Archive for category Senate
If you haven’t tuned into the Duffy trial over the past week, than you are living under a rock, or you’re missing one of the best political dramas in Canadian history. The cross examination of Nigel Wright in Senator Mike Duffy’s trial over inappropriate expenses, is becoming quite interesting to many Canadians. Canada seems to be tuned into this political drama playing out in an Ottawa court room in droves, albeit in the middle of the summer when most tune out politics. CBC saw ratings rise to record levels during the cross examination last week in its At Issue political panel, and the political talk show Power and Politics:
— Peter Mansbridge (@petermansbridge) August 14, 2015
On top of this, latest poll numbers put the Conservatives in third place behind the NDP. What all of this is suggesting is that Canadians are now tuned in big time to the trail and Wright’s testimony. I’ve been following this closely as well on Twitter, where I’ve been commenting on the testimony on a daily basis.
Nigel Wright was Harper’s chief of staff. The main job for the chief of staff of the prime minister is to protect the prime minister politically. For those of you who have ever watched House of Cards, Wright’s responsibilities were similar too Michael Kelly’s character Doug Stamper. For those of you not familiar with House of Cards, Wright was the go-to man for the Prime Minister to make political problems go away, and with his testimony, he’s unintentionally creating more problems for the Conservative party than he is deflecting them away from the Prime Minister.
The media is doing a very good job at simplifying a very complicated web of deception, spun by the Prime Minister’s staff to fend off questions on Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses. Duffy did a lot of fund raising for the Conservative party over the years and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) felt that this expense scandal the media uncovered regarding Senator Duffy, would damage the Conservative brand, thus the prime minister. Nigel Wright who was then the Prime Minister Harper’s chief of staff was in charge of making Duffy go away quietly.
While a lot of political pundits are focusing on what the Prime Minister knew and when regarding a payment to Duffy by Wright, my main interest is that several ministers including my own (then house leader) Peter Van Loan were fed “public relations” lines to say in the media and the house of commons by the PMO regarding Duffy re-paying his own expenses which were utterly false. It turns out that the PMO knew about Wright’s payment to Duffy, all while scripting a false and misleading response that Duffy paid his own expenses for Ministers to try and control the problem politically.
Why does all of this matter? The e-mail threads submitted into evidence show a deliberate attempt by Wright and PMO staff (some of which are handling Harper’s election campaign currently) to mislead Canadians on Duffy’s expenses to try and protect the Conservative party. They also point to the PMO interfering with what is supposed to be an independent Senate audit of Senator’s expenses. If the PMO is deliberately misleading Canadians to protect their own brand, are we in a huge deficit right now, and not on a balanced budget? What else has the PMO been guilty of misleading Canadians on, and are we getting any truthful information on government policy and if it’s working or not? We could be in the dark quite a bit on a lot of important policy that is steering the economic, and social engine of the country as a result of a culture of deceit and almost near total control over the party and independent processes that seems very well established in the PMO.
If you want to follow this past weeks events regarding Wright’s testimony a good place to start is Evan Solomon’s new podcast Everything is Political which aired on August 13th. Friday August 14ths testimony is summed up nicely here
As the Duffy trial winds it’s way through the election campaign, more testimony is expected from people in the inner circle of the Conservative party. With this many people tuned into Wright’s testimony, this will be hard for the Conservatives to simply use plausible deniability tactics at a time when even their own base is questioning the ethics of the party and their poll numbers dropping.
Starting today I’m going to be doing up a Friday Political Week In Review (PWIR) posts throughout the campaign. The summer is going to be a bit slow regarding political news, but these posts come fall will be beneficial to my readers to catch up on the busy election campaign and political news.
In this weeks post:
- The Canadian Senate extends middle finger to Canadian tax payers three times
- Becoming an art dealer is not okay with CBC political journalism ethics, however intentionally misleading Canadians in newscasts for political gain is ethical
- Prime Minister Harper throws poutine at Russian frigates, than refuses to ask the Pope for forgiveness
- Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose outraged by Supreme Court Decision to list pot as a “drug”
- Busy week in Canadian politics so lets get to it. If you are a Liberal than you are definitely not where you want to be.
