3 min

Stimulus – damned by faint praise?

The auditor general has given her latest report, and she’s spanking the government over the Chinook helicopter purchase. And the stimulus funding? No spanking, and maybe even a bit of faint praise – at least for the public servants who worked around the clock to get the projects out the door. But there were plenty of caveats – many projects were not “shovel ready,” almost none of them went through the proper environmental assessment process, and there are no numbers on actual job creation. And no, she would not say that the government “followed every rule in the book,” despite what the official media arm of The Party claimed (and asked her using that phrase, which she refused to repeat). But – and this is a big one – this is an interim report based on a small number of randomly sampled projects, with very limited terms of reference. The next report will be the big one – and that will likely find the bigger problems, like how all those projects got funding in Conservative ridings, and necessary projects were turned down for ones that made a better backdrop for a photo op with a novelty cheque.

While Question Period did launch with questions on that potential Potash sale, the auditor general’s report came up second, from the Liberals’ Siobhan Coady, while the Bloc upped the stakes on the Christian Paradis story by bringing in the Mafia connections. And no, I’m not kidding. Jack Layton returned to the AG's report, focusing on the environmental assessment revelations (and made it sound like a completely other report than was reported on).

John McCallum asked after Air Canada maintenance contracts; Geoff Regan asked about Christian Paradis’ fundraisers; Jean Dorion asked after Omar Khadr; Serge Ménard asked whether Rob Nicholson didn’t believe in a judge’s ability to determine if an offender is low-enough risk to serve his or her sentence in the community (as C-16 would remove); and Bob Rae returned to the Khadr question, specifically just what was Canada’s policy on his status as a Canadian and a child soldier (to which Lawrence Cannon responded by reiterating the previous day’s press release).

There were questions as to why we’re closing our embassies in Africa, stimulus deadlines, why we’re not getting the final costs of the G8 and G20 summits until next spring, the water contamination in Shannon, increasing the CPP, and lobster fishers.

Sartorially speaking, it was a pretty good day overall, with few standouts. But I’ll give snaps to Kirsty Duncan’s tailored white jacket with the blue and black square patterns and Cathy McLeod’s stylistically correct green top and black jacket and skirt with boots. I couldn’t even find any particular style violations over the day. The Megan Leslie outfit watch has mixed feelings on the fact that she had a nice enough pink top with black trousers, but in the Foyer, she had a fantastic structured grey jacket, which she traded for a formless lighter grey sweater in the House. More structured jackets, please!

On the topic of style violations, Justin Trudeau warns that he’s trying to get a number of MPs together to participate in “Movember.” I already shudder to think of how awful this is going to be…

There’s currently a debate going on within the Liberal Party about the role of private healthcare in Canada – Keith Martin (a physician) thinks it can revitalize the system. Ujjal Dosanjh, a former health minister, thinks it’s bunk, and that the UK proved just the opposite.

I’m concerned about the narrative around this panic about how much it cost to renovate the former Museum of Photography to create interim committee chambers. First of all, there were major problems with the structure in terms of water leaks, which needed to be addressed. And then the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation asks why they can’t just get a room with a table, chairs and translation? Um, no. There are IT considerations. With more committees relying on videoconferencing (rather than flying out witnesses for an hour of their time), that requires infrastructure. Cameras so that the hearings can be broadcast. Wiring so that the microphones and translation can be heard by each member at the table, as well as the observers. And also the “interim” is going to mean probably some 20 years, given the pace at which these renovations are actually going to happen around the rest of the Hill, so it needs to be built to last, and to keep up with the technology going forward. Also, there needed to be added security infrastructure as well, because this is the age of paranoia. So really, it all adds up, and it’s misleading for people to try to dumb it down to “committee rooms – just tables and chairs, right?” when this is the Parliament of Canada, and it needs a bit more than that.

And the Governor General has announced that there will be a pirate theme to this year’s Halloween festivities at Rideau Hall. Sounds like fun! Mind you, to Jim Flaherty, pirate theme means “opposition coalition,” so he may stay away.
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