As it’s now an ongoing theme, here is a piece in The Hill Times about how MPs don’t have the time or resources to adequately scrutinize spending estimates. The constant focus on salacious issues further cuts into their time, though I suspect this is more of a complaint on the government side.
This is part of what I was talking about yesterday: the perception of an MP's job and its responsibilities. The way our system works, MPs hold the government to account by controlling the public purse. As we’ve been exploring of late, MPs can’t get the information they need in order to do that aspect of their jobs. We’ve also discussed that most MPs don’t actually know that it’s their responsibility to hold the government to account, in part because they have been slowly fobbing that off on certain officers of Parliament (independent or otherwise), such as the auditor general and the parliamentary budget officer. These experts now provide the analysis of the government’s spending that allows MPs to decide if they want to grant supply or not.
It makes me wonder if that’s part of the reason the government has been slowly growing more secretive and largely getting away with it. If the MPs aren’t doing the scrutinizing themselves and are less aware of how much information they don’t have, then the government is able to do this. MPs have already lost much of their capacity for doing the work as they are focused on other matters; it’s of little surprise that the government thought it could get away with it. Thankfully, we’re seeing some pushback as MPs are starting to demand that information. But how far will they go with it? Is it just being done so they can give the information to the PBO and continue to fob off their scrutiny on his office? Perhaps these are questions we should be asking.
Elsewhere, Stephen Harper was in Vancouver to say “Yay, BC Place!” He later toured the MV Ocean Lady, which brought over Tamil migrants in October 2009. He used the visit to thump his chest and warn the opposition to vote for his human trafficking bill – or else.
The Conservatives have also sent out an urgent fundraising letter asking for the suspiciously exact figure of $243,900 for an election they expect to face in two weeks. Don’t they just want to focus on the economy and Make Parliament Work™? Also, shouldn’t their base be feeling a bit like the villagers from "The Boy Who Cried Wolf” by now?
MPs and Commons staff now get to use Twitter and Facebook on their BlackBerries. We can expect more vacuous updates on the go.
Finally, some Muslim groups are keeping a close eye on BC’s ongoing polygamy trial given that certain Islamic sects believe that a man can have as many as four wives. This is a hotly contested subject.