On Tuesday the Auditor General released his findings regarding the senate expenses. 9 Senators have been referred to the RCMP for questionable expenses and possible fraud charges. Also on Tuesday the Senate voted approval on the controversial anti-terror legislation bill c51 after widespread public opposition. The final vote count Yay, 44. Nay, 28. Abstentions, 0 which passed with applause from Conservative senators. The final slap in the face to Canadian tax payers is that the Senate is going to court on the public dime to try and block key details about Senator’s residencies.
The CBC this week announced that it has fired political talk show host Evan Solomon. Solomon was a hard hitting political journalist and hosted “Power and Politics”. Solomon was let go after a Toronto Star investigation found evidence that Solomon was using his position to sell art on the side, in which CBC executives state was against ethical standards. Meanwhile CBC’s internal e-mails point to chief anchor Peter Mansbridge being one of the masterminds behind a collaborative effort among major broadcasters to intentionally mislead Canadians back in the fall of 2014 on Canadian law to stop political attack ads. Mansbridge could end up facing criminal charges as a result, and is still employed by the CBC.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week stood on the deck of Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton and started yelling at passing Russian warships about Russia’s military advances in Ukraine. Later Harper met with Pope Francis and refused to ask the pope to address the truth and reconciliation report in which Canadian Aboriginals were abused at Catholic schools. A key recommendation in that report was to get the Pope to recognize what happened and for the church to ask for forgiveness.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled this week that it is unconstitutional for medical pot users to be forced to smoke the drug. Smoking the drug (the court found) is detrimental to the health of medical pot users. Legal dispensaries will now be able to sell “baked goods” such as brownies, cookies for those who need the medicinal uses of pot rather than to just smoke it. In a press conference Health Minister Rona Ambrose slammed the Supreme Court decision stating pot was not an authorized drug from Health Canada and that the Courts should have no say on what a “drug” is. That decision Ambrose said, “should be up to Health Canada to decide.”
Latest Ekos poll results now show NDP starting to get a commanding lead at the expense of the Liberal and Conservative position on the new anti-terror bill. The NDP is now at 34%, Conservatives 27%, and the Liberals 23% (which is getting close to Stephane Dion territory which is pretty low for the Liberals). I had an interesting twitter conversation about the new anti-terror bill and the Liberal position on it with Liberal MP Wayne Easter (who sat in the House of Commons committee on this bill and is probably one of the masterminds of the Liberal position behind it). The full conversation is here.
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Well folks the order of accountability seems to be the theme today, so I have to start by saying I was wrong. I was wrong to believe in an institution that clearly can’t see past their own crackers, and gourmet meals. I was wrong to have hope that for once the red chamber would rise above the house of commons and display sober second thought. I was wrong to believe that the Senate is looking to redeem itself from scandal, and I was wrong to believe accountability and civil liberties remain a core principle of the Conservative caucus.
The Senate passed the anti-terror bill with NO amendments with thunderous applause from the Conservative senators. Final vote count: Yay, 44. Nay, 28. Abstentions, 0 It now receives royal assent, and is now the law of the land. Passing the anti-terror bill with no amendments means the Senate beleives (counter to experts that testified) this law is constitutional. More on the political fall out of the vote to come soon..
JUNE 9TH, 2015 UPDATE: SENATE JUST PASSED ANTI-TERROR BILL. MORE HERE
Green party leader Elizabeth May is calling on the Senate to delay the final vote on C51, stating:
“Tomorrow, Canadians will learn the details of the Auditor General’s report on Senate expenses. We will find that 30 Senators have filed inappropriate expense claims and nine have had their files referred to the RCMP. On the very same day, the Senate is also scheduled to vote on C-51 at third reading. The seconder of the bill in the Senate is under investigation by the RCMP and has resigned from the Conservative caucus. The eyes of Canadians will be on the Senate tomorrow. If, on the same day that we learn the details of the Senate’s culture of misusing public funds, the Senate votes for a bill as massive and controversial as C-51, the harm to the Senate’s reputation could be irreparable.”
On political talk shows, both the NDP and Conservatives have been in sync regarding their messaging on the Senate. Those lines consist of the Senate has to be dealt with in large part because it’s “an unelected body that keeps vetoing the will of parliament”. It’s possible that if the Senate votes down C51 tomorrow, that the Conservatives will start making noise about the Senate vetoing a national security bill in favor of the popular approach to scraping the bill, and that parliament (as a result of this important legislation not going through) is not currently operating on full cylinders. Steven Harper therefore could prorogue Parliament within a few days.
