Both Treasury Board Guidelines and the Ethics Commission state it is inappropriate for a government official to blur the lines between a government and a partisan announcement. However, Minister Pierre Poilievre felt no apparent shame. He was quick to point out that neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats support the UCCB (a half-truth at best). Accordingly, he was not so subtly attempting to persuade an apparently gullible public that only the Conservatives could be trusted to protect families. It's not new for governments to attempt to play politics with taxpayer money; but vote buying has rarely felt more shameless.
This is how Conservative MP Laurie Hawn responded to the now 140 plus businesses who have raised concerns in a letter published by the National Post about reckless spying Bill C-51: "[They] should seriously reconsider their business model and their lack of commitment to the values that bind us as Canadians."
Recently, Treasury Board President Tony Clement reportedly floated a trial balloon which would see federal government retirees' annual health insurance premiums double. For my family, that would mean an extra $500 expense -- an amount which will add up to thousands of dollars over my lifetime. I deliberately chose to leave the private sector and join the government based on what was on offer.
Trudeau is trying to find a new niche for the Liberal Party. A preliminary look indicated that he is trying to take the Conservative party's old right-of-centre spot on the ideological spectrum. With fewer differences between the two parties, Trudeau's youth and vitality may come as an asset in 2015 when Canadians go to the polls.
Last week, a casualty of China's unfair treatment of foreign investors spoke privately about the new trade deal signed between Ottawa and Beijing. Ottawa capitulated to China on everything. The deal, using a hockey metaphor, allows only a select few to play on Team Canada on a small patch of ice in China and to be fouled, without remedies or referees.
Ministers, their staff and individual MPs often find it almost impossible to get PMO to move away from a position or talking point that they have adopted. The micro-management style worked initially because in 2006 most staff and ministers were new at what they were doing. Micro-management and message control also worked because of the minority situation the government found itself in. Majority rule has changed that dynamic. All in all, there are Interesting times ahead if you sit on the backbenches of the government side.
In Parliament, the one-minute Standing Order 31 was designed to give MPs an opportunity to highlight something of importance in their riding. By 2008 there was increasing pressure to use more of the SO 31s as attack pieces (sometimes all of them) to get the government talk points out. Today, this has become pretty much standard practice. In my opinion this has been one of the contributing factors to the caustic atmosphere you now see on a daily basis in the House of Commons.
The real question pundits should be asking is: Should the Liberals merge with the New Democrats? For his part, Justin Trudeau concedes that, if his party does not "shine" by the 2015 election, a merger may indeed be the only way to evict Stephen Harper from 24 Sussex Drive. A recent poll asked Liberals if they like the idea of a merger, a staggering 64 per cent said yes. This poll also found that 56 per cent of Canadians see the Liberals as a spent force. Doesn't seem so crazy now, does it?
The Harper government may choose to believe that a divided society is not bad for the economy, or that wealth will trickle down. Canadians from across the country may have to assure him that health will surely not. Canada has fared better than other nations in the global economic crisis, but success stories have not followed those who prescribed austerity.