POLITICKING: C51

The Government’s move to restrict expert testimony  on anti-terrorist bill C 51 to three days in committee confirms my suspicions that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may call an election before summer instead of waiting for the fall election as provided by law.

The stars are aligned. He will present a balanced budget in April before the impact of oil lower prices impacts government revenues later this year. The economy is still ticking over. The public generally supports stronger anti-terrorist measures and the Opposition’s plans to call up to 50 witnesses, including four former prime ministers and seven former Supreme Court judges looks like foot dragging in the face of real or perceived threats to the  Canadian public.

So do the math. Fast track C 51 through the House and the subservient Senate, bring in the post Easter budget, add the mandatory budget debate and drop the writ for an election in June.  And  relieved Canadians have a summer free of political rhetoric!

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POLITICKING: First Time Voter

Z –not her real name–is a first time voter, turning 18 in time to vote in the October 19 federal election. Enrolled as a first year student at Simon Fraser University, she watched the August 6 leaders’ debate on TV in an informal focus group in my Saturna Island living room. Asked for her impressions of each leader, Z found Justin Trudeau “belligerent”, Stephen Harper “better than expected”, Tom Mulcair  disappointing, changing positions  “like a windshield-wiper” and Elizabeth May–our MP in Saanich Gulf Islands–engaging.

A refreshing perspective from a bright and beautiful young woman who pays attention to politics.(Yes, a sexist remark !)The others gave a grudging thumbs up to Harper and Trudeau and thumbs down to Mulcair. Message to Mulcair: Stop waffling. Stay on message!

And to May, your supporters love you!

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POLITICKING: Flora MacDonald

Former Tory cabinet minister Flora MacDonald would be delighted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper call the federal election on the day of her funeral. She was a formidable campaigner. In  1961 for Conservative candidate Margaret May Macdonald, widow of the sitting MP, she sometimes gave speeches  in place of the shy Margaret since, she told me, nobody in the PEI audience knew the difference.

I was equally shy in my first campaign in Vancouver Centre, horrified that I was expected to accost perfect strangers in shopping malls, so Flora came west to teach me campaign techniques. Dragging me along behind her, she would  beam at people and say:”I want you to meet your Conservative  candidate in Vancouver Centre.” People beamed back. Everybody knew Flora.

When she went back to her Kingston riding, my volunteers and I went to the busiest street corner in the riding. For my first attempt, I chose an elderly lady with curly grey hair and a cane who was crossing the street. When she reached the curb I stuck out my hand and said bravely:” I’m Pat Carney, your Conservative candidate and I need your vote.”

The benign -looking senior drew back and snapped viciously: “I would rather my hand withered and dropped off before shaking hands with a Conservative” and walked away. Stunned, I put my shunned hand back in my pocket. But I did learn to enjoy campaigning and was elected twice in the riding before retiring.  (Adapted from my memoir Trade Secrets, Key Porter)

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POLITICKING: Friend or Enemy?

With “friends” like former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, current contender Justin Trudeau doesn’t need enemies. Chretien uses his well reasoned opposition to Stephen Harper’s decision to send Canadian fighter aircraft to fight ISIS in Iraq as “support” for Justin Trudeau’s position on the issue.

But what position? Justin doesn’t have one, relying on his caucus colleagues to present their own, confusing Canadians.
Drawing on his own popular decision to oppose the George Bush war on Iraq in the past, Chretien argues that Harper’s move to send a few aircraft and support staff to participate in the US –led air war strikes against the Islamic State is “marginal” at best. Many Canadians, including myself, would agree.

Instead, Chretien proposes a major humanitarian effort by Canada, absorbing 50,000 refugees from the war zone and committing $100 million to restock the rapidly depleting food sources available to feed the thousands fleeing the conflict. Again, many Canadians would applaud this alternative to military action.

But by stating he supports Justin’s “position”, is Chretien saddling the new Liberal leader with a program that would bring its own problems of processing, transporting and resettling thousands of refugees to Canada, and ensuring that major new funding would achieve the elusive objective of feeding the hungry?

Poor Justin. He can’t say no, and he can’t say yes. But he better say something. Soon.

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POLITICKING: SENATE BASHING April 13, 2015

That accused plagiarist, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente doesn’t like the Senate. She thinks it is a nuisance. Writing about the Mike Duffy trial recently she opines: “Maybe this peanut- sized scandal will give us an excuse to hog-tie and horn-swoggle the lot of them (senators) so they can do no further harm.”

Wente’s ludicrous comment is just one example of the hysteria–defined in my Oxford dictionary as “wild uncontrollable emotion or excitement”–of the media coverage of the trial of former media star Senator Mike Duffy, who in court facing 31 criminal charges associated with expense claims he has filed since he was appointed to the Red Chamber in what CBC’s Evan Solomon claims is “the trial of the century.”

