Thursday
Aug252016

Rest in Peace Elsie

Canada has lost an amazing politician with the passing of Elsie Wayne. Many remember her as tough, demanding, principled, often unbending. She was quite a character.

I was very fortunate to work with her when I was the Director of Question Period and the head of the attack team. I could always count on Elsie to show up at the early morning prep meeting with ideas for issues that she wanted to push or points that she wanted to raise. We shared an understanding of what she felt was a need to speak up for her beloved constituents and on occasions when the discussion around the table would get  a little heated, she would glance my way and give a wink to indicate, don’t worry about it.

I best remember her for her work on behalf of the merchant seamen especially during their hunger strike on the Hill. Elsie would always stop by them and make sure they were ok, often bringing them into her office to warm up. Elsie never let up on this issue and eventually the government would recognize the services of the merchant marine and offered a compensation package to them.

There was also the lighter side to Elsie- her Christmas sweaters that would light up that she wore to QP or the time that we had our Christmas Party on the Hill and she went around replacing all the red light bulbs with blue ones.

Elsie was quite a character, if you met her, you remembered her. She was always Elsie, not Mrs. Wayne. Canada has lost a giant of a politician and a dedicated MP for her constituents. Rest in Peace Elsie and thank you for your service.

Sunday
Aug212016

Definition of a Limousine

Health minister Philpott's defence is that the car that she was chauffered around in was not a limousine but a sedan. We also know that it was a high end Lexus ES 300. Here are a few definitions of "limousine" for the minister to ponder when she comes under fire for misleading parliament.

Definition of a limousine
Merriam-Webster:
  • a very large and comfortable car usually driven by a professional driver (called a chauffeur)
Oxford:
  • a large luxurious automobile, especially one driven by a chauffeur who is separated from the passengers by a partition
  • (North American) A car licensed to transport passengers in return for payment, typically more luxurious than a taxi and not fitted with a taximeter.
  • (North American) A passenger vehicle carrying people to and from an airport

Webster's

  • any large, luxurious automobile, especially one driven by a chauffeur
  • a large sedan or small bus, especially one for transporting passengers to and from an airport, between train stations etc.
This minister is in for a rough time. It isn't the big items that trip up a minister or a government. It is the small ones that really irritate the public.

 

Thursday
Aug182016

What Goes Around, Comes Around

It didn’t take long for one of Trudeau’s ministers to put their foot in it. As has been reported Minister of Health Philpott has been somewhat free with throwing taxpayers dollars around on limousine service in the GTA. Some of the excuses that have been reported are just laughable… it wasn’t a limo it was a sedan… it was on legitimate business etc. They would also have us believe that the fact that the limo company is owned by one of her campaign workers is purely coincidental.

The media have reported that the minister knew that the owner of the company (Executive Sedan Livery Service Inc.) had worked on her campaign, but she still went ahead and used the service not this one time at a cost of $1700 for one day, but she used the same company on over 20 occasions (including another day that cost the taxpayer $1994). That shows incredibly poor judgement on her part.

It also doesn’t say much about the political judgement of her Chief of Staff who is responsible for vetting the ministers work, including travel and whose responsibility it is to keep the minister out of trouble. If the minister knew the company was owned by a campaign worker did the Chief of Staff also know that?

If the minister planned to use limo service on a regular basis why wasn’t a tender process used to get the best price? Who suggested that this company be used? Did her staff solicit several quotes from different companies? Departments often have standing offers from companies to provide services as required. Does Health Canada have one for transportation in the GTA? If so, is this company on their list?

Harper would make his ministers pay out of their own pocket when travel expenses weren’t justified. Let’s see if our current Prime Minister is just as strict or does he sweep this story under the carpet.

It is always fun when sitting on the opposition side of the aisle to attack the government side and make all sorts of demands; they tend to forget that these stories will happen to every government.

Back in 2012 the opposition parties were quick to demand that the Conservative minister appear before a committee to answer questions on her spending and travel arrangements… what goes around comes around.

