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.
Today marks the start of the new Federal Politics Journal. We have begun work on the website and social channels.
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This year at the annual 420 event in Vancouver where everything marijuana is celebrated and observed including the political scene around its use – it took on special meaning. With as many as 10,000 locals taking part in the event and thousands more looking on or passing by the very busy location at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the political message for this event was rather clear even if the air was not. At this alternative political event enemy number one was the Stephen Harper lead Conservative Party. With the Conservatives making strong overtones towards taking a harsher stance on marijuana use, those in support of marijuana came out and made their voices heard.
There were representatives that were spotted by the FPJ staff from the NDP and Green Party. There may have been others but we didn’t come across them. We expected to find the Marijuana Party but try as we might, we couldn’t locate them and nobody we asked could remember seeing or hearing from them. Which isn’t wholly surprising considering the amount of consumption going on. The Green Party Youth were handing out leaflets explaining the Green Party position on marijuana as found in their party platform.
There were other groups like those behind WhyProhibition.ca also using the event for spreading a political message. The leaflet they were handing out read in part – “You wouldn’t let your grandparents choose who you date – then why let them choose your government.” With the crowd most made up of under 30’s, this type of message was the norm for the day.
Jodie Emery made a speech to the crowd between live bands to talk a little about her husband Mark who is currently serving time in a US prison for selling seeds to American citizens and to rally the crowd towards voting based on the issue of the day – marijuana. Across Canada there will be political rallies held at all types of events but none quite like this one. You can view her speech below:
The first of the leader’s debates wrapped up last night and the conclusion seems to be that it was boring, brought no party any winning edge and as Elizabeth May described after the debates – it was devoid of much of what matters. It was bad enough that a party running candidates in every riding and the recipients of nearly one million votes didn’t even get to speak, but those that did came off as scripted cardboard cutouts of talking heads.
While the Federal Politics Journal has always suggested people vote locally instead of focusing solely on the national leader of any one party, for many Canadians the national debates are the one time they get to hear and see the party leaders discuss and debate their ideas and solutions outside of the closed hell that is often Parliament. Of course locally fielded candidates may stray or offer slightly differing opinions than their party leader, and it is this that local voters should seek out before deciding whom to cast their vote for. And yes we know, some parties don’t allow their local candidates to even speak or be seen – we are looking at you Conservatives! If you want people to vote based only on your platform and national leader than make them both available. Taking a set amount of questions while slowly leaking your own platform on top of hiding local candidates from their constituents is not the best solution to a healthy democratic system.
We were going to really sit down and parse this debate but in the end there is not much to parse or to debate about the debate. If you got to pick a winner it would be the viewer we’d guess as even though the debate was shallow, they remained civil while trying to convince people to come to their side this election. The losers are of course the Green Party and anybody who wanted to see and hear Elizabeth May.
Tonight we get hockey then back to political reality the following day.
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.