Consumer-friendly measures and jobs training are expected to trump Senate reform in this Wednesday’s speech from the throne to mark the return of Parliament. But opposition parties say they have no plans to leave the Tories off the hook from the scandals that have plagued the government all summer.
Sources say there won’t be any mention of new proposals for overhauling the upper chamber, and the Tories are already putting their focus on pro-consumer policies into high gear.
Industry Minister James Moore made the rounds on political talk shows Sunday saying the federal government would take action to limit consumers’ cable and cell phone bills.
“We don’t think it’s right for Canadians to have to pay for television channels that they don’t watch. We want to unbundle television and allow Canadians pick and pay the television channels that they want,” Moore said on CTV's Question Period.
The Industry Minister told Radio-Canada that roaming fees were too high, not just internationally but domestically and it would cap domestic roaming fees.
Moore also suggested on Global TV that the government might curb merchant fees that small businesses pay to credit card companies and might ban airlines from overselling seats.
The Tories, the NDP and the Liberals are expected to spend much of the fall session talking about ways to lift the burdens on the middle class -- a theme that was central to Justin Trudeau’s Liberal leadership bid.
Moore said the Tories are the party of the middle class and the Grits and the NDP were playing catch-up. “We’re ahead of them,” he told Global’s The West Block.
“The best way to support the middle class is to empower them, and you empower them by lowering taxes.”
Many of the Tories’ pro-consumer policies appear inspired by past NDP proposals. The New Democrats are still focused on consumer protection measures, and have also called for more public regulation, increased transparency in the Commons and increases in corporate taxes while leaving personal taxes untouched.
Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc told HuffPost his party will be focused on issues facing Canadian families, people who are losing their jobs and those who are worried about their retirement security.
“People’s own economic circumstances are not improving the way that the government continually says they are,” LeBlanc said, pointing to job creation numbers, rising personal debt and stock market upheavals that has chipped at people’s retirement savings.
LeBlanc underlined that the Conservatives’ continued ethical lapses also require questioning.
“Since we left Parliament in June police investigations have expanded, more members have been kicked out of caucus, serious election fraud charges have been laid,” he said.
“They are trying to change the channel but the batteries are dead in the remote control, the TV caught fire.”
NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen says Harper should steel himself for the return of Parliament.
“Boy, oh boy, he’s going to have trouble with Question Period,” Cullen said.
“If the Prime Minister didn’t outright lie, then he lied by hiding the truth that he knew, and he needs to account for that.
“This goes right to his fundamental judgment as a leader. This is a nightmare scenario for him because his entire politics rests on sound competent judgement.”
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Pamela Wallin, at Tory senator from Saskatchewan, also found her expense claims under close scrutiny in Februrary when it was revealed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/13/pamela-wallin-travel-expenses-harper_n_2680229.html" target="_blank">she billed taxpayers $142,190.26 for trips between March 1, 2011, and Feb. 29, 2012</a>. But only $10,551.99 of her expenses were related to travel between Ottawa and Saskatchewan, while the remaining $131,638.27 was filed under "Other." Questions were also raised about whether or not she satisfied the residency requirement needed to represent Saskatchewan in the Upper Chamber. Wallin split her time between Toronto and New York prior to being named a senator in 2008, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/senate-residency-pamela-wallin-duffy_n_2648325.html" target="_blank">does own a plot of land in the province and two properties with family members.</a> <em>With files from CP</em>
Patrick Brazeau first came under fire in December of 2012 amid reports he was using <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/patrick-brazeau-charges-sexual-assault_n_2643606.html?utm_hp_ref=patrick-brazeau" target="_blank">his former father-in-law's address </a>in Maniwaki, Que., to claim a Senate housing allowance, while actually living in Gatineau, just across the river from Parliament Hill. The Senate Board of Internal Economy subsequently asked an auditor to look at Brazeau's residency claims and expenses. In early February, Brazeau was arrested and charged with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/patrick-brazeau-charges-sexual-assault_n_2643606.html?utm_hp_ref=patrick-brazeau" target="_blank">assault and sexual assault </a>after a heated argument with his girlfriend turned violent. The charges promptly got Brazeau turfed from the Conservative caucus. On February 12, Brazeau was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/12/canadians-growing-ever-we_n_2667332.html" target="_blank">suspended indefinitely </a>from the Upper Chamber. <em>With files from CP</em>
Conservative Mike Duffy also courted controversy over his housing allowance. The P.E.I. senator <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/mike-duffy-paying-back-money_n_2744800.html" target="_blank">claimed his cottage in Cavendish as his primary residence</a> and his long-time in home in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, as a secondary residence for which he collected $33,000 in living allowances he since 2010. While always maintaining he was entitled to the compensation, Duffy <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/mike-duffy-paying-back-money_n_2744800.html" target="_blank">vowed on February 22 to repay the money</a>. He blamed the entire issue on confusing and vague Senate paperwork. <em>With files from CP</em>
Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu, a Conservative senator from Quebec, came under fire in early March when it was revealed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/pierre-hugues-boisvenu-senate_n_2803052.html?utm_hp_ref=pierre-boisvenu" target="_blank">he collected a housing allowance of $20,000 despite living little more than a drive across a bridge from Parliament.</a> Boisvenu claimed his primary residence was in Sherbrooke, but sources said he had been staying at his secondary residence in Gatineau since separating from his wife in February, 2012. Boisvenu was then forced to admit in March that he had been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/26/pierre-boisvenu-affair_n_2957596.html" target="_blank">carrying on a relationship with an aide, Isabelle Lapointe</a>. The Senate ethics officer had told him last year that he couldn't have his girlfriend on the office payroll but Boisvenu ignored the warning for months. The two have since split up and Lapointe is now working elsewhere. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/26/pierre-boisvenu-affair_n_2957596.html" target="_blank">Boisvenu has repaid the $900 stipend he collected while living with Lapointe for three months near Ottawa.</a> <em>With files from CP</em>
Liberal senator Mac Harb also had his expenses audited after it was discovered that he claimed <a href="http://metronews.ca/news/canada/560000/senate-controversy-senator-mac-harbs-home-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank">about $40,212 in living expenses for a secondary residence in Ottawa from Nov. 30, 2010 to Nov. 30, 2012</a>. Harb, a former Ottawa MP, claims his primary residence is <a href="http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/senator-harb-rarely-seen-in-area-he-calls-home-neighbours-1.1198184" target="_blank">a bungalow in the tiny village of Westmeath</a>, but neighbours claim that nobody lives there year-round and that it is basically a cottage.
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