Scott Brison
3 min

Losing control of our finances

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page appeared before the Commons finance committee yesterday. He said that in his 25 years in the public service, no government has used the umbrella of cabinet confidence to hide tax data or justice legislation costs; he also reiterated that this lack of data means that Parliamentarians are losing their control over the finances of the nation. By the way, this is HUGE. The underlying premise of parliamentary democracy is that parliament grants a government supply (money) to carry out its agenda. If parliament can’t scrutinize a government’s legislative platform and its cost, how can they adequately grant supply? They can’t. That’s why this abuse of cabinet confidences is a fundamental attack on our very system of government, and why Scott Brison has brought forward a motion that the government is breaching parliamentary privilege with all of this secrecy.

At a press conference yesterday morning, Liberals Scott Brison and Bob Rae brought up Bev Oda’s changing story and the government's refusal to give the costing of their legislation by claiming that it’s cabinet confidence. They sounded like they were resurrecting the parliamentary drinking game of the Conservative “culture of deceit.” Brison also had another message: the increasing prison costs of the crime agenda will be borne in large part by the provinces, and that will mean less money for healthcare down the road. One more reason why Canadians need to pay attention to this debate.

When Question Period got underway, Michael Ignatieff and John McKay went after Oda; Harper and Baird shielded her talking about what a great job she did. Gilles Duceppe got in on the action; you know it’s serious when he isn't talking about tax harmonization. Jean Dorion went after Lawrence Cannon for not freezing the Canadian assets of former Tunisian president Ben Ali, while Jack Layton wanted to talk about foreign investment rules in Canada.

Round two returned to the Oda-KAIROS situation with Raymonde Folco and Bob Rae weighing in. When Rae hammered home the point that Oda previously tried to blame her department for terminating KAIROS’ funding, Conservative backbenchers shouted, “Prove it!” Um guys, transcripts? Liberal staffers happily passed out those transcripts in the Foyer after QP showing all the times Bev Oda blamed the department and contradicted herself in other statements. Duceppe stood up for a second round, again speaking about Ben Ali’s assets (making a show of pulling out his glasses to read quotes that Lawrence Cannon made on Monday). Michel Guimond asked about the Quebec City arena funding in relation to funding that Toronto got for their Lakeshore redevelopment as part of an unsuccessful Olympic bid. Stéphane Dion got up to ask questions on the government’s prison agenda (perhaps to reminding us that yes, he is still around). Geoff Regan asked about the judiciary; he questioned Jason Kenney’s attacks on it and Conservative appointments to the Bench.

Round three saw more questions on Bev Oda, the proposed national securities regulator, family reunification immigration quotas, closures of rural Service Canada outlets, the Champlain Bridge, and Mexican unions.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Judy Foote’s black jacket with the red maple leaf pattern (possibly a statement for Flag Day), Marc Garneau’s brilliant purple tie with a grey suit, and Lisa Raitt’s black collarless jacket with a purple top. Style citations go out to Lynne Yelich for her badly cut blue jacket with an unflattering white top, and LaVar Payne for his grey suit with a white-collared black shirt and matching white tie. No sir, I don’t like it.

Susan Delacourt adds up some of the shenanigans that have taken place since Oda has fessed up about her ordering that KAIROS document altered. Maclean’s satirist Scott Feschuk casts his own eye at Oda’s non-apology apology. The Canadian parliamentary scholar Ned Franks says Oda needs to step down.

CBC’s The Current put together an excellent documentary on the whole affair with Rights & Democracy. (As someone who never listens to radio, this is high praise. Just saying).

And the Liberals say they’re ready to vote against Bill S-10, the drug bill, even if the government tries to make it a confidence measure. Great to hear. (Let’s just hope they all turn up to vote if it comes to that).
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