Auditor General Sheila Fraser is doing her farewell tour. One thing that she said struck me: she reminded people that her job was to help parliamentarians fulfill their role of holding the government to account. That’s exactly the point that many people, MPs included, seem to forget. Let us remember that most MPs don’t know that it's part of their job description, nor do the media. When the leaked drafts of the G8/G20 spending report came out during the election, everyone wanted them released because hey, Sheila Fraser is the most trusted public official in the country. A few days later, the Liberals held a press conference to walk reporters through the discrepancies between the spending estimates (what Parliament voted on to make the spending legal) and the public accounts (which show what the money was spent on), which barely got a blurb. Why? Because the media needed the authoritative voice of Sheila Fraser to make it a real story. Party leaders knew that, too, which was why they kept demanding Fraser release the report, even though the act governing her office wouldn’t allow it. So how can we expect MPs to do their jobs when everyone – MPs, the media and the public – expect people such as Fraser to do it for them? That is one of the problems facing our democratic institutions right now. We need to pay attention to stop the further erosion of our institutions.
Incidentally, on her way out, Fraser delivered more warnings about the government’s lack of long-term planning on the impact of our aging infrastructure, future program spending and the drawn-out renovation of Parliament Hill. She’s also warning that we really, really need to do something about first nations; everyone seems to talk about the issue, but no one does anything. Well, Paul Martin did. He got an agreement in place, which Stephen Harper cancelled. So, make what you will of that.
Here is the list of new parliamentary secretaries, which includes a few new faces (such as Chris Alexander at defence and Kelly Leitch at human resources).
Jim Flaherty has confirmed that he will reintroduce his budget on June 6. It will include financial compensation for tax harmonization with Quebec and the phasing out of the per-vote subsidy. Oh, and Layton? He seems to have finally made the connection that he really can’t do anything about stopping the government from killing the subsidy, but he still hopes to get some action on things like pension reform and those darned credit card rates. Good luck with that.
Susan Delacourt reflects on the current bout of Liberal angst. She also looks at Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, saying that you can't understand them unless you know about their hurt feelings and grudges from the past.
Three years after she made an access to information request about Harper’s analysis for removing arts funding to promote artists abroad, the Toronto Star’s Tonda MacCharles got a response. It said that she wasn’t going to get an answer.
And Stephen Harper and his new foreign affairs minister, John Baird, have arrived in France for the G8 meeting.