Today’s House of Commons

PM Harper cannot keep his story straight, and with his office knee-deep in the Senate scandal, his backbenchers are still doing as they are told. Loyal to the end or just too trained to speak up?

PM Harper's House of Commons trained seals.

Paul Martin had the balls to call on Gomery even though he and the Liberal Party knew full-well that it would cost them the election, yet PM Harper resists attempts to come clean. The Conservative Party ran on a platform of accountability – so where is it? Now is the time!

The Conservative Party are having their convention this week – will Harper survive the week after facing the plebs?

Peter Penashue – Deception or Ignorance?

With the case of Conservative MP Peter Penashue’s overspending, donation irregularities and airline write-offs one must ask as disdainful as it is, was he being purposely deceptive or was he just plain ignorant of the rules? In response to the allegations before him, Penashue hid away from the opposition and media and later reappeared in his home province where he released an online cop-out where he blamed his official agent for any mistakes.

Penashue’s official agent for the 2011 campaign was Reg Bowers who responded to Elections Canada at one point by stating, “Given the circumstances, record keeping and budgeting did not get the top priority. In the beginning we had very limited funds, we couldn’t get internet connection and, as mentioned, very limited help so there was a lot of wasted time running back and forth using my own computer and resources. We had to make the most of what we had and what we knew and I got advice wherever possible.”

In response to being blamed by Penashue, Bowers stated, “When it left my desk, it was under the cap.”

Bowers was removed as official agent for Penashue after being replaced by the Conservative Party’s chief financial officer. For his work Reg Bowers was rewarded with a golden position as a federal appointee on the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

So with the overspending and irregularities in his electoral campaign return, including possible corporate donations, the question of deception or ignorance is a valid one. Penashue seems content to blame the official agent yet every single candidate for election in Canada must go through the same procedures in order to run for office and at the end for their candidate electoral campaign return. Penashue ran for the Conservative Party of Canada – the same party that likes to brag about their deep pockets and top-notch campaign team, yet this combo failed to stay within the rules and when caught out – flail about with blame.

So how is that candidates for the parties with no seats like the Christian Heritage Party or the Canadian Action Party who neither have deep pockets or election winning campaign strategists, managed to fill out their forms correctly and stay within the rules, but Penashue could not? They also had rookie official agents and candidates, and also had to wade through the same Elections Canada literature, regulations and forms – but with one glaring difference – they appear to have got it right and stayed within the rules.

Penashue should also explain how and why he signed his name to the following without knowing that everything was correct and within the rules:

Elections Canada form EC 20120 (all candidates must sign this declaration)

I hereby solemnly declare that to the best of my knowledge and belief:

– the information contained in this return is correct;
– all election expenses in respect of the conduct or management of the election have been properly recorded;
– no money, goods or services have been provided by way of loan, advance, deposit, contribution or gift during the election, except as appears in this return; and
– no other person or entity has, on behalf of the candidate made any payment or given, promised or offered any reward, office, employment or valuable consideration or incurred any liability on account of or in respect of the conduct or management of the election, except as specified in this return.

I make this solemn declaration conscientiously, believing it to be true and knowing that it is of the same force and effect as if made under oath and by virtue of the Canada Evidence Act.

To all of this Penashue has managed to say, “I’m not quitting, I’m not quitting. It’s very important to me that my constituents understand the allegations and the comments being made.” We would all like to understand how Penashue signed his name to the EC 20120 declaration without knowing if it was correct or not. Someone wishing to take on such an important role as MP should ensure that anything they put their name to is above-board and factually correct. Is that too much to ask?

So if there was no deception intended, was it down to just ignorance of the rules? Outside of Parliament each of us is held to our actions and in our places of work if we managed to bungle something so important and then sign our name to it – most would be facing the unemployment line. The least we can do is hold our elected officials to that same standard. PM Harper thus far is standing by his man.

Contributed to the Federal Politics Journal by Roy Whyte.

