Thursday, March 20, 2014

NDP using taxpayers' money to fund TWO war rooms in Quebec

The NDP have established a taxpayer-funded beachhead in Montreal, where as many as a dozen NDP staffers work.  The NDP officially call it Thomas Mulcair's "satellite office."

Update: and there's a second office, in Quebec City, that operates as a "decentralized" two-person staff paid for by you and me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Liberal Party response on Zach Paikin

Here's the response from the Liberal Party of Canada on Zach Paikin's announcement:

Received March 19, 2014:

"Mr. Trudeau has publicly committed to holding open nominations across the country and in all 338 ridings. Let us be clear, open nominations allow local community members, and not the Leader, to choose the candidate. This does not, however, mean that everyone is entitled to be a Liberal candidate, regardless of what they do or how they or their campaign teams behave, especially with volunteers. The green light process, run by each province or territories' co-chairs, is seized with ensuring a fair process for all contestants for nomination. We are focused on building a new kind of party - one that works together in collegiality and with respect.

In the case of Zach Paikin, the decision to file his papers to run to be a contestant in a nomination is ultimately his to make."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Liberal candidate resigns due to Trudeau's broken promises

Zach Paikin has dropped out as a Liberal candidate in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas as a result of Justin Trudeau's broken promises.

Paikin complained Trudeau was trampling on Canada's founding principles by proclaiming the Liberal nomination process would be open and transparent, only to unilaterally deny candidates.

Paikin was the star candidate for National Policy Chair at the 2012 Liberal convention, where his ambition as a (then) 20 year-old gained national attention.

Update March 20, 2014: The Trinity-Spadina Liberal EDA has also condemned Justin Trudeau for breaking his promise and meddling in nomination races.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Trudeau Liberals spend three times more on hospitality than Prime Minister's staff: expense reports

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald

Trudeau Liberals spend three times more on hospitality expenses - over $6100 per month - even as Liberals attack Conservative staffers’ occasional working lunches

It took almost a year since Justin Trudeau made the promise, but the Liberal expense disclosures are finally available.

However, the expenses raise many more questions about the Liberal’s hospitality expenses than they answer: namely, that they’re spending over $6100 in taxpayers' money every month on pizza, lunches, dinners, and staff meetings over coffee.

According to the Liberal website, between September and December 2013, Liberal Members of Parliament billed taxpayers a total of $24,575.80 on “hospitality” expenses.

However, this number is likely to be much higher: the almost $25,000 is based on the MPs who have actually reported their expenses in accordance with Trudeau’s instructions. Several MPs, such as Roger Cuzner, Chrystia Freeland, Ralph Goodale, Mark Garneau, and David McGuinty still have no hospitality expenses listed. In fact, McGuinty has absolutely no expenses listed.*

The most expensive Liberal MP is Lawrence MacAulay, who has billed taxpayers a total of $2181.07 in hospitality over four months.  His expenses include a $377.84 dinner “with elected officials” on September 16 and a $40 breakfast on September 28.  Both of these occurred when Parliament wasn't even sitting.

A close runner up is Emmanuel Dubourg who, although only being elected to Parliament in November, has already billed taxpayers for $1534.96 in hospitality.  That total includes a $50 “Christmas dinner” and a $1424 party to celebrate his swearing-in as an MP, paid for by Canadian taxpayers.

More questions arise from other members of the Liberal caucus.  For example, Carolyn Bennett’s $155.45 lunch in Ottawa on September 19 when Parliament did not resume sitting until October 16.  Or what about her $65.31 dinner when she was back home in her Toronto riding on October 18?  Or what about Mauril Belanger’s $290.36 dinner on December 17, even though the House had already risen for the Christmas break?

One of the reasons these questions arise is because the disclosures are so light on details.  As the Canadian Taxpayers Federation quickly noted, many of the expenses that are posted are wholly insufficient – not much more than the date the expense was incurred, and maybe the odd name of the restaurant supporting where the expense was incurred.  This also assumes that we trust the Liberals to post everything thoroughly and accurately.

Of course, the disclosures also raise questions that will require further explanation.  Why are Canadians paying for MP's meals when they're not even in Ottawa or on MP duty?  Who was present at these taxpayer-funded dinners? Were their meals purchased by taxpayers on the MP’s bill?  What was discussed at these dinner meetings?

These expenses also expose the blatant hypocrisy over the Liberals’ criticism of Conservative staff lunches: just last week Liberal MP Gerry Byrne complained Conservatives were breaking Treasury Board policy by providing a working lunch to some staffers in the Prime Minister’s Office.  Meanwhile, Byrne billed taxpayers $135 to have lunch back home over Christmas break.  By Byrne's own words, the only way that would have been allowable was if it was a "working lunch."  Was it?

Surely if we can’t feed staff over the occasional working lunch, we shouldn’t be feeding MPs when they’re back home for Christmas.