Perhaps Bob Rae when he was the Interim Leader of the Liberals said it best:

“It's ridiculous to think that ministers get themselves in these positions where they think this is what they are entitled to, it's all wrong," (Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae on Bev Oda’s expenses April 24, 2012)

 

 

 

Thursday
Jul212016

Open and Accountable- not this government with Phoenix

If you know someone in the Public Service or someone who has recently retired from the government- chances are you know someone who hasn’t been paid or who isn’t receiving the pay and benefits that they are supposed to be getting. We all have friends in that situation.

Stop and think for a minute about the impact on them personally or on their families.

 -You can’t pay your bills or mortgage
 -Your credit rating which will impact you for years to come will suffer
 -You can’t get welfare or EI because you have a job
 -For those who have been let go from positions in the government, if you can’t get your Record of  
  Employment, you can’t apply for EI
 -If you have retired you are missing your main source of income
 -Many are waiting for their severance package- that is the income they need to transition to their next job

The payroll issue is much broader than the examples above and impacts some 80,000 people- that's a lot of workers, that is a lot of families.

Passing the buck is what politicians of all stripes are famous for doing and both Scott Brison and Prime Minister Trudeau are pretty good at it when it comes to the PHOENIX payroll issue.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the ongoing problem with the Phoenix pay system that has affected tens of thousands of government workers "is an unacceptable situation" inherited from the former Conservative government.” (CBC News)

Really? The election was when? You have been in power nine months- take some responsibility for the mess that was rolled out under your watch, not under the Conservatives, in February of this year.

Your government was warned in February that there were significant problems, but you kept rolling out the same flawed system month after month.

How about telling the media how many senior level management types are impacted (if any). Tell us how many Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers across the government aren’t getting paid.

“Trudeau said he has tasked the clerk of the Privy Council to oversee efforts to fix the system. Asked whether anyone will be held accountable for the system's problems, Trudeau said the government is right now focusing on addressing the problems first.” (CBC News)

Trudeau claims to be open and accountable so tell us this: On what date (yes the exact date) did you ask the Clerk to do this?

You claim to run an open government, how about releasing all of the memos since the election, that were sent to yourself, the minister in charge, the Deputy Minister and your Chief of Staff about PHOENIX problems. Don’t the public and the public servants impacted have a right to know the real timeline?

Trudeau said "There will be time to talk about lessons learned down the road, but we are taking this very, very seriously and ensuring that people get the support and the pay that they are owed." (CBC News)

We can all read between the lines of that bafflegab. In other words no one at a senior level will pay a price for this fiasco. It will be shunted off to some internal senior level committee which will consult with themselves and come to the conclusion that no one was responsible and these issues could not have been anticipated.

Just how serious are you? Would any of your senior managers (Deputy Minister’s and Assistant Deputy Ministers) still have a job if they were working in the private sector and 80,000 workers were having pay problems? These folks need to be fired, reassigned or demoted.

 

Thursday
Jul072016

Alberta Bound

Jason Kenney’s decision to head back to Alberta puts to rest all of the chatter and speculation as to whether or not he would run for the federal leadership.

I wish him well in this latest endeavor. I was fortunate to work quite closely with him over the years when I was in charge of Question Period. He was formidable in QP both from a strategic sense and in his delivery of his questions. Many times I never gave Jason a written question, but he was our “clean up” guy, IE he would be up somewhere around the third round of questions and he would make up his own question based on the answers he had heard from Liberal ministers. It wasn’t unusual to see Jason’s question featured on the news instead of Harpers.

It will open up the Conservative leadership race a bit and it will be interesting to see if any new contenders step forward. There are still a few big names out there and no one can blame them for wanting to take their time before announcing yea or nay. I have worked for five different leaders and I have seen how challenging that leadership role can be especially when the party is in the opposition role and out of government. Trying to rebuild the party’s morale, platform and contend with all of the personalities and egos in caucus is not something most people would enjoy doing and it requires a very special dedication to the task.

I wish Jason much success and I think I can safely say Alberta politics will capture a lot of our attention over the next few months.