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3 min

Working for me how, exactly?

It’s like he knew I was looking at these flyers, because lo and behold, I got another one in the post yesterday. Paul Dewar, my MP, is hosting a Cycling Summit, and I’m invited!

Dewar, who is “working for you!” wants to organise a consultation with community groups and residents about the status of cycling in Ottawa, and they’ll consider questions like “What infrastructure priorities will make cycling better in Ottawa?” and “What would it take to grow cycling in Ottawa to the next level?” No, seriously.

But what exactly does this have to do with Dewar’s job as an MP? Last I checked, transit and bike paths were a municipal responsibility, and just because he put the word “infrastructure” in one of the questions to be considered, it doesn’t actually have to do with federal responsibilities. The way infrastructure funding works – especially in the current climate – is that the city determines what the funding priorities will be, and then the provincial and federal governments sign on. That’s part of why the stimulus package Harper rolled out was so controversial, and why it will inevitably prove ineffectual – because it depends on the cash-strapped municipalities to come up with their third of the funding before the federal funds are released. And Dewar’s little Cycling Summit isn’t going to address that problem.

In fact, this whole exercise seems to me to be a dereliction of his actual duties as an MP. Dewar alone is not guilty of this, but it’s a systemic problem that is getting worse, and it’s affecting the way our Parliament is functioning. An MP’s job is to do things like scrutinise the budget and spending estimates to know that the government is not abusing the public purse. He’s supposed to be considering public policy that is of a federal responsibility, and last I checked, Dewar’s critic responsibilities revolve around foreign affairs. In fact, this ties in with something I was reading today about the plight of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page.

The PBO is currently being starved for funds, but he’s also in a dispute with his ersatz boss – the Parliamentary Librarian – about his roles and responsibilities. Page says he wants to ensure “transparency in budgeting,” while the Parliamentary Librarian says that Page’s mandate is to simply assist MPs in doing their jobs – which is holding the government to account by means of holding onto the purse strings, but we seem to have forgotten that this is the way the system is supposed to work. MPs are now too busy electioneering and playing ombudsman for their constituents who have trouble with immigration applications and passport forms that they’ve forgotten that their job is scrutinising the budget and the estimates. Hence why they’re sloughing off the job onto someone like Page (who would happily do that work for them, assuming he had the budget to), and Dewar’s little feel-good Cycling Summit is a perfect example of what MPs are doing wrong.

It’s not Dewar’s responsibility to do the city’s job for them. That’s for city council to do, no matter how ineffectual they are (especially in Ottawa). I’d rather see Dewar actually doing his job – which would in fact be “working for me” as he’s been elected to – rather than waste his time and ours with more of these meaningless kumbaya sessions.

Meanwhile, there’s another medical isotope crisis brewing in this country, and I am forced to ask – where are the responsible ministers on this file? I have yet to see a statement by Lisa Raitt (whose department handles Atomic Energy of Canada Limited – the crown corporation that runs the Chalk River reactor), or Leona Aglukkaq, the Health Minister who should be dealing with the shortage of said isotopes. So far, I have seen one media report where Aglukkaq’s spokesperson was quoted, but that’s it. But which Minister did the PMO allow to speak to CBC reporters when this story broke? Tony Clement – the industry minister. While he was in Atlanta. Seriously, guys? What’s the point of even having ministers if they’re not going to even speak out about a potential crisis, which affects their departments?

Speaking of Tony Clement, he’s warning that the protectionist mood in the States is expanding. Really? Who would have ever guessed that would possibly happen? And what, pray tell, has your government been doing about it? Besides having Stockwell Day – the International Trade minister – stand up in the House and say that he expects President Obama to abide by his statement that protectionism would be a bad thing? And given the sheer number of files that this government apparently is turning over to the Obama administration with a smile, one has to wonder if we’re going to have any sovereignty left before the year is out.