If the Liberals keep spending taxpayers’ money on hospitality this way, they will surpass the Conservative staffers’ lunches over three years in a mere 10 months - a rate more than three times higher.  Critics complained Conservative staffers can make almost $180,000 per year but they bill taxpayers for their coffee and sandwiches.  Well, all of these Liberal MPs make $160,000 per year, yet they’re charging taxpayers for their coffee and their sandwich and it’s okay?  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

The Liberals’ disclosure of expenses is a step in the right direction, but right now they raise more questions than they answer.

*Update: On March 5, 2014, David McGuinty's office contacted the author to confirm that no expenses are listed because McGuinty does not incur travel or hospitality expenses.

Opposition parties need only look in the mirror for why closure and time allocation are used

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald and the Huffington Post

Opposition parties need only look in the mirror if they’re seriously wondering why “closure” and “time allocation” have increasingly been used in parliamentary affairs.

Of course, both are valid procedures that have existed for decades.  Closure requires that a question or debate “not be further adjourned” (that the item be closed) while time allocationallows for specific lengths of time to be set aside for the consideration of one or more stages of a public bill.”

In their most recent complaints, we’ve seen the NDP and Liberals claim they weren’t given enough time to debate the Fair Elections Act, the Act that will refocus Elections Canada’s mandate, provide better customer service, crack down on voter fraud, and impose tough new penalties on individuals found impersonating elections officials.

It’s obvious the bill needs to be passed relatively quickly if it is to be in effect for the October 2015 election.  But that doesn’t matter to the Opposition parties – all they complain about is wanting more time to study the bill and hear from experts, more time to make comments, and more time to debate.  It wouldn’t matter if they were given 10 days or 10 months – they’d want more.  They succeed by wanting more.

Their demands and the inevitable filibuster are thus reduced to a way of circumventing democracy.  The federal Conservatives were given a majority mandate by the Canadian people in the 2011 federal election.  That majority gives the government the right to implement its agenda.  The Opposition plays a role in asking questions and holding the government to account, but it has no right to delay or deny the will of the Canadian people.

Who eventually wins is not surprising.  Majority governments have the numbers and legitimacy to implement their policies. Save for a few exceptional cases, the government will eventually prevail.

Filibusters only delay this inconvenient truth.  The government, therefore, responds by limiting the opportunity for filibusters.

One of the first NDP filibusters as Official Opposition was the NDP filibuster of Bill C-6 – the bill that would restore Canada Post services.  The NDP filibustered for 58 hours straight before – surprise surprise – Canada Post went back to work.

Then there was the 2012-2013 budget.  The NDP filibustered by proposing so many amendments that voting took over 24 hours non-stop.  And this was compounded as NDP members were ordered to stand up as slow as possible to have their vote counted, sometimes finishing a conversation with a neighbour or checking their phone one more time before standing up.

Then there were two – two – NDP filibusters in June 2012 on committee hearings regarding F35 costs.

Then there was the filibuster of the second half of the 2012-2013 budget.  But the NDP took it easy this time – only proposing a mere 1600 amendments.  Voting took about eight hours and, shockingly, the budget passed.

One of the most recent cases was the NDP filibustering of Bill C-377 – the bill on union transparency.  That bill, too, eventually passed the House of Commons, and is now at first reading in the Senate.

Which brings us to the latest example of the NDP’s affinity for filibustering and delaying: led by deputy leader David Christopherson, they’re filibustering The Fair Elections Act.

For an hour at a committee meeting Christopherson filibustered. (You can see the text of his rambling here.)  On the surface, Christopherson was upset his committee wasn’t going on a cross-Canada tour to hear what every single Canadian thought of the Fair Elections Act.  But that’s only the surface issue.  The committee waited for Christopherson to finish, and the majority disagreed.

Of course, with technology today there’s no reason experts could not appear via videoconference or why Canadians could not write their MPs with their support or concerns.  In fact, you could write your thoughts to every member of the committee right now, by mail, for free.

There’s also that small inconvenient truth that many of the organizations Christopherson wants to hear from – like Elections Canada and Democracy Watch – are headquartered here in Ottawa.

The Opposition succeeds by stalling, delaying, and circumventing the government’s agenda.  If they can delay a bill from being passed until at least May 2014 (as Christopherson proposed) or require that the government spends money by sending a committee across Canada, they’ve succeeded.  But it won’t work.

Christopherson filibustered for another two hours at the following committee meeting, but the House of Commons affirmed the committee’s decision to not tour across Canada. And once again the NDP have responded with their stand-up-as-slow-as-possible tactic.  NDP MP Craig Scott even told CBC interviewer Evan Solomon to “wait until Tuesday” to see the next trick up Christopherson’s sleeve.

At some point, the NDP has to learn that their filibustering tactics only result in further efforts to limit debate through closure and time allocation measures.  The NDP aren’t defending democracy by filibustering - they’re filibustering democracy.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Update: Non-Liberal Liberal Senators' expenses now available

As a follow up to this story, the expenses of the non-Liberal Liberal Senators are now available here.

Some MP's expenses, such as David McGuinty's, still remain blank. Why?