Thursday
May182017

Congratulations to Senator Greene

At first when I read this story, I thought the summer silly season had already arrived. For those not familiar with it, the silly season usually begins when the House breaks and reporters are having a hard time finding something to write about. But no, it was true; the Conservative Senate leadership had kicked a Conservative senator out of their caucus because he dared to have dinner with the Prime Minister!

Yes! You get to walk the plank now for such treasonous behavior!

Senate politics has always been more collegial and less partisan than in the House. That is a bonus not a negative. I know that having worked on both the Senate and House sides.

For those that haven’t followed the story, Senator Greene was invited along with every other senator who had introduced a government bill to have dinner with the Prime Minister. Senate leadership ordered him not to go. When Green insisted that it was his right to attend, he was kicked out of the caucus.

I am on Greene’s side on this one. This was not about breaking ranks on a key vote- it was about dinner!

I believe that senators and MPs as part of their duties have a right to meet with anyone from the other parties at any time that they want too. That includes dinner with the Prime Minister.

For one thing you always learn some intelligence that might be useful to your own side. You also build bridges and relationships with members of the other side that can come in handy down the road when your party needs help getting a motion through or when you want to open dialogue on issues that have the parties deadlocked.

If I was in Greene’s situation, I would have done the same thing. You attend out of respect for the office of the Prime Minister. It shouldn’t matter who the Prime Minister is; show respect for the office… you don’t have to like the man in it.

So now we have lost a Conservative who is free to vote as he sees fit- you have to shake your head over such stupidity.

This action of the Conservative Senate leadership is more of the same small mindedness that we saw towards the end of the Harper government. You have to roll your eyes that it is still going on- have they learnt nothing?

 

 

Tuesday
May022017

Mister Wonderful Has Left The Building

Kevin O’Leary came, he looked around and he left- that wasn’t much of a surprise. From the beginning one had to question the commitment he made to the leadership process. He avoided most of the debates and continued to spend a lot of time outside of Canada. One also has to question his political smarts- IE waving a spatula around, selling Senate seats etc. I feel sorry for his team as they worked hard and put in long hours and they were totally committed to getting him elected.

Now the leadership race is back to where it was before O’Leary became involved. It is the same dull, boring race that has gone on far too long. The Hill Times raised a good point today when they took a look at the quality of the present leadership contenders.

Certainly the ones who chose not to run- MacKay, Baird, Moore, Kenney are missed by many of the rank and file. However, the Party will have to live with their decisions and move on. They have served the party well and put in their time to the detriment of their personal life. Politics is all consuming and after years of service sometimes you need to step away and re-evaluate what you are doing. I expect that some of them will eventually come back as political life is also very addictive. They can’t assume though that they will automatically return to their former profiles. Other MPs will step up, new ones will be elected and some will have the same potential and fill the void they left.

If the “A” team isn’t playing, where does that leave us now? Well, we have a lot of B, C and D level players. Quite a few of those remaining are not leadership material, but could make good team players in a supporting role.

One thing is essential, the “B” team (O’Toole, Bernier, Scheer, Raitt, Chong) have to step up their game and so far I haven’t seen much of an improvement. Whoever wins has to get sharper, more political and develop the instinct that allows them to pounce as the other side makes mistakes. They also will have to appeal to Canadians from all walks of life, not a narrow based constituency.

Too many Conservatives fell for the media hype after Trudeau’s election victory and felt the guy was unbeatable. Nonsense, anyone can be beaten and you don’t have to be from the “A” level team to come out the winner. Think back a few years and remember “Joe Who”.  Joe Clark took down Justin Trudeau’s father who I would argue was a much more formidable opponent than Justin.

Governments and Prime Ministers have a way of defeating themselves, some sooner than others. The Liberals are not invincible under Justin Trudeau and two new leaders from the Conservatives and the NDP will have an opportunity to shine.

In politics as in life, history has a way of repeating itself.

Sunday
Apr162017

Please Sign The Petition

Easter is a time to think of family and share time together. For most of us it is one of the most enjoyable days of the year. Some however have not been that fortunate.

For that reason while I don’t usually advocate for the signing of petitions on this page; in this case I will make an exception. The story of the “British Home Children” is a very tragic one and few survivors are still alive today. Their story has been largely hidden from view and few Canadians know about this issue and it is not taught in most school systems here.

In this day and age it is hard to imagine that over a hundred thousand young children were shipped out from Britain to Canada by various child service organizations. This lasted from 1869-1948. Originally well intentioned, it often had tragic results.

Many Canadians are descended from these Home Children; yet don’t know about it because the children themselves kept it a secret out of shame.

The sad part is that while this was happening the Canadian government knew what was going on.

The attached video and petition seeks an official apology as has already happened in Australia and Britain (another destination for children in the same time period).

Today there are few survivors left and it would be fitting that they receive a full “official apology” from the Canadian government, a government that knew what was happening during this time period.

Attached is a link to the petition, please take a few minutes out of your day to sign it. The attached video is a bit long, but well worth watching. It will educate, shock and disturb you; but every minute is worth watching.

