3 min

Oversight and civic literacy

The first auditor general’s report without Sheila Fraser, who is gone after 10 years of service, shows some pretty serious things. The most troubling is that the government didn’t inform Parliament or leave a paper trail on how it was spending money. Indeed, it was an abuse and contempt of Parliament. But don’t worry, the Conservatives say, this money has all been accounted for and hasn’t simply disappeared, and you’re just concerning yourself over process when really, we got results. Seriously.

But here’s the thing – process matters. The government may try to convince you that process is dull, boring and too hard to follow, but the ends don’t always justify the means. When that involves misleading Parliament by telling the MPs who control the treasury that you need money for one thing when you intend to spend it on something else, it’s actually a Very Bad Thing. And because most MPs these days don’t realize that it’s actually their job to hold the government to account and to scrutinize where the money is being spent, governments try to use abuse of process to get away with it. We, the media, are just as much to blame. I sat through a press conference during the election where the Liberals systematically laid out how this abuse of process happened. The media yawned, declared process stories too boring and reported on a poll instead. And we wonder why Parliament’s oversight role is failing. MPs have turned this role over to watchdogs, such as the auditor general and the parliamentary budget officer, while pretending that they’re American lawmakers instead of MPs in a parliamentary democracy. This is one more reminder of why we need a crash course in civic literacy.

Here is Scott Brison’s speech on the budget. He discusses the balkanization of the country with have and have-not provinces, as well as his question to the government during debate on refundable tax credits, which, according to the budget, low-income families can’t access.

In the wake of Harper’s hockey trip to Boston, here is a trip down memory lane about Harper’s previous personal trips on the Challenger jet and how he’s only ever repaid token economy rates while claiming the moral high ground. When Paul Martin took a vacation to Morocco during his time as PM, he took the top commercial rate and then doubled it to repay to the treasury. At the time, the opposition Conservatives cried bloody murder. Funny how things change on the other side of the aisle.

Ever the victims, the Conservatives are asking the party faithful to donate to help fight the “anti-Conservative opinion elite” (caution: pay wall), who apparently dominate our terribly biased, leftwing media and fear a Conservative government with its low taxes and personal freedoms. Seriously, guys? Could you not have come up with a more convincing or plausible bogeyman?

In the event that you’re curious about that whole shipyard issue, which keeps creeping up in QP, here is an exhaustive look at what goes on in front of and behind the scenes.

In a Toronto Star op-ed, ex-Senate page Brigette DePape attempts to explain her actions but winds up missing the point about the way democracy functions in this country. (Hint: just because you don’t like the result, it doesn’t mean the system is broken.) She continues to conflate her call for “civil disobedience” in a country that has equal rights and free and fair elections, cheapening the use of the tool in places where such things do not exist.

Now that she’s an MP, Elizabeth May talks about not only bringing up climate change, but also focusing on improving (or perhaps restoring) parliamentary democracy.

Programming note: the House is not sitting today because of the Conservative Party convention, and it will not sit next Friday because of the NDP convention in Vancouver.
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