What are Canadians reading about today? Is it the new government pension proposal, which is a good news story, or is it Pat Martin's Twitter comments and the "dummy" comments made by both a minister and opposition members in the House of Commons yesterday? What are Canadians talking about at Tim Hortons or around the office water cooler, pensions or swearing on Twitter?
Whether or not Pat Martin should have said what he did is a side issue. The real issue is the underlying cause which is Conservative behaviour in the House of Commons and their excessive use of time allocation to ram six bills through the House. In one tweet, Martin has successfully flagged this behaviour for the public at large and focused their attention on the Conservatives forcing bills through the House of Commons. The Conservatives ended up stamping on their own positive message of the day when their behaviour in the House provoked Martin's comments. Add into the mix some weak government talking points that try to justify the use of time allocation and the Conservatives' positive message was lost in the noise around Martin's Twitter comment.
To date, NDP attempts to embarrass the government in Question Period has been rather futile. Rehashing old G8/20 news won't cut it. Rehashing old gun registry arguments won't cut it either. This is old news, some of which voters have been listening to since 2006. Voters passed judgment on these supposed Conservatives failings months ago when they cast their vote and elected a majority Conservative government.
The ineffectiveness of the leaderless NDP should give the Conservatives an opportunity to build on the NDPs weakness. They have an opportunity to strengthen their support with the swing voters and first time voters the Conservatives attracted in last May's election. Instead, the Conservatives shoot themselves in the foot by stamping on any benefit the NDP have handed to them by acting like bullies in the House. Using time allocation on some six bills when they have not adequately explained the urgency to do so doesn't earn them voter support. Instead they look arrogant, and that is always one reason voters turn on a government and eventually vote them out of office.
Yes, the Conservatives are acting within the rules of the House of Commons and using them to their advantage, but this doesn't mean that they should be acting in this manner if there is no urgency to do so. The Liberals used time allocation as well, but the Conservatives should keep in mind that they defeated the Liberals and behaving like a previous Liberal government isn't a recommendation for electoral success. One of the reasons that the Liberals were defeated in 2006 was the voter's perception that they had become arrogant and entitled to their entitlements. The sponsorship scandal was the icing on the cake.
Ramming bills through the House, including budget bills, without adequate explanation of the urgency to do so doesn't help the Conservative cause. It is a pretty weak argument when your justification for limiting debate is that these bills have been discussed before. Yes they have, but this is a democracy and there is nothing wrong with taking a bit of time to let the opposition explain one more time why they oppose a bill. The Conservatives have a majority; each of these bills will pass. The Conservatives hold a majority on committees so they control committee votes, the agendas and the witness lists. Each of the six bills they are using time allocation on will pass.
Where is the urgency to get these bills through the House? Some have argued that the Conservatives want to reward their supporters and yes they should be doing so. But do they all have to be rewarded in the first few months you are in office? Does it make a huge difference if it takes an extra month or so before they see their reward?
If they are ramming these bills down the throats of the opposition because those parties prevented their passage before, then that is just pettiness and vindictiveness. The public will see that all too quickly and it won't be in a positive light either.
Are they pushing these bills through the House because they know something that they aren't telling the public? There have been rumours that Harper will prorogue the House and while always denied by the government, if they have a date in mind that would certainly be a reason to move these bills through the House and Senate as quickly as possible. If they aren't proroguing and they don't have any real urgency to force these bills through the House then what is the explanation?
Childish responses by ministers to questions in the House and acting like a school yard bully when passing legislation is not a recipe for long term success. Sometimes thinking beyond the short term and looking at the longer term is more beneficial in politics.