Thank you, Happy Easter and give your children a hug; they are fortunate to have a family that cares for them.

Petition and video link: https://www.change.org/p/open-letter-to-the-right-honourable-prime-minister-trudeau

Tuesday
Apr112017

Nothing Wrong With A Prime Minister's Question Period"

It is unfortunate that the Liberals have tried to ram the changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons down everyone’s throats. Change is definitely needed and some of the changes which come out of the work done by Michael Chong have merit.

For instance designating one day as a Prime Minister’s day for Question Period deserves serious consideration.

Unlike the pathetic surprise attempt by the Liberals to stand Trudeau up to take all of the questions last week, an appointed day with a well prepared and well researched opposition would be an entirely different matter.

Having spent over ten years as the political staffer in charge of Question Period (Both in opposition and government) I doubt having the one day set aside for the Prime Minister will hurt accountability.

To begin with, Prime Ministers are rarely in the House on Mondays and Fridays and for good reason; as a lot of MPs use those days as travel days or constituency days. This really narrows the days available to directly question a Prime Minister down to just three days.

Nor should a Prime Minister’s Question Period bring about a reduction in the number of questions that a Prime Minister answers. Taking the above three days, the Leader of the Opposition usually asks three questions in the opening or “Leader’s Round” and occasionally they will ask two additional ones. The next party leader will get two and a potential two more. If you look back over the last decade or two you will see that it is rare that the leaders ask their maximum number of questions each day. That gives the party leaders 5-9 questions daily a week multiplied by three days or a maximum of 27 questions. Yesterday saw a total of 33 opposition questions asked as well as a few planted ones from the Liberals.

Take away the planted questions (which should be done for every day, thereby forcing ministers to make announcements in the House) and if anything the PM will get more questions in the one day than he now gets for the entire week. A well-researched opposition can easily keep a Prime Minister on the hot seat for an entire Question Period.

The unofficial practice of Harper was to take the questions from all party leaders in the opening Leaders Round. After that the questions went to ministers. Recent Liberal Governments did not even stick to that procedure and PM’s sometimes ducked questions from opposition leaders as well.

As for Friday Question Period, please do away with it and spare us the pain of listening to poorly prepared questions and answers being read from prepared notes into the record. One change that no one is suggesting for the Standing Orders but which is most definitely needed is the banning or use of notes and smart phones to read out questions or answers. Treat them as props. If you can’t ask a question or answer one without reading it, you shouldn’t be there. This would also reduce the carefully crafted “10 second clips” that are built in to questions when they are read out.

If the 45 minutes set aside for Friday QP were divided up amongst the other four days that would add roughly 11 minutes of questioning a day. If you have ever been on the government side giving the opposition another 11 minutes or roughly 5 -7 more questions a day would be pure hell. That would also give the PM’s question day up to 38 questions. Holding the PM accountable won’t suffer.

As for the other days, having minister’s accountable and in their seats would work just fine.

We started the practice in the early 2000s of asking every question to the PM even if that question came from a backbencher. We did it because the media bought it and there were plenty of TV clips at night with our MP asking an empty Prime Minister’s chair a question and the cameras then showing a minister answering, leaving the impression to the public that the PM ducked the question.

Work out a mechanism so that the opposition can insist that a specific minister be present when issues explode into the public domain and accountability won’t be hurt. In the end it is a better fit for the opposition as they can go after weak ministers and they don’t have to divide questions up over several ministers as well as the Prime Minister. Instead they can put a minister on the hot seat and keep them there.

While the media won’t get to cover a Prime Minister reciting talk points as answers three times a week, there will be plenty for them to cover when the opposition has an extra 27 questions a week to use on ministers who don’t know their files.

The changes the Liberals are pushing for the Standing Orders do have serious ramifications for the ability of opposition parties to hold the government to account or delay potentially poor legislation. However, don’t be fooled by claims that Question Period will suffer and accountability suffer if there is a designated Prime Minister’s Question Period each week.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Apr112017

A Missed Opportunity

There are times when it is best to put partisanship aside. The ceremony at Vimy Ridge was one of those moments. It is a shame and a little perplexing that Prime Minister Trudeau didn’t extend an invitation to the opposition leaders to join him there.

This was a missed opportunity. Trudeau had a chance to show Canadians that just as young men from all across Canada came together in 1917, so could our politicians put aside their differences if only for a short period of time.

A simple invite to join him on his flight would have offered an opportunity to build good will when the house is divided on needed changes to the Standing Orders and give all of the party leaders an opportunity to talk and get to know each other away from the glare of the cameras and their daily performance in Question Period.

While we were celebrating this historical milestone where the Canadian Corp united to achieve a significant victory in our history, Trudeau missed his opportunity to bring all of the leaders together.

Hiding behind the excuse that they extended an invitation for the parties to send a representative is not good enough. Someone in his office should have known the correct procedure to follow. One has to wonder why there was such a deliberate snub. Was it intentional or just incompetence?