Politics of Canada
4 min

Contempt in the guise of accountability

The Conservative contempt for Parliament continued unabated yesterday with a showdown at the Government Operations committee that nearly erupted in a fistfight. Four Conservative cabinet ministers showed up at committee, uninvited, rather than their staffers, and proceeded to run roughshod over the proceedings – and at the centre of it was John Baird, who just a few hours later would be named “Parliamentarian of the Year.”

Liberal MP Siobhan Coady was having none of it, and she called out Baird for being a bully and warned him against trying to intimidate her. But Baird’s behaviour was completely shameful, as he tried to bully the chair and run roughshod over the established rules of the committee to suit his purposes. (I later heard Baird say that he sent Coady a note that said, “Damn, you’re good.” Not that it excuses his behaviour in the slightest).

For the Conservatives to send ministers to committee when their staff have been called – and curiously not have those very same ministers show up when they’ve been summoned – and yet call it ministerial accountability is an insult to the basic tenets of Parliamentary democracy. They are not responsible in the traditional manner, and their only purpose is to obfuscate and claim they appeared, therefore they have been responsible. It’s nothing short of doublespeak and the undermining of our system of government, and Canadians shouldn’t stand for it.

Question Period was sans Harper or Ignatieff, and it was Marc Garneau who led off, asking about G20 security costs. Marlene Jennings followed up on getting Mulroney to pay back his $2.1 million payout – which compounds to $4 million with interest. In her supplemental, Jennings wondered if it was Nicholson who shut down the Justice Department’s investigation of getting such a repayment, seeing as he was in Mulroney’s caucus for nine years. Nicholson didn’t take the bait, and reiterated his talking point of considering the recommendations from the Oliphant report.

Gilles Duceppe continued his questions about the Gaza flotilla, followed up by Francine Lalonde asking about Israel not yet signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Jack Layton asked about the review of Canadian regulations in the light of the BP spill, and ended off on a Mulroney question.

From there, QP moved to the issue of CCIC funding, the proposed national securities regulator, more about the Mulroney money, and seismic tests in Lancaster Sound as exploration for future drilling. Bernard Patry and Carolyn Bennett asked after medial isotope supplies, including supplies that had been sourced in Israel and rejected by Health Canada. Leona Aglukkaq, true to form, didn’t answer the questions, but just rattled off a talking point about the global shortfall. Thomas Mulcair was asking about bank executive bonuses, Jean-Yves Laforest asked about the aboriginal communities displaced by the Quebec forest fires, John McCallum asked about corporate tax cuts, and Olivia Chow asked about guidelines for visas into this country.

During Members’ Statements and in suck-up questions in QP, Conservatives were calling out Mark Holland for daring to take a more nuanced approach to the moral panic around prisoners getting pensions. And that’s why we can’t have anything nice in this Parliament – seriously.

Sartorially speaking, it was a surprising delivery of snaps for Cathy McLeod, who wore a nicely cut white jacket with a black tartan-like pattern, with an appropriately cut black top and trousers. More of this please! As well, Judy Foote wore a light green pinstriped suit with a crisp cream shirt, which was also very fetching. Not so good were Gordon O’Connor’s mustard tie and lemon yellow shirt with a black jacket, Ruby Dhalla’s shapeless summer dress, and Marlene Jennings’ floral top – its cut was fine, but I’m just not partial to floral prints. And the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a fabulous grey dress, pearls and black heels.

There was some pre- and post-Question Period drama with the Bloc, who snapped after a Conservative comment about their supposed softness on crime. They gave lengthy points of order on the insults afterward, but the Conservatives, not to be outdone, had Shelly Glover (Canada’s most intellectually bankrupt MP) stand up to accuse the Bloc of insulting every female police officer in Canada. Really? Seriously? The Speaker eventually broke it up to say he would take everything under consideration.

After Question Period, Tony Clement announced the government’s new copyright legislation from Montreal. And true to form, a lot of it is doing what the Americans ask of this government, few questions asked. There is especially a lot of controversy around the provisions surrounding digital locks, which could be very contentious indeed.

Conservative senator Pierre Claude Nolin denounced his party’s Senate reform bills because they undermined the principles of sober second thought in the Upper Chamber, and their tenure allowed them to shake off the shackles of party discipline. Nolin, it should be said, is an expert on illegal drug policy and was not a fan of this government’s drug bills – and funnily enough is no longer on the committee studying said bills. But good on him for speaking a little truth to power.

Tom Flanagan talks about the “garrison mentality” that has become the new normal of federal politics in the era of permanent minorities – especially in the Conservative party.

And finally, Human Rights Watch says that Canada’s human rights record is being eroded by the Harper government’s policies. Like that was a surprise.
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