It’s the first real day for this Parliament, with question period and everything. Well, except that Harper won’t be there. It seems that he’s off touring the flood damage in Quebec, so Jack Layton won’t get the showdown that he may have hoped for. Also, we’ll have to see how long the promised ban on heckling will last. It’s also budget redo day: the original budget will be reintroduced with a couple of minor tweaks – the financial compensation for Quebec’s tax harmonization (assuming they can finalize that deal) and the death knell to the per-vote subsidy. I’m quite certain that it won’t be a big media circus, and given that Harper has a majority, it’s likely to pass with little difficulty. Where the challenge may come is with the budget implementation bill. Last year, the Conservatives made it an omnibus bill, which was stuffed with all kinds of non-budget things that they rammed through the House and the Senate (where it at least got a bit more scrutiny and attention). Will they do so again this year? Well, I guess that remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, it seems that all anyone could talk about over the weekend was that rogue page, Brigette DePape, and her inappropriate stunt during the throne speech. David Akin has a longer and more thoughtful essay than my own musings about political change, and constitutional expert Ned Franks worries about the precedent DePape sets. I’d like to remind people how inappropriate it was for her to pull such a stunt in her role as a page.
Pages have a duty to be non-partisan. There is simply no room for partisanship in their jobs as it could cause a breakdown in the way that Parliament functions. Why? Because parliamentarians need to be able to trust that pages, like any other parliamentary staff, won’t betray confidences or take documents that they are entrusted with and turn them over to anyone in another party. Think of it this way: is there any difference between DePape’s stunt and the clerk of the House holding up a sign that reads “Stop Socialism” or “Go Harper”? There is no substantive difference. What DePape did casts distrust on all House officers. She has damaged the page program. Parliamentarians will be more suspicious that any incoming pages may seek to emulate DePape or make statements of their own. They may also screen candidates more rigorously or limit their access and privileges at future events.
This is why it disheartens me that DePape is being given a number of job offers, which range from one with the Public Service Alliance of Canada to one with American filmmaker Michael Moore. DePape was put in a position of trust, which she violated for a moment of self-aggrandizement as evidenced by her response that she didn’t think about the impact it would have on her colleagues. One would think that any potential employer would see this as a problem.
Senator Mobina Jaffer offers some thoughts on how the throne speech addressed the training mission in Afghanistan. She reminds MPs about the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights' work on ensuring that women’s rights are included in our training regimen.
Here’s a radio conversation with Quebec’s intergovernmental affairs minister about his province’s objections to Harper’s stated “democratic reform” plans.
Mitch Potter reports on some interesting developments with the security firm that Canada has been employing for the Dahla Dam restoration in Afghanistan and gives some history on that troubled project.