The Great Canadian Sellout

Like those nail-biting episodes of 24 where the clock is ticking down and there is a heated race to head off disaster, the nation of Canada finds itself in such a scenario. The mass media has all but ignored or barely mentioned the looming Great Canadian Sellout to communist China courtesy of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Not content with being the party that sold Canada up the river with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1989 after which the U.S. trade representative Clayton Yeutter bluntly stated, “We’ve signed a stunning new trade pact with Canada. The Canadians don’t even know what they have signed. In twenty years they will be sucked into the U.S. economy,” they are now upping the ante and selling Canada out to China.

Clayton Yeutter was exactly right, as the U.S. government had no intentions of removing dumping and anti-subsidy laws, and this was made abundantly evident over the years with such things as softwood lumber, wheat exports, PEI potatoes and other Canadian exports. It wasn’t bad enough that the Harper Conservatives sold Canada out with softwood lumber and allowed the American timber conglomerate to essentially steal hundreds of millions of dollars from Canada, the federal Conservatives are now poised to sign away even more in an utterly one-sided trade deal with China. But wait it gets better! This deal with China, the Canada-China Investment Treaty, or FIPA, will not be discussed in the House of Commons or any committee, it will simply be ratified by default come November 1, 2012. Unfortunately for Canadians, the sunshine that is disclosure and accountability will not be allowed to disinfect this looming disaster.

What is the purpose of electing MPs and having a House of Commons if binding trade deals are constructed and negotiated behind closed doors and become binding with no public oversight? Why is this government the antithesis of its own election campaign slogans of accountability and transparency? If this deal is such a boon to Canada than prove it to Canadians via our democratic institutions – don’t conduct meetings in secret then proceed to ratify FIPA by default.

So what’s in this sweetheart deal for Chinese investors (most of whom are state controlled)? Like NAFTA there are clauses contained that allow for damages to be awarded via ‘expectation of profits’. In layman’s terms this essentially means Chinese state investors can sue Canada via a system outside of Canadian control for just about anything they deem detrimental to their profit taking. For example, this binding trade deal overrides any municipal, provincial or even federal law or regulation that in any way impedes profits for Chinese investors. Simply put, Canadian-made laws and regulations will be tossed out the window in favour of Chinese investors. And just for good measure, the arbitration method will be conducted behind closed doors in secret and only by the federal government!

Many Canadians are unaware that the sometimes-reviled National Energy Policy has been gutted in the advance of free trade. No longer can Canada try to establish Canadian pricing for oil that is manufactured, refined and sold in Canada. Canadians ceded that ability when the ruling Liberal Party signed onto NAFTA. Canada now has little to no control over supplies and pricing. During free trade negotiations the Mexican negotiators were smart enough to balk at the American proposal to write into law that Canada and Mexico must give them a full two-thirds of all of natural gas production. This is still in place today, and what this means is that even though Canada ships over two million barrels of oil a day south, the two-thirds rule guarantees that we cede our ability for national pricing. If Canada wanted to cut back on exports of natural gas or oil, we must also cut our own national consumption by an equal amount. A staggering thought in this age of dwindling supplies and record consumption. FIPA sadly takes this to the extreme.

FIPA also contains these clauses but takes them a step further covering ALL of Canada’s natural resources. Timber, copper, uranium, rare earth elements, water, and every other natural resource is potentially subject to this deal and if Canada ever wanted to reduce Chinese access to these resources, we MUST reduce our own access to our own resources by the same order. Talk about removing national determination…

FIPA also opens up more Canadian industries to Chinese state investors, and governmental oversight is extremely limited in ensuring any such takeover is in the best interests of Canadians. So say goodbye to Canadian energy and mining industries, as everything will be fair game under FIPA. The Chinese government is sitting on nearly $3 trillion in monetary reserves, so such a deal is an invitation to a buying frenzy.

NAFTA can be abrogated with six months notice, FIPA is one year. FIPA is also binding for a total of 31 years! Yes, for 31 years Canada will be bound by this secret trade treaty where Canadian laws will be tossed aside so Chinese state investors can profit at our expense.

Concerned Canadians need to act fast as the clock is most certainly ticking and the worst trade deal Canadian’s have ever seen is looming large. The choice is simple – a Canada for Canadians, or one for made for Chinese investors.

Contributed to the Federal Politics Journal by Roy Whyte.

