University of Toronto
3 min

Sober second thought just won’t do

The Senate has actually been doing its job – sober, second thought on the technical aspects of legislation – and the Conservatives are not happy. There are two bills in particular – Bill C-6 on updating the consumer product safety laws in this country, and Bill C-15, which imposes harsher mandatory minimum sentences on drug crimes. But while both bills passed the Commons unmolested, the Senate has been a different story, and they’re taking a far more critical look at these bills, and *gasp* they’re doing their job and proposing amendments.

This just won’t do.

So the Conservatives have been on the attack. The Health and Justice ministers go on television to denounce the Senate (those awful, unelected Liberal hacks – though the unelected Conservative hacks are all a-okay). During Members’ Statements yesterday, the Conservatives were on the warpath about how Michael Ignatieff needed be a real leader and get his Senators into line (even though they’re an independent chamber).

Liberal Senator Joseph Day appeared on Power & Politics last night, and gave probably the best explanation for the Senate and its role in recent memory:

The House of Commons is a house of politics, and they balance things on politics. They look at all the matters that are before them, what they want to get out, what they want to fight. We look at each piece of legislation, and we’re somewhere between the judiciary – the judges – and the political body, the House of Commons. We have a role to play that is quite different from the House of Commons, and we do our job and they do theirs. I don’t think anybody should think that we are just the other side of the coin of the House of Commons.

And he’s absolutely right – they have a different job to play, and far too often, the House will pass bad bills because it’s bad politics to be seen to vote against it – and Bill C-15 is certainly proof of that. I know plenty of Liberals who were not happy that they were whipped into voting for it, but they can’t be seen be “soft on crime” in the current political climate. So it falls on the Senate to pick up the pieces – exactly like the chamber was designed to do back in 1867. Imagine that. The Conservatives can huff and puff all they like, but the Senate has a job to do, and as much as they don’t like it, it’s called a part of our democratic system.

Despite being present for votes just a few minutes before, Michael Ignatieff was not in Question Period, but rather let Bob Rae lead off on questions about Afghan detainees. John Baird was once again designated obfuscator, and he denied that there was any evidence. In his third question, Rae asked about the cutting of funding for KAIROS, and Baird brought up the Durban I conference (lately of ten percenter fame) to contrast their human rights record.

(Incidentally, new evidence coming from the Afghan intelligence service lends more credence to Richard Colvin’s testimony. And the plot thickens).

Gilles Duceppe brought up the Geneva Conventions in relation to Afghan detainees, while Jack Layton veered off into questions around the HST and KAIROS funding.

The second half of Question Period saw a great many questions relating to violence against women, the long-gun registry vis-à-vis the massacre at l’École Polytechnique, the missing or murdered aboriginal women, and the necessity for gender to be included in hate crimes provisions. Peter Van Loan and Helena Guergis gave some rah-rah on “tough on crime” in response.

The week of sartorial drabness seems to be continuing in the House. On that note, Judy Foote and Diane Ablonczy need to realise that they should not wear turtlenecks. Helena Guergis also needs to realise that a high-waisted belt-over-jacket really, really looks terrible on her. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a rather bland white shirt under a black jacket, but I couldn’t tell what the shoes were to see how they completed the image.

Remember a few months ago with the Chalk River leak and the whole medical isotope crisis? Well, not only is that still going on, but the government’s “expert panel” on future recommendations reported back, and they say we should build a new reactor. Sure, it’s the most expensive option, but the best one for all involved. Good to know, and considering that this government wants to get out of the medical isotope business, I’m confident they’ll promptly put this report on the shelf to gather dust.

The CBC takes a look at the PMO’s increasing use of their own photographers and now videographers to “provide content” to news organisations – especially those outside of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. They totally don’t see it as an access and control issue – the way that the CBC and other media organisations quite rightfully do. Because there’s nothing like controlling the media to show them what you want them to see (ie – the PM in staged, flattering shots) rather than the truth.
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