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Tuesday
May022017

Mister Wonderful Has Left The Building

Kevin O’Leary came, he looked around and he left- that wasn’t much of a surprise. From the beginning one had to question the commitment he made to the leadership process. He avoided most of the debates and continued to spend a lot of time outside of Canada. One also has to question his political smarts- IE waving a spatula around, selling Senate seats etc. I feel sorry for his team as they worked hard and put in long hours and they were totally committed to getting him elected.

Now the leadership race is back to where it was before O’Leary became involved. It is the same dull, boring race that has gone on far too long. The Hill Times raised a good point today when they took a look at the quality of the present leadership contenders.

Certainly the ones who chose not to run- MacKay, Baird, Moore, Kenney are missed by many of the rank and file. However, the Party will have to live with their decisions and move on. They have served the party well and put in their time to the detriment of their personal life. Politics is all consuming and after years of service sometimes you need to step away and re-evaluate what you are doing. I expect that some of them will eventually come back as political life is also very addictive. They can’t assume though that they will automatically return to their former profiles. Other MPs will step up, new ones will be elected and some will have the same potential and fill the void they left.

If the “A” team isn’t playing, where does that leave us now? Well, we have a lot of B, C and D level players. Quite a few of those remaining are not leadership material, but could make good team players in a supporting role.

One thing is essential, the “B” team (O’Toole, Bernier, Scheer, Raitt, Chong) have to step up their game and so far I haven’t seen much of an improvement. Whoever wins has to get sharper, more political and develop the instinct that allows them to pounce as the other side makes mistakes. They also will have to appeal to Canadians from all walks of life, not a narrow based constituency.

Too many Conservatives fell for the media hype after Trudeau’s election victory and felt the guy was unbeatable. Nonsense, anyone can be beaten and you don’t have to be from the “A” level team to come out the winner. Think back a few years and remember “Joe Who”.  Joe Clark took down Justin Trudeau’s father who I would argue was a much more formidable opponent than Justin.

Governments and Prime Ministers have a way of defeating themselves, some sooner than others. The Liberals are not invincible under Justin Trudeau and two new leaders from the Conservatives and the NDP will have an opportunity to shine.

In politics as in life, history has a way of repeating itself.

Sunday
Apr162017

Please Sign The Petition

Easter is a time to think of family and share time together. For most of us it is one of the most enjoyable days of the year. Some however have not been that fortunate.

For that reason while I don’t usually advocate for the signing of petitions on this page; in this case I will make an exception. The story of the “British Home Children” is a very tragic one and few survivors are still alive today. Their story has been largely hidden from view and few Canadians know about this issue and it is not taught in most school systems here.

In this day and age it is hard to imagine that over a hundred thousand young children were shipped out from Britain to Canada by various child service organizations. This lasted from 1869-1948. Originally well intentioned, it often had tragic results.

Many Canadians are descended from these Home Children; yet don’t know about it because the children themselves kept it a secret out of shame.

The sad part is that while this was happening the Canadian government knew what was going on.

The attached video and petition seeks an official apology as has already happened in Australia and Britain (another destination for children in the same time period).

Today there are few survivors left and it would be fitting that they receive a full “official apology” from the Canadian government, a government that knew what was happening during this time period.

Attached is a link to the petition, please take a few minutes out of your day to sign it. The attached video is a bit long, but well worth watching. It will educate, shock and disturb you; but every minute is worth watching.

Thank you, Happy Easter and give your children a hug; they are fortunate to have a family that cares for them.

Petition and video link: https://www.change.org/p/open-letter-to-the-right-honourable-prime-minister-trudeau

Tuesday
Apr112017

Nothing Wrong With A Prime Minister's Question Period"

It is unfortunate that the Liberals have tried to ram the changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons down everyone’s throats. Change is definitely needed and some of the changes which come out of the work done by Michael Chong have merit.

For instance designating one day as a Prime Minister’s day for Question Period deserves serious consideration.

Unlike the pathetic surprise attempt by the Liberals to stand Trudeau up to take all of the questions last week, an appointed day with a well prepared and well researched opposition would be an entirely different matter.

Having spent over ten years as the political staffer in charge of Question Period (Both in opposition and government) I doubt having the one day set aside for the Prime Minister will hurt accountability.

To begin with, Prime Ministers are rarely in the House on Mondays and Fridays and for good reason; as a lot of MPs use those days as travel days or constituency days. This really narrows the days available to directly question a Prime Minister down to just three days.

Nor should a Prime Minister’s Question Period bring about a reduction in the number of questions that a Prime Minister answers. Taking the above three days, the Leader of the Opposition usually asks three questions in the opening or “Leader’s Round” and occasionally they will ask two additional ones. The next party leader will get two and a potential two more. If you look back over the last decade or two you will see that it is rare that the leaders ask their maximum number of questions each day. That gives the party leaders 5-9 questions daily a week multiplied by three days or a maximum of 27 questions. Yesterday saw a total of 33 opposition questions asked as well as a few planted ones from the Liberals.

Take away the planted questions (which should be done for every day, thereby forcing ministers to make announcements in the House) and if anything the PM will get more questions in the one day than he now gets for the entire week. A well-researched opposition can easily keep a Prime Minister on the hot seat for an entire Question Period.