Further reading:
www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/fipa-apie/china-text-chine.aspx?lang=en&view=d
http://www.thetyee.ca/Documents/2012/10/14/Canada-China%20FIPA%20and%20Explanatory%20Memorandum%208532-411-46%28OCR%29.pdf
http://www.greenparty.ca/stop-the-sellout

Omnibus Budget Bills – A Real Problem Unless They’re Yours

The House of Commons is once again consumed by issues of the day and none are looming larger than the current Conservative omnibus budget bill. Weighing in at over 400 pages, this grab-bag masquerading as a budget bill is a sad attempt at circumventing both the will of the Canadian people and their democratic oversight via their elected officials. I’d say it was a bad attempt, but with a majority of seats the Conservative Party will ram it through perceptions be damned.

But how can one not take exception at the perception of a two-faced Conservative Party? When in opposition the Conservative Party under PM Harper’s direction took aim at the Liberal’s own omnibus budget bills – and may I say rightly so. So if the Conservative Party found there to be a problem with omnibus budget bills of 20 pages, why do they not have any problem with their own budget bill that is 20 times larger?

You would think it would be hard to defend that situation, yet the Conservative’s are attempting to do just that. It’s as if PM Harper never said, “I just regret that we are proceeding with this omnibus approach to legislation which, because it lumps in things we support and things we do not support, unfortunately deprives us of the ability to support the government in votes where that would be appropriate.” Yes indeed, so why do they now expect the opposition and the Canadian people to swallow 20 times more in one gulp?

This situation really becomes surreal when we take under consideration the ruling party’s election campaign promises and sloganeering of transparency. Where is the transparency in an omnibus budget bill? Unless it’s so transparent it cannot be seen, something is rotten in Ottawa.

Contributed to the Federal Politics Journal by Roy Whyte.

Sheila Fraser Draft Report An Election Changer?

This just in, Sheila Fraser’s confidential report which was originally to be tabled in Parliament on April 5 but wasn’t because of the defeat of the government has been seen by The Canadian Press and it alleges illegal wrongdoing. The draft report claims that in a January 13 draft of the chapter on the G8 legacy infrastructure fund that the Harper government allegedly misinformed Parliament in order that they win approval for a $50-million G8 fund which was misspent in a Conservative riding.

The G8 meetings have brought the Conservatives much grief since the meetings took place from the huge bill to the trampling of civil rights of Canadian citizens, but now this news that Industry Minister Tony Clement along with the mayor of Huntsville, and the general manager of Deerhurst Resort chose 32 projects that received federal funding in Clement’s riding with no regard to the rules or actual need could come back to sink their election hopes. The spending guidelines were even set by the Harper government. As well, Deerhurst Resort was quickly put up for sale after the meetings by the owners Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC, and MassMutual Financial Group. Question remains – how much did they receive and was it truly necessary – especially in light that it was immediately put up for sale.

The Conservatives have tried hard to market themselves as the clean party, the party of transparency, high legal standards and the party of law and order during their time in government. It’s hard to keep up that marketing campaign when your being targeted repeatedly by the opposition for being anything but.

The main issue is that the legacy fund breaks the Appropriations Act which clearly states all funding is only to be allocated based on the exact items which were presented in the estimates. In November 2009 the Conservative government tabled a supplementary spending estimate of $83 million for a ‘Border Infrastructure Fund’. Where the problem starts is that the Conservative government never stated that $50 million was to be diverted to a G8 legacy fund. The report also notes that Tony Clement was announcing spending before his government even laid down the ground rules for funding. And some of the spending was on things not even used like $26 million spent to create a Huntsville G8 Centre – they rented other facilities instead.

Some of the questionable projects highlighted in the draft report include:
$100k on a gazebo over a hour away.
$1.1 million for sidewalks and trees over 100km away.
$745k for improvements to towns some 70km away.
$274k for public toilet facilities located 20km from the summit meetings.

The timing is also horrible for the Conservatives because it comes just hours before the national leader’s debates. It will be interesting to see if the opposition parties try to use this information.

Sheila Fraser is not commenting on the contents of her report during the election which is too bad. Canadians need to know what is in that report now before the election – not after the fact.