There are now just five weeks left for Parliament to sit before the summer break – a period traditionally known as the “Silly Season.” This phenomenon is caused by a variety of factors, which intensify as the weeks mount.
The contributing factors tend to be:
- The sudden realisation that summer is coming, and a whole bunch of things need to be passed, from government bills, to supplementary estimates of various sorts. This is especially important for a government who wants or needs parts of their legislative agenda to come into force.
- A growing sense of fatigue with the suddenly accelerated pace – especially by about week three without a break. That fatigue will make MPs and senators alike a bit punchy.
- The arrival of summer in Ottawa, which is a particularly brutal meteorological event, with days of +30° weather combined with some 95% humidity, resulting in humidex-ratings that reach somewhere around 45°. (Really – there is a huge difference between a dry heat and a wet heat). Add to that the fact that the Hill is inadequately air-conditioned and you have a cohort of people who are forced to be in jacket-and-tie attire.
- The realisation that threats can suddenly become that much more effective – especially if those threats can include sitting into the aforementioned ugly summer. (The Senate has had particular success with this tactic on several occasions).
- In a minority situation, all of the above are compounded because of the chest-thumping and realisation that this is the last chance to bring down (or at least severely chasten) the government before the summer break – a period when the government’s approval ratings tend to start to slowly rise, because the focus isn’t on their performance in the House, and where they don’t have to be constantly answering questions.
All of this to say that now the fun really begins. It’s like taking all the usual drama of Canadian politics – and turning it to eleven. And I’m not sure what it says about me, but I’m quite giddy that I’ve got ringside seats to it all.
Elsewhere in politics, Ruby! The Musical continues to play on, with Dhalla’s image taking a beating – though she has managed to secure her nomination (as have 41 of all sitting Liberal MPs under the current rules, with a week left to go before the deadline). The Liberals are also speeding up their plans to restructure their organisation so that they can get their finances in order far more quickly in order to better respond to the Conservative attack ads. Ads which Ignatieff vows to respond to with the ominous threat “If you mess with me, I’ll mess with you until I’m done.” Of course, he also says that given Harper’s record, he doesn’t need to make personal attacks. We’ll see how long that lasts.
On the medical isotope front, there are talks ongoing about security of the global supply, while unnamed nuclear engineers say that we should be able to resurrect the recently mothballed MAPLE reactors to produce the necessary isotopes – provided the safety licensing requirements are relaxed. Why does one feel a gulp coming on with that one? Also, I have to say that I was very much not impressed with Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt when, during her interview on Politics on Friday, glossed over the fact that it’s likely to take eight months to a year before repairs can be completed to the Chalk River reactor, and that we really need to be looking at finding new alternatives to producing these isotopes as the Chalk River reactor is getting too old. Raitt simply talked about how they want to extend its current license, and that maybe we’ll be producing again in a month (when they might be finished inspecting where the heavy water leak is coming from). I’m especially disappointed because she has a Masters in Chemistry focusing on environmental biochemical toxicology – she’s not a fool, and yet she is just parroting these talking points which are clearly insufficient to the situation. I get that she’s expected to play her part as a potted plant – err, I mean minister – in the Harper cabinet, but could she not have a little dignity about this? We’re not morons.
Up today: the original private members’ bill on scrapping the gun registry, which likely won’t survive second reading, and senate reading of the Senate Ethics Act – another bill doomed to failure. Also, look for more ramping up talk on EI reform, since Harper reiterated his “no way in Hell” stance in Calgary over the weekend.