Bob Rae: Liberal Interim Leader Slams Tories For Focusing On Secondary Issues, Ignoring Jobs

Bob Rae

First Posted: 12/13/11 02:22 PM ET Updated: 12/13/11 02:53 PM ET

OTTAWA — The Conservative government has abandoned its focus on the economy and is instead consumed by secondary issues Canadians don’t care about, the Liberals charged Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in a year-end wrap-up press conference, Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said the Tories may have campaigned on the economy but their legislative agenda so far shows getting unemployed Canadians back to work has not been a priority.

“Although the Government has pretended that it was the economy all along that has been its preoccupation, and that in fact it’s the economy they wanted to drive their activities, the facts tell us something very different,” Rae told reporters. “They have not been focusing on the economy this fall. They have been focusing on issues that are frankly of secondary importance to Canadians, that are not top of mind for Canadians. The top of mind issues for Canadians is jobs and work. It is the economy, it is health care, these are the issues that dominate every poll and they certainly dominate every meeting that I have in my constituency or across the country.”

Among the bills presented this fall by the Government, the Tories have pushed legislation to strip the Canadian Wheat Board of its monopoly, bring in massive changes to the justice system and add 30 more MPs to the House of Commons to give faster-growing provinces a greater say federally.

The Liberals, however, suggest it doesn’t matter how many MPs are sitting in the Commons, the Conservatives have no plans to give them a voice.

The Liberals’ house leader Marc Garneau presented a slideshow noting that the Tories are using time-allocation, a rule which allows debate to be cut off, in unprecedented ways to stifle Parliamentary debate and democracy.

“An unprecedented number of debates were limited, consultations are held behind closed-doors, limiting the possibility of Canadians to see what their expensive programs are doing,” the Montreal MP said.

The Harper majority sledgehammered their agenda through, Garneau continued, adding that any oversight or debate of their legislation was being met with frustration and disdain from Stephen Harper.

“The purpose of Stephen Harper’s abuse of time allocation is to avoid debate on controversial bills, where his government finds few allies,” he later added.

The Liberal MP noted that the Conservatives tried to reintroduce amendments to the crime bill which they had rejected when they were introduced by the opposition, a move blocked by the Speaker of the House of Commons because the changes should have been brought in during committee study.

“Stephen Harper simply doesn’t listen. He would prefer to pass flawed legislation, which in fact has been the case, rather than take the time to consider any opposition proposal,” Garneau said.

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  • Key Measures In Tory Crime Bill

    The bill, known as the Safe Streets and Communities Act, includes the following measures: <em>With files from The Canadian Press</em> (CP/Alamy)

  • Child Sex Offences

    Heftier penalties for sexual offences against children. The bill also creates two new offences aimed at conduct that could facilitate or enable the commission of a sexual offence against a child. (MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Drugs

    Tougher sentences for the production and possession of illicit drugs for the purposes of trafficking. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Violent And Young Offenders

    Tougher penalties for violent and repeat young offenders. (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Conditional Sentences

    An end to the use of conditional sentences, or house arrest, for serious and violent crimes (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Parole Hearings

    Allowing victims to participate in parole hearings. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

  • Pardons

    Extending ineligibility periods for applications for pardons to five years from three for summary-conviction offences and to 10 years from five for indictable offences. (Flickr: haven't the slightest)

  • Transferring Canadian Offenders

    Expanding the criteria that the public safety minister can consider when deciding whether to allow the transfer of a Canadian offender back to Canada to serve a sentence. (JOEL ROBINE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Terror Victims

    Allowing terrorism victims to sue terrorists and their supporters, including listed foreign states, for losses or damages resulting from an act of terrorism committed anywhere in the world.(STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Human Trafficking

    Measures to prevent human trafficking and exploitation. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)