Never mind that most Senators  are going about their business, correcting errors in legislation, serving on committees and following up on complaints and issues that MP’s are too busy to deal with and filing their travel expenses  as defined by Treasury Board without incident or media coverage. All Senators, according to the media, are patronage pigs lining their pockets with taxpayers’ money.

Let’s turn the tables here.

In September 2012,Wente was accused of committing plagiarism- -defined by my  Oxford dictionary as “to take or use another’s thoughts or writings etc as one’s own”– by lifting quotes and rewording passages from published sources without credit. The Globe and Mail’s public editor addressed the allegations, conceding that “there appears to be some truth to the accusations but not on every charge,” according to Wikipedia.

Curiously I have been unable to find any evidence that politicians and commentators at the time subsequently labeled  all members of the Fourth Estate as ” plagiarists” who were unworthy of the public trust and who should be  “hog-tied and horn-swoggled”  so they can do no public harm. To do so would be as ludicrous as Wente’s  hyperbole.

And no media commentator has rushed to point out that both Duffy and television host Sen Pamela Wallin, whose expenses are also being investigated by the RCMP are products of their media culture, not a political one. Are you listening, Don Martin?

More seriously, no commentator, in my view, has reported that a Senator’s prime role, enshrined in our Constitution, is to represent his/her region in order to represent its unique interests, or to protect those interests from the unruly majority in the House of Commons. That is why Senators must be residents of that region so that they are more likely to identify regional needs and views.

Oxford defines “residence” as “place where one resides.”

There may be ways to improve Senate rules and regulations hamstringing senators’ ability to represent their region’s interests.  In the meantime, as a proud westerner I invite Wente to show off  her hog-tying and horn-swoggling skills. That would be worth the price of a ticket.

Pat Carney

 

 

 

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Pat Carney’s Politicking

POLITICKING: LONELY AT THE TOP

May 21, 2013
So Prime Minister Harper told his caucus Tuesday that anyone who planned to use public office for private gain should leave the room NOW. What did he expect? Hon Members and Senators to rise in their seats in the presence of the media and exit the caucus room? The people who triggered this crisis weren’t in the room, including his former cheque-dispensing former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright who resigned on the weekend (as I predicted on Facebook) nor former Tory senators Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy, who are not seasoned politicians but professional journalists. Note by tradition the Senate usually has a “media Senator”, representing the Fourth Estate. That position is currently filled by the capable Sen. Joan Fraser, former editor of the Montreal Gazette.
It was more theatre than power politics. But what else could the PM say, now that machinery of government has kicked in, including ethics commissioners, Senate committees, Sen. James Cowan’s pending motion of privilege that the Senate’s own procedures have been thwarted by the PMO. The PM’s appointment of long time aide Ray Novak, a sweet guy but more of an executive assistant/principal secretary, than whip cracking Chief of Staff, shows Harper has no one else on his extensive PMO staff he can trust to do the crucial top job.

 

POLITICKING: TUESDAY’S CAUCUS

May 20, 2013
At every Conservative caucus, the top Parliamentary brass sits at a long table in a Centre Block committee room facing the MP’s and Senators to review government business and hear from the hustings. They include the Government House leader, the Whip, the caucus Chair, the Prime Minister and the Government House Leader in the Senate, Marjorie LeBreton, who has the PM’s ear. Literally. While others discuss the legislative agenda, LeBreton drones nonstop into the PM’s left ear. He listens, nodding, with a half smile.
He won’t be smiling Tuesday. He will be angry, facing a bewildered caucus in collective pain. And he will blame Sen. LeBreton. Harper doesn’t much care for the Senate (no PM does) but he does expect the Senate leader to pass his legislation and keep him out of trouble. And LeBreton has survived under several Tory leaders by doing exactly what The Boss ordered. No freelancing. So what did The Boss order? Look for Sen. LeBreton to be replaced in the summer cabinet shuffle.

 

 

POLITICKING:

May 17, 2013

Senator Pamela Wallin has recused herself from more than the Conservative caucus. When she sits as an Independent Senator, she gives up her Tory membership on the influential Senate Committee on National Security and Defense Committee, which she chaired, and the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee and Veteran Affairs. Senators who chair committees receive extra
pay. Independents have limited access to committee membership and require consent of committee members for access to other committees. Let’s see what happens, since it will show if the Conservative Senators blackball her!

 

POLITICKING:

May 16, 2013

Yes Prime Minister Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright SHOULD resign, but not just for giving a personal cheque for $90,000 to disgraced Conservative Senator Mike Duffy. He should leave because he showed poor political judgment in not telling his boss, who relies on his chief political aide to keep him in touch with the real world. Consider: the C of S screens whom the PM sees, what he does, ,which cabinet ministers have access to the third floor corner office in Centre Block and along with the Privy Council, which cabinet documents he reads and policy options he considers. I have seen a C of S herd a Prime Minister into a corner with the skill of a sheep dock moving a flock in a certain direction. Nigel Wright has put his Harper at risk. Look for Nigel to move back to Bay Street well before the next election.

 

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