OTTAWA — Conservative MPs are smiling as they depart Ottawa for the summer. Gone is the constant hammering by constituents concerned about the Senate scandal. Instead, the Tories have been having fun prodding the NDP about its mailing scandal and satellite offices.
MPs describe the tone in Parliament as having been particularly toxic this year. There are stories of outbursts at all-party leadership meetings held behind closed doors.
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan readily acknowledged during a recent interview with HuffPost that he expected the House of Commons to break early this year, with midnight sittings. Instead, the NDP kept everyone in Ottawa until last week.
Yet, Van Loan, a broad smile on his face, said he believes the tone in the Commons has improved every year since he has been in Ottawa.
“Yeah, there is a lot of horsing around and joking and people taking shots at each other in the House and having fun with that, but I don’t think there is a deeply personal [animosity],” he said.
“A lot of the stuff that we have done on the economic front has slid by, hasn’t gotten a lot of attention. The Fair Elections Act has been, in contrast, something that my constituents, nobody talked about. But it seemed to be very very exciting to the pack up there,” he said.
Van Loan said he most significant achievement of the spring was passing the government’s budget, which kept the lid on taxes and paved the way for a balanced budget and tax cuts next year.
He also praised five of his colleagues’ private members’ bills that became law, and dealt with small criminal issues and imposing tough penalties on those convicted of desecrating a war memorial or a cenotaph.
A look back at key legislation passed. Story continues below
Opposition MPs, of course, want Canadians to remember some of the bills the Conservatives introduced that they believe make the country less fair and less generous.
Liberal MP John McCallum said he thinks several of the Tories' bills will be declared unconstitutional, including the new changes to the Citizenship Act.
“[They] are creating two classes of citizens. If you are convicted of a crime and you are one type of citizen, you go to jail in Canada. And if you are convicted and you are another kind of citizen [a dual citizen] you get deported. That, I think, might be unconstitutional,” he said.
NDP MP Jack Harris said the Conservatives trumpet their “great economic success, but we’ve got an unemployment rate which is unconscionably high.”
There are 300,000 more young people unemployed than there were before the recession, he said. “You know once you start poking away at the claims that they make, I think you find that it’s a bit of a house of cards there.”
There are other controversies on the horizon. The government’s prostitution bill is being fast-tracked, with summer committee sittings and likely a pre-study by a Senate committee as well. Employment Minister Jason Kenney also introduced major changes to the temporary worker program – an issue that caused the government a great deal of embarrassment when Canadians were shown to have been fired in favour of cheaper temporary workers from abroad.
“This has been a monumental mess up,” McCallum told HuffPost. “We are moving from a system of immigrant citizens to immigrant guest workers, which is not the Canadian way. There are obvious negative implication for jobs, wage repression and exploitation of some of the temporary foreign workers.”