2 min

Codifying secrecy

While everyone gets excited that Justin
Trudeau lost his temper and said a bad word, I think that we should instead be
paying attention to one far more significant exchange during yesterday’s QP,
where Liberal House Leader Marc Garneau asked about the government’s attempts
to move committee business in camera across the board. That means that while
witness hearings would still be public, any other committee discussions would
be made secret, including any motions that the opposition might make (only to
be subsequently voted down). This was noted yesterday by Kady O’Malley and
echoed by Elizabeth Thompson on two of the committees they’ve been covering.
This is yet another blow for transparency and accountability. If the public or
the press can’t see what’s going on in committee – and the opposition can’t
talk about what happened behind closed doors – it just adds to the sense that
one might as well shutter Parliament and govern by press release for the
next four years, seeing as committee work will be increasingly irrelevant.

As it stands, committee work has become
increasingly frustrating for any opposition MP because nothing is actually
happening there anymore. When I spoke to him the other day, Scott Brison characterized finance committee as becoming a “branch plant of the minister’s
office,” where the government majority tailors the reports to echo the minister’s
statements rather than what the witnesses actually told them. And that’s
a problem. Other committees, like veterans affairs, have curtailed study on
substantive issues in order to undertake make-work projects like studying “how
to help veterans celebrate events.” Seriously. And when the government keeps
moving any of the motions for new business or which witnesses to hear from
behind closed doors, it silences any meaningful participation that opposition
MPs can have in the process.

Oh, and Marc Garneau’s question? Peter Van
Loan assured him that the government is committed to being open and
transparent. He also announced that the chocolate ration was
being increased from 30 grams to 25 this year, which Canadians will agree is doubleplusgood. Oh, and
Orwell says hi.

So that firm that the Conservatives hired
to do the reprehensible political dirt-baggery in Irwin Cotler’s riding? It was hired by a number of Conservatives during the last election, including the
would-be Speaker himself. Was this mentioned in his ruling? No, it was not.
Meanwhile, Susan Delacourt offers up the five-point government message control
 for making this story go away.

What’s that? The omnibus crime bill may
cost the provinces even more than initially suspected? You don’t say!

The Liberals are accusing the Conservatives
of political interference amid tales of cabinet ministers phoning Service
Canada employees – at home – in their riding to assure them that their jobs
were safe amidst cutbacks due to the “modernization” the department is
undergoing. And no, those ministers did not stand up in question period to
answer the charges, because that’s not how accountability works these days.

The long-gun registry bill, which the
Conservatives have been so focused on passing, will remain sitting on the Order
Paper over the winter break. No doubt this will be fodder for early January
fundraising letters among the Conservative faithful.

Charles and Camilla will be visiting next
May as part of the royal tour for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

And here’s a very interesting tale of
Stephen Harper as a young man – bright, self-absorbed, rebelling against his
family’s expectations, heading west to escape becoming an accountant – and look
what’s become of him now.

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