Entries from January 2008 ↓

So much for that

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Ten days ago, I think it was, I took a dive after our winter national caucus meeting and demurred on having an election. Canadians are freaked out about the economy, I said to a few cameras, so we should get back to the House of Commons, roll up our sleeves, and see what we can all do together. Let’s brush aside this election talk, and focus on what our citizens need.

Now, let me tell you about QP. I finally got on for my question on Thursday (I had to wash Ralph Goodale’s office walls and polish the brass buttons on his blazer) and wanted to know three things from Jim Flaherty: (1) How can the Americans cut interest rates twice and create a giant stimulus package for 300 million people in seven days, and we can’t do squat, (2) what plan do we have, and (3) when is the budget that will deliver it?

In case you are normal, and did not watch Parliament today, I’ll brief you on what happened. I asked my question to Jim Flaherty, the finance minister, who pretended to be reading. Then, with a smirk, House Leader Peter van Loan stood and said I only care about one job – mine – and so I should resign and run in a by-election. I guess that answer makes sense in his own private world.

So, I tried again. Flaherty still pretended. Van Loan stood, and amid a cacophony of noise – taunts from the Tories and jeers from the Liberals – gave the same stupid response. My colleagues jumped up and supported me. The Conservatives hooted and stomped. Flaherty refused to make eye contact. The prime minister carried a thin smile.

At the end of this little piece of theatre, no laid-off Canadian knew when the budget will be, so they had no idea when their government might help them. No family, now worried about their RRSPs, their home equity or the recession knocking on our door, had any assurance the feds even care. Instead they heard a hepped-up political maniac talking about inane partisan maneuvering while the finance minister ducked his job and refused to be accountable.

I know Mr. Flaherty is a big disappointment. I had such high hopes, too. But this is now the big leagues.

A global slowdown is taking place. The US situation is deteriorating daily. On Wednesday the CEO of the TD Bank warned of tough days ahead, and job losses mount daily. This week alone, Dell Computer snuffed out the occupations of 2,100 Canadian workers, while another mill went silent in a one-mill town. Mortgage costs are going up. The real estate slowdown has started eating badly into suburban markets. Stock markets have eroded pensions and retirement savings. And, shockingly, our government has spent the surplus, created the most bloated budgets ever, talked up the dollar, stiffed income trust investors and slashed the wrong tax.

I was willing to extend a hand to this finance minister. Give him a chance. See what he was made of in a moment of national want.

Now I know. We need an election.

Let me count the ways…

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Yes, the pictures of the redecorated Government Lobby in the House of Commons which were posted here yesterday are gone. Gone is Mr. Harper with a jet plane. With hockey players. With troops. With firefighters. With heads of state. With geographical landmarks. With adoring Canadians. All gone.

Like the photos of past Conservative prime ministers, which the Harper Forces stripped from the historic Parliamentary room in order to put up two dozen pictures of the same man, the dear leader – gone, gone, gone.

So, who censored this blog and requested the offending material be obliterated? I did. And there’s a good reason. You should know.

If the pictures remained here, I believe that some blameless, hard-working employees of the House of Commons would be disciplined, or worse. This could be the outcome of complaints made against them by the Government of Canada, for allegedly allowing material which was published here to have been photographed. This situation was made known to me just before QP today, presumably after Conservative officials had been in touch with their counterparts in the Liberal Party.

Just to be clear, no political colleague of mine ordered the pictures off this blog. No Harper official has gone on record asking for it, either. But by using the threat of professional injury to Commons security personnel, unless it happened, that outcome has taken place.

Vanity was just a lark, of course. Bullying is indefensible.

Intimidation and censorship? Let me count the ways…

Caucus combat?

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Without giving up party secrets, I’d say it’s likely the Liberal National Caucus meeting Wednesday morning will be fought over the issue of Afghanistan. The Manley Report recommends that Canada stay there for an indefinite period of time (sort of), so long as we get some help. The NDP and BQ want us out. Stephane Dion’s position, oft-repeated, is that we should have no combat role after this time next year.

The Harper Conservatives want an open-ended mission, and are doing what right-wing governments across the world do, which is to embrace nationalism, patriotism and a dollop of militarism. Our troops, of course, think they’re doing work that needs to be done. Our NATO allies agree, and love watching us do it. The Americans are sending reinforcements, but only for seven months.

If the Manley Report is endorsed by Parliament, it will only be with Dion’s help. Yet my morning newspaper tells me my colleagues are bitterly divided over what course of action to take. As usual, that is probably overstated and purposefully divisive. But, who knows? I’m latching up the Velcro on my flak jacket at this moment, as I head into the caucus room.

Meanwhile, the fine contributors to this blog have a duty to advise us vacillating, weather-vane politicians. So, let’s have it. I’ll ensure my colleagues hear what you have to say.

Manley, or no? Or, just manly?