Monday, 14 May 2012

Canadian Politics this Week (7-13 May 2012)

You have to love Canadian politics if you're a political junky.  Since the Harper Conservatives won a majority just over a year ago, the attacks by the opposition parties have been relentless.  This week a poll revealed for the first time that the NDP has a slight lead over the Conservatives, 34% to 30%, while the Liberal party's popularity remained steady  at 20%.

The Robocalls, omnibus crime bill and the current bill before government, the budget bill, F35 spending estimates, which have turned out higher than the governments estimates and the latest report on the cost of the Libyan conflict, have all contributed to the decline of popularity for the Conservatives. 

Mulcair's Take on Manufacturing and the Resource Industry

Leader of the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, has slammed the resource industry for being responsible of the decline of the manufacturing sector in Quebec and Ontario.  This has prompted a strong response from the Premiers of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. 

Although Mulcair said in March that he would never be heard speaking against oilsands development,  he has jumped fully into condemning Harper's resource based policies on the economy as the "Dutch disease," referencing the Netherlands find of natural gas, which caused a decline in that countries economy.

Brad Wall, Alison Redford and Christy Clark have condemned Mulcair's remarks.  Brad Wall's response was the strongest, questioning Mulcair's comments by asking if Mulcair thinks the oilsands are a disease, he would like to know what the NDP leader's cure is.

 "It's a concern for people out West.  I think his economics are wrong. And there's a lack of recognition there that the resource strength for Western Canada is a strength for the whole country,"  Wall said.

British Columbia's Premier Christy Clark called Mulcair's remarks goofy.

 "I really thought that type of thinking was discredited and it had been discredited for a long time. It's so backwards," Clark said. "I think that's just goofy." She continued, "The NDP talk their gobbledygook, but really they want less economic development," she said. "We all know it's a recipe for disaster."

Alison Redford also reacted stating that she is not sure if Mulcair's comments were well informed or just his opinion. She continued that she hopes he explains his motivation because she says someone looking to lead the country one day needs to understand just how important the oilsands are to the entire country.

Gun Registry and Budget Bill

A very public fight has broken out between the Justice Minister and the Governments of Ontario and Quebec over  the legality of collecting information on long guns.  The federal gouvernment scrapped the gun registry earlier this year but the Chief Firearms Officer vowed to continue with the collection of information of gun purchases.  While he was told to cease and desist, the response was in defiance, stating that his authority stems from the Firearms act and he encouraged the federal government to either change he act or take it to the Supreme Court.  More to follow on that.

The Opposition has used parliamentary procedures to delay the budget bill.  About one third of the 400 page bill contains changes to the environmental protection act, including streamlining of procedures for environmental assessments.  The bill would limit hearings to two years, which also includes the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  It would stop exemptions for charities that use their funds for advocating.

Lybian Conflict

The government has also come under fire for the cost of the Libyan mission.  Last year, Defence Minister, Peter MacKay, reported the costs to be just under $50 million.  Not unlike the F35 procurement costs, it seems the governments report was flawed.  The cost is apparently closer to $100 Million, almost double the reported cost.

The Minister defended his reports stating that those were the figures he had received from the Department of National Defence.

 "What I said was that, as of Oct. 13, the figures that I received from the department were under $50 million,"

Prime Minister Harper  noted the total figure of $347 million includes the ongoing costs of operating the Canadian military, and he defended the earlier estimates.

"We always give the most up-to-date figures and it's important also to know ... that these figures include normal operations of the Canadian military, of those assets over that period," Harper said.

Expect to hear more on Mulcair's rhetoric this week.   Unfortunately, although Mulcair slams the Western resource based economy, he has not presented his won vision on how he would pay for all the social programs he seems to want.  It would be prudent for him to present an alternate economic plan.

Canada's economy is doing much better than most G8 countries.  The last jobs report has shown positive growth in the manufacturing sector, including Ontario and Quebec.  Mulcair has to present a vision and convince Canadians that his plans would not kill the fragile economy.

One only needs to look at Greece, Italy and Spain to realize what excessive spending and living beyond the means can do.  Unfortunately the situation in  Europe can drag down the global economy. 

Most of the changes being made by the Conservative government were well advertised on its agenda.   Only the changes to Old Age Security came out of the blue.  Those changes, i.e. raising the eligibility age from 65-67 do not affect anyone 55 or older. 

Look forward to another lively week in Parliament and more doom and gloom regarding the environment from the opposition. 

By the way there is an open invitation for Thomas Mulcair to visit the Oilsands. 

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