It could very well be that the Conservative caucus has given a directive to the Conservative senators to vote down the anti-terror bill. Politically this would try and take the wind out of the sails of the surging NDP. A summer election would be possible if the Conservatives are playing politics, banking low voter turn out to stop an NDP surge. This would go against Harper’s law on early election calls, but with the Conservatives trailing in the polls, anything is possible. This could all explain why the NDP and Conservative messaging has changed over the past weekend on the Senate, and May’s unwillingness to see the Senate vote on the anti-terror bill. The NDP seem ready and willing to bring an election on.
Regardless of all the politics of this, whatever the Senate decides to do at this point, will be extremely self-serving. The Senate has already been irreparably damaged by passing bills with known constitutional flaws, and rather than being the House of Common’s sober second thought, they have continually demonstrated contempt for their jobs by voting along party lines, and abusing the public purse. They should be fixing flaws in these bills, and respecting tax payers money. A delay on the new anti-terror bill, would only delay the election, not the public perception of the chamber. A delay would only serve to solidify the public’s perception of it.
Canadians don’t care about the politics of the new anti-terror bill. They want it stopped! If that means an early election as a result of the senate voting it down, than so be it. I’m ready to vote on the best party that protects my civil rights. Are you?
The Senate has moved the final vote on the controversial anti-terror bill to Tuesday at 5:30pm EST. Coincidentally that will be hours after the Auditor General’s report on Senate expenses is due out which will shake the nations confidence of the red chamber to its core. Go figure!
Canadians of all stripes have written into their senators expressing concern on this bill, myself included. I think on Tuesday it will become very clear to the Canadian public just how much the Senate cares about our public purse, let alone prior public opinion as a result of the Auditor General’s report. The Senate has already over the past year passed two bills; the cyber bullying bill and bill S4 which have tremendous constitutional and privacy issues attached to them. The Canadian public needs to keep this in mind come Tuesday’s vote of the new anti-terror bill (if the vote actually does take place).
Why the delay of the vote on the new anti-terror bill? Political optics are going to be critical for the Senate to try to control the messaging around this current expense crisis. What a perfect political opportunity it would be for the Senate to vote down the anti-terror bill and send it back to the house on consititional grounds with a lot of eyes on the Senate due to the expense report. Politically it would the perfect pivot off of the Auditor General’s expense report, to the vote down of the new anti-terror bill. This would essentially limit (or try too) the impact of the expense report, control the messaging though media headlines (although I doubt it will work that way), and try to show Canadians that indeed the red chamber is Canada’s sober second thought.
Traditionally, the Senate is supposed to reject legislation that is not constitutionally sound. Canadian senators have in very recent times neglected that duty, and are essentially lap dogs to their respected parties by voting on party lines, not on constitutional grounds. The Senate has passed bills over Harper’s reign that have been consistently shut down by the Supreme Court on constitutional issues. Canadians need to be very cautious if in fact the senate votes down the new anti-terror bill. If the Senate was legitimately concerned about public opinion, the bill would have not passed yesterday; instead the vote was delayed until hours after the public release of the Auditor General’s expense report.
At this stage in the game I think it wouldn’t be at all politically possible for the Senate to pass the anti-terror bill. Due to the constitutional issues attached to it, a vote for the bill will put the red chambers very existence into question. The NDP is the only party running on a platform of dealing with the senate, and passing the new anti-terror law would basically make case and point for the NDP on senate abolishment. If they are not our chamber of sober second thought in charge of up-holding constitutional law, and we continue to see legislation passed by the Senate that isn’t constitutionally sound, than why pay them to sit there if they are not doing their jobs and abusing the public purse?
With the bleed over to the NDP from both the Conservative and Liberal support of the new anti-terror bill in recent polls (most recent Ekos Poll show NDP now clearly leading nationwide) passage of the anti-terror bill in the senate would solidify the public’s perception of the red chamber and could possibly see the NDP numbers rise to majority status ahead of an election. So senators that would vote for the bill; the logic states they would be rightfully voting themselves out of a job.
