3 min

No rest for the wicked

Now that they’ve had their summer fun, attending Canada Day parties and going to as many barbecues in their ridings as they possibly can, the EI Working Group is getting down to work. More or less.

At least, that’s the theory. And contrary to the usual way that the PMO likes to do things (aka “governing by photo op”), they’re not running this meeting with a lot of fanfare – though I guess we’ll see by tomorrow afternoon if the PMO sends a photographer to release a photo onto the wire before the end of the day.

Not that we’re expecting too much to happen in this panel. Conservatives are apparently moaning that the Liberals aren’t putting forward any ideas on the panel process or what they want out of it. (What they want? Has no one paid any attention for the past five months, when they talked about a national standard for eligibility?) And Liberals aren’t happy that the Conservative contingent consists of hyper-partisan attack dog Pierre Poilievre, and hyper-partisan party worker Ryan Sparrow. (You may remember him from the last election, for both the incident with the puffin on their attack website, and his reassignment for suggesting that the father of a deceased soldier who dared to criticise the government was a Liberal hack). Mind you, the Liberals named Marlene Jennings to the panel, and she heckles with the best of them, so I have no doubt that she’ll be giving it as good as they get it.

But is any work actually going to get done? I have my doubts. Not only is it likely to get bogged down in partisan wrangling, but neither party actually wants it to work. For the Liberals, it was a way of delaying an election until the fall, and they can come out of it saying that they tried to make Parliament work and all the government was interested in was partisan games. For the Conservatives, they already spun it as getting the Liberals to climb down, and they can come out the other side saying that all the Liberals were interested in was partisan games.

So while they may be getting down to work – theoretically – I’m not holding my breath for any kind of report to be delivered come September.

Speaking of governing by photo ops, the Conservatives are going out of their way to celebrate the third anniversary of the Universal Child Care Benefit (known in Liberal circles as “$100/month for beer and popcorn”). But they’re doing it in Winnipeg. With Stephen Fletcher, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. No, it doesn’t make any sense, other than Fletcher probably isn’t doing anything at the moment (really, his plans to try and “reform the Senate” were doomed before he even started – not to mention so completely ill-advised, but that’s a topic of discussion for another day). But hey, reminding the public of a largely useless populist programme that didn’t deliver any childcare spaces as promised is one way of distracting from all the other things that this government has dropped the ball on is one way of keeping us from asking too many questions on their performance. Childcare spaces? Look, we’re celebrating three years of giving you money that won’t actually help get you childcare! Isn’t that great? Look over there – something shiny!

It’s not federal politics, but interesting nevertheless. An MLA in the Alberta provincial government was kicked out of caucus because he dared to criticise the government on how slow they were delivering on promised long-term care facilities. And worse yet, he dared to point out that it was costing them more to put seniors in acute care beds in the interim! The MLA in question – Guy Boutilier – is actually the former mayor of Fort McMurray, his riding, so he has some popularity going for him. Enough to make him a Bill Casey figure in the province, should he so choose as to continue to operate and run as an independent? Hard to say. Add to that, the political culture there is a one-party state, and Tory party workers will likely pour a lot of time and money into defeating him if that’s the route he chooses to go down. But good for him for at least doing his job as an MLA and holding the government to account. He is setting a positive example of what all MPs and other elected representatives should be doing.