Jack Layton’s First and Lasting Impression

It was a cold night in April as I strolled the streets of Ottawa. It was after 11pm and I was still exploring the city. Unable to tear myself away from Ottawa’s sights and sounds for the warmth of my hotel room, I turned a corner and ran into Jack Layton.

He was slowly unlocking his bike from a street post a few blocks down from the Hill. I was photo-blogging the trip and although Jack had never received my personal vote I thought the opportunity was too good to pass up. I asked for a photo of him and his bike as we began to talk.

Shortly after the photo was taken I walked with Jack a few blocks down, further away from the Hill. We talked politics and specifically about the speaker of the house.

“He’s a great choice but that’s one less seat for us.” Jack laughed as I suggested Bill Blakie as a candidate for the next speaker of the house. Prime Minister Stephen Harper had just started his minority government at the time.

We talked for what seemed like hours, but in reality it was only minutes. Jack was open to conversation on issues from all sides of the spectrum, and kind with his conversation.

I didn’t fully realize it at the time but Jack taught me something that night through his actions. While so much of the political divide is drawn with partisan lines that run deep, the truly thoughtful politician will listen, think and speak with a respect that is deserving of each other as individual human beings. While Jack and I would never agree on all issues and their solutions, I cannot agree more with his ability to be a leader who served respect as he would like it in return.

That night we shook hands and thanked each other for the conversation. Jack and I turned and walked separate directions and it wasn’t until today after learning of his passing that I realized the directions we walked in weren’t all that different after all.

Rest in peace Jack.

Michaëlle Jean Disappears Royally

Who hasn’t had that job where you don’t like what you have to represent, but it’s your primary responsibility to do so (with an ear to ear smile).

Michaëlle Jean is a glowing example of that role apparently. With the Queen on Canadian soil, it’s her job to receive the visitors and host the foreign state representatives. The problem is Michaëlle Jean isn’t doing that job very well. She did receive the Queen on the east coast when she landed, but since has been pulling a Casper on the remaining (short) visit.

Where in the world is Michaëlle Jean? China?

She’s doing important work over there (we think). but more important than showing the Queen our nation, strong and free? We don’t think so.

MP and Senate Expenses Go Under the Microscope

Trust us, it’s only $533 million a year and we’re responsible representatives that need that money in order to help recognize and understand your needs as constituents.

The collective push back from MPs and senators to have their annual expenses audited was summed up in the face of Jay Hill yesterday as he and Sheila Fraser, the auditor general, approached a press conference in Ottawa. Almost as notable as Jay Hill’s expression was the distance he (physically) kept from Fraser as though she had something contagious to pass on. The only sickness in the air of the hill is one surrounding this issue of expenses and audits.

In the end Fraser won the contest to have a proper audit done on the MP and Senators expenses. She doesn’t seemed thrilled to finally get the opportunity to do what she’s been asking to do for weeks now, primarily because she’s an accountant and never looks thrilled and she knows, as do the majority of the Canadian taxpayers, what is about to be found.

Piggish style spending. Unnecessary items and services. Completely un-related to the responsibilities of an MP or Senator.

After just completing a playoff hockey pool, we’re in the mood for another one, more aligned to our wonk tendencies this time. Anybody in for a pool on which MPs and Senators are the most offending after the audit? Total post-audit bill (cumulative) for your five individual picks wins. Let us know.

Loans Business Gets Political with Bill C-19

When you hear about current parliamentary bills lately it’s usually about copyright or pardon issues that have dominated the 6 o’clock news. While browsing the current tabled bills today we noticed one that seemed to slip under our wonk-dar and seems to have some potentially deep undercurrents.

Bill C-19 had it’s first reading on April 28th, 2010 and if passed will place limits on the amounts and conditions to political party loans from individuals and banks.

Political loans? Yes, parties depend on donations only to some degree, loans pick up the slack that donations leave behind. The bill in summary states that:

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to enact rules concerning loans, guarantees and suretyships with respect to registered parties, registered associations, candidates, leadership contestants and nomination contestants.

The rules they mention are the interesting part, they state that:

  • No individual is allowed to make a loan to a political party greater than their already established donation limits
  • No representative of a political party is allowed to borrow on behalf of the party aside from the registered agent

Reading further the interesting part states:

No person, other than a leadership campaign agent of a leadership contestant, shall accept contributions to the contestant’s leadership campaign or borrow money on the contestant’s behalf under section 405.5.

This means that only the registered campaign agent has the right to accept or borrow money on the leadership contestant’s behalf. We started to think about the why behind this statement and quickly remembered that this is a possible response to how the Liberals ran their last leadership campaign financials.

During the last Liberal Leadership campaign an estimated $1.12 million was owed from leadership candidates. Their deadline to pay the indidvual amounts is coming up on December 31, 2011. If the amounts are not paid back before then they will be looked upon as donations for 100% of the money, whether or not it was a loan.