The unofficial practice of Harper was to take the questions from all party leaders in the opening Leaders Round. After that the questions went to ministers. Recent Liberal Governments did not even stick to that procedure and PM’s sometimes ducked questions from opposition leaders as well.

As for Friday Question Period, please do away with it and spare us the pain of listening to poorly prepared questions and answers being read from prepared notes into the record. One change that no one is suggesting for the Standing Orders but which is most definitely needed is the banning or use of notes and smart phones to read out questions or answers. Treat them as props. If you can’t ask a question or answer one without reading it, you shouldn’t be there. This would also reduce the carefully crafted “10 second clips” that are built in to questions when they are read out.

If the 45 minutes set aside for Friday QP were divided up amongst the other four days that would add roughly 11 minutes of questioning a day. If you have ever been on the government side giving the opposition another 11 minutes or roughly 5 -7 more questions a day would be pure hell. That would also give the PM’s question day up to 38 questions. Holding the PM accountable won’t suffer.

As for the other days, having minister’s accountable and in their seats would work just fine.

We started the practice in the early 2000s of asking every question to the PM even if that question came from a backbencher. We did it because the media bought it and there were plenty of TV clips at night with our MP asking an empty Prime Minister’s chair a question and the cameras then showing a minister answering, leaving the impression to the public that the PM ducked the question.

Work out a mechanism so that the opposition can insist that a specific minister be present when issues explode into the public domain and accountability won’t be hurt. In the end it is a better fit for the opposition as they can go after weak ministers and they don’t have to divide questions up over several ministers as well as the Prime Minister. Instead they can put a minister on the hot seat and keep them there.

While the media won’t get to cover a Prime Minister reciting talk points as answers three times a week, there will be plenty for them to cover when the opposition has an extra 27 questions a week to use on ministers who don’t know their files.

The changes the Liberals are pushing for the Standing Orders do have serious ramifications for the ability of opposition parties to hold the government to account or delay potentially poor legislation. However, don’t be fooled by claims that Question Period will suffer and accountability suffer if there is a designated Prime Minister’s Question Period each week.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Apr112017

A Missed Opportunity

There are times when it is best to put partisanship aside. The ceremony at Vimy Ridge was one of those moments. It is a shame and a little perplexing that Prime Minister Trudeau didn’t extend an invitation to the opposition leaders to join him there.

This was a missed opportunity. Trudeau had a chance to show Canadians that just as young men from all across Canada came together in 1917, so could our politicians put aside their differences if only for a short period of time.

A simple invite to join him on his flight would have offered an opportunity to build good will when the house is divided on needed changes to the Standing Orders and give all of the party leaders an opportunity to talk and get to know each other away from the glare of the cameras and their daily performance in Question Period.

While we were celebrating this historical milestone where the Canadian Corp united to achieve a significant victory in our history, Trudeau missed his opportunity to bring all of the leaders together.

Hiding behind the excuse that they extended an invitation for the parties to send a representative is not good enough. Someone in his office should have known the correct procedure to follow. One has to wonder why there was such a deliberate snub. Was it intentional or just incompetence?

 

Monday
Mar202017

The Mudslinging Begins

I see that the fun and games have begun in earnest as Tory leadership candidates insult each other and toss accusations of cheating around. All of this coming after O’Leary went public and accused someone of rigging the leadership election.

I can’t say that I am surprised that someone has tried to circumvent the rules. I have been involved in too many elections and too many leadership contests to be blind to the fact that this type of behavior goes on. I should add that it would be a rare thing for any party leader or leadership candidate to have any first-hand knowledge of this stuff.

Sadly none of the candidates that have expressed their outrage have also considered the damage that they are doing to the party brand.

O’Leary was not the only candidate whose organization had contacted party headquarters with complaints about what was going on. At various times, Leitch, Alexander and Scheer had also raised concerns, including the possibility that someone was cheating. With that number of complaints there is no doubt the party would have investigated the situation. There was no need for O’Leary’s to go off half-cocked to try to discredit the system. It sounds a bit too much like the claims that millions of illegals voted in the last US election. Unless of course O’Leary had an ulterior motive and we will see how that plays out in the weeks ahead. There was also no need for Bernier to attack O’Leary; mudslinging when it involves your own side is just plain foolish, tarnishes your party’s brand and both sides usually lose in the process and in the public’s eye.

Lisa Raitt’s announcement today that people should be thrown out if caught cheating is another example of what is not needed. While allowing her to get into the limelight, I have to wonder why? If you are above the fray, why jump into the middle of it? You do yourself no favours and I can say with some degree of accuracy that no campaign can give a 100% guarantee that no one in their entire organization has not done anything wrong. Raitt’s comments got her publicity but what happens now if someone comes forward and they can offer some proof of cheating by her organization. Unless you know without a doubt that nothing is going on, you always have to be prepared for these comments to come back and bite you.

The bigger issue remains that these public accusations diminish the Conservative brand. A public fight over cheating simply reminds the media and the public of other recent issues that the party had put behind it. It also allows the Liberals to escape the media focus on illegals crossing the border, the lead up to the budget and issues involving trade and how they will deal with Donald Trump.

All of this over something that the party would have investigated anyways.