If all it takes is an Auditor General’s report on senators expenses for these twits in the red chamber to care about public opinion and our constitutional rights, than maybe we should have the Auditor General look into the expenses of House of Commons MPs annually starting with the Conservatives and the Liberals. Maybe then would we end up getting law that isn’t consistently shot down by our courts on constitutional grounds, and public opinion would matter at least once a year instead of a few months before MPs start begging on wounded knee for our votes.
Sure senate reform, or abolishment is a must (I’m for both), but those MPs who criticize the senate now should also be open to their own expenses being audited as well. It’s not just the senate that is sworn to uphold her majesty’s law and constitution; it’s those who write the laws, and vote in the House of Commons that hold that ultimate responsibility to which they are held accountable by the public every four to five years.
To put it all into blunt perspective, if in fact on Tuesday the Senate does vote down the new anti-terror bill, it’s an attempt to save their own asses, not due to public concern or pressure. Either way, the Senate needs to be dealt with by all political parties in election platforms. I’ll be looking for the party that goes that one step further and starts to put fiscal accountability on MPs in their political platforms.
There is going to be a lot of spin by a lot of groups that opposed this bill, and have being fighting the good fight against it. If in fact that spin turns into the Senate caring about public opinion, than we continue to feed that spoiled child who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and will do almost anything to get away with it. Instead these groups should take this opportunity to work with the Senate to ensure going forward, the public has an open line of communication with their senators, and start crowd sourcing on ideas to senate reform and how to make the red chamber more accountable to the public it serves, or abolish it.
The Conservatives new anti-terror bill C-51 was supposed to get it’s final stamp of approval by the Senate today. It looks like that vote has been delayed until Tuesday according to Openmedia:
— OpenMedia.ca (@OpenMedia_ca) June 4, 2015
While it would be nice to believe that pressure from the Canadian public is responsible for this delay, the most likely cause is due to the Senate leadership coming under direct attack by the Auditor General over senate expenses. The Auditor General’s full English report over Senate expenses will be released Tuesday and is expected to release a political bombshell on the red chamber. The full report will probably be leaked to media at some point this weekend, making another delay in voting for C-51 very possible.
With the Senate now in full crisis mode, and optics of the red chamber coming under the public microscope, it could be entirely possible that the senate may actually keep delaying the vote on C-51 until government breaks for the summer. In which case, the election writ will drop when MP’s return, and that would leave the new anti-terror bill dead on the order paper.
More to come soon….
The latest polling numbers from EKOS are suggesting that the NDP is surging and the federal political race is now a statistical tie between all three parties.
The major media networks are still refusing to acknowledge the backlash against the Liberal and Conservative parties due to their support for the new anti-terror bill. These numbers are quite clear on how unpopular the anti-terror bill is with voters across the political spectrum. Huffington Post’s Althia Raj on the latest poll:
In a preliminary poll, EKOS said the NDP seemed to be gaining strength from college and university educated Canadians voters who played a critical factor in the Alberta election.
College and University educated Canadians typically vote Liberal. A large portion of that group have been extremely vocal in opposition to the Conservative’s new anti-terror bill (which the Liberal party supported) over the past few weeks, which corresponds to the surge shown in this latest poll.
To further illustrate this point the National Posted stated:
The sharp uptake in the poll by the NDP is mirrored by a sudden drop in support for the Conservatives and Liberals, who have fought for the lead since Trudeau took the party’s reins.
These latest poll numbers should not only be of concern to the Liberals and Conservatives regarding the unpopular anti-terror bill, but they also serve notice to the Senate where the new anti-terror bill is currently being debated. If this trend continues (and is likely too if the Senate passes the new anti-terror bill) Canadians will put the constitutionality of the red chamber into question in a big way. The NDP have been very public about their policy to abolish the Senate, and are willing to open up the constitution and bring the Provinces in to do just that.
The Senate is supposed to be the “sober second thought” for parliament. This means above everything, the Senate’s job is to protect the constitutional rights of Canadians in legislation. The Senate in recent times has been neglecting this duty by passing Conservative legislation that is being constantly shut down by the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds. It will be an easy sell to the Canadian public and those voters who are moving from the Conservative and Liberal base to the NDP, that the Senate isn’t doing its job to protect the rights of Canadians if they pass the new anti-terror bill. The NDP can make the case very strongly with the new anti-terror bill that we shouldn’t use tax payers money to allow anyone to sit in this chamber, if their not doing their constitutional jobs.