We’ll continue to watch Bill C19.

Turning the Political Blog Machine Back On

After a year of activities that have diluted our wonkiness, we’re back.

What’s changed? Lots. Great ready Ottawa as we get on wonk on (again).

Canadian History Made with Parliament Prorogation

Canadian history has been made and future references for precedence set. The governor general has suspended parliament based on the request of a sitting prime minister.

This decision will undoubtedly fire the opposition in whichever form they take, coalition or individual parties, as they challenge Stephen Harper and his Conservatives on seemingly undemocratic and unfair reply to the situation. The simple fact of the matter is everything that has happened has been well within the rules of the parliamentary system we live under.

The fact that should upset Canadians most on each side of the partisan line is that each party has done what they did with only their own party’s best interest in mind. The interest of Canada is the furthest thing from the mind of anyone in this current prorogued parliament.

Stephen Harper’s Potential Demise: Proroguing Parliament

The Prime Minister will face the Governor General to realize his government’s future.

They both have options in the situation and need to leave emotion at the doorstep of 1 Sussex Drive. The GG is expected to either impose the coalition or call an election, she has a quiet third choice that the networks, especially the CBC, do not report. She can simply tell the PM to return to the house and revise the confidence motion for re-reading in the house.This option provides a calmer and less-expensive way to return the house to a functioning level again, leaving in tact the government that was just elected by Canadians 6-weeks ago.

Because the GG takes a great deal of creedence in the Prime Minister’s advice there is a fourth and very dangerous option for the current government. They could suggest a prorogue of the house (time out) in order to pass the expected confidence vote on Monday and return to the house on a timeline of their choosing. The problem and potential threat to them should they choose this option is the view from the rest of the nation. Simply packing up your toys and refusing to play is the worst thing Harper could suggest at this point. He and the party are currently enjoying a heightened level of support through empathy because of the potential slide into power by one of the least popular Liberal leaders in Canadian history (although very legal in our system of government). Just as the coalition is taking every possible opportunity at the risk of everything Canadians have valued in the past, Harper risks the support that came from the opposition to the coalition’s actions if he prorogues parliament.

Make no mistake about this political issue in the nation, although legal and although it stemmed from a mistake made by the PM it risks Canadian principles in every form. Stay tuned.

John McCallum Interim Liberal Leader

CTV is reporting that they have confirm John McCallum will take over as interim Liberal leader when Stephane Dion announces his departure on Monday. It may be a rumour spun from a rumour, but it seems likely at this point.

Conservative Minority – Is it any different?

The final results of the 2008 Federal Election are as follows:

  • Conservatives – 143 Seats
  • Liberals – 78 Seats
  • Bloc – 48 Seats
  • NDP – 37 Seats
  • Green Party – 0 Seats

It’s a larger minority but a minority by any other name is still the same. Each party leader made their reality acceptance speech as they swallowed the votes given to the them. They all made the promise to work together in parliament and to be more cordial towards one and other – good intentions, for now. The leaders speeches were not indicative of any set issue, aside from Haprer’s focus on the economy – a lesson learned this election for him. The other notable speech performance was Dion’s reaction to CTV placing a camera in his face and asking if he would tell them how he felt – he angryily denied them the answer saying that “the last people I want to speak with is CTV” (obviously reacting to the start stop interview they chose to air).

The parties to watch in this 40th parliament are the Liberals, NDP and Green.  This is because the Liberals will want a new leader as soon as the finances are present to do so and until that time they will still want to be seen as an active – important party in the house. They will achieve (or try) this by immediately talking to the other parties listed to find common ground to unite on and display a hard voice against Tory policy. The reason we threw Elizabeth May in there was because of her party’s results tonight. She has a financial debt to repay (as a party) but aside from that, she has no responsibility as a federal party. that means she will be wooed by the Liberals as a promised minister in a future Liberal government or possibly a senator as mentioned on Bourque.com days ago.

Has all that much changed?
Not really, the discourse of the house will decide just how much things have changed and we predict that the Harper Conservatives will play even more chicken with the house as they try to pass more bills in the face of the opposition. Other than those points, there is another Trudeau in the house, we’re down one Conservative-Liberal loudmouth and the Bloc prevented a western Prime Minister a majority. Things are pretty much the same as they always have been in our nation, strong and free (Steve, you can totally ditch the sweaters now).

Worst Voter Turn Out in History

The election tonight shows a total voter turn out of a dismal 58%. Just over half of Canadians decided to exercise their freedom to vote. Although there was no hard and chiseled issues to be passionate about, voting is an action that is a responsibility of all Canadians. This turn out shows that most Canadians do not take that responsibility seriously.

What type of issue will it take to energize the Canadian public to come out again at the rates once enjoyed at 64%? The apothetic voters of Canada have nothing to complain about should a party choose a path they disagree with.