Paradis did a stellar job of defending why the provisions that would allow that sale were buried in the budget implementation bill. Speaking of Paradis, remember how he continually insisted that there is no drilling going on in Canadian Arctic waters? Day after day in Question Period, he’d say the same thing, but would conveniently fail to address concerns that it would happen off Greenland’s coast, and oh, look – it’s starting. Imagine that.

And finally, Aaron Wherry notes the levels of absurdity in the absurd story of Her Excellency’s husband apparently attempting to bar the Queen from staying at Rideau Hall (which Lafond has vehemently denied).

Up today – Jack Layton is off to the Calgary Stampede.
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