View From The Hill

It was another one of those days on the Hill.  With back-to-back press conferences this morning — first Democratic Reform czar Pierre Poilievre unsheathing his scalpel and pointing it at Elections Act, then the RCMP formally announcing charges against Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb — the communications monkeys in the opposition parties had more than enough to go off of for today’s Question Period.

But Thomas Mulcair limped into today’s showdown, launching with the days-old story about Veteran’s Affairs Minister Julian Fantino’s rousing mishaps in dealing with Canada’s ex-soldiers.  He then jumped to allegations against the Communications Security Establishment Canada, and their eerie plot to surveil Canadians’ while on airport public wifi.

Well, the Prime Minister flung off that mud.

This government has done more for veterans…
CSEC does not spy on Canadian citizens…
And the opposition voted against those measures…
This was part of a modelling exercise…

Same talking points, different mouth.

It wasn’t until Trudeau took up the torch that we got some fresh meat.  Why does this government want to strip Elections Canada of its oversight?  Trudeau wanted to know.

Well Harper rose in his seat with all the power of a Furby on low batteries to tell the House that the Chief Electoral Officer, who would be killed and revived as the Commissioner of Canada Elections, would be much happier in his new home within the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.  He did not explain why that would be the case — ostensibly, running off a frustratingly unenlightening press conference from Poilievre, it’s because a commissioner cannot be reasonably expected to police an office he is employed by.

What Trudeau did not get around to asking is why the government is insisting on stiffening rules on who can vote.  Under the new Election Act reforms, voter information cards — the little white-and-red cards that come in the mail that seemingly everyone thinks constitutes proper identification — will not longer be accepted at the polls.  Also getting cut is the ability for voters to swear an oath to vouch for an ID-less relative or friend.  That is now long-gone, saving us from the scourge of evil election-stealing radicals dragging hordes of complicit grannies to the polls in an effort to steal the election.  Thank god.

But those questions didn’t get asked by the Liberal leader.

Instead, next at the plate was Mulcair again, lamenting the charges laid against Harb and Brazeau this morning.

Specifically, Mulcair probed the conspicuously-missing mortgage fraud charges against Harb, the ones that failed to materialize in part because a certain Brunei diplomat with whom the former Liberal Senator may-or-may-not-have had a relationship with refused to testify, safe in her Embassy in China.

Well Mulcair would not let that stand, and demanded that Harper compel the government of Brunei to serve up its diplomat.

Harper put down that request gently and walked away, trying not to get any of its crazy on his nice suit.

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From there, the day went downhill fast, with Democratic Reform critic Craig Scott and fancy-new-haircut-haver Poilievre jumping into the bear-pit on the Elections changes.  It involved many mentions of “everyday citizens,” and an Elections Canada with “sharper teeth” with a “longer reach.”

Poilievre would take no lumps from the NDP who were concerned about disenfranchising voters.  No lumps at all, thank you.  We’ll stick to the everyday Canadians with long, sharp teeth.

Nicholson took some lateshow jabs on CSEC oversight, but assured the country that Our Government is protecting Canadians from terrorists, cyber-hackers and kidnappers.

While it’s not entirely clear how a spy agency tasked with intercepting the digital communications of foreign citizens can protect me from kidnapping, I sincere appreciate it.  I really hate getting kidnapped.

The lowpoint of the backend of Question Period was watching neophyte MP Chrystia Freeland try to ask some question probably about the state of our economy, only to be completely swept under a wave of grumbling Conservative MPs.  She tried in vain to rise above the sloshing tide of political cynicism, yet only managed to choke out some incomprehensible platitudes before being pulled under by the tide.  Oh well.

A shining ray of light in the otherwise foggy trudggery of Tuesday’s back-and-forth was a question by NDP elder statesman Wayne Marston, who wanted to know what the Government of Canada was doing to help Canadian-Egyptian citizen and al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who is in a Cairo prison facing deplorable conditions and an untreated injury, all because of some particularly flimsy allegations from that country’s coup government that he is a propagandist for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Consular Affairs, told Marston about as much as her office told me when I reached out — We are in touch with consular officials in Egypt, we have reached out to his family, we continue to monitor the situation.

The government’s silence on Fahmy’s situation is particularly conspicuous, and appears to be careful-treading around a new government in a country where new governments have been treated with tremendous skepticism.

Expect the opposition’s research monkeys to have gotten caught up by tomorrow, so we can get all of today’s non-answers, tomorrow!

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Other columns by Justin Ling

To Charte, or not to Charte?

Harper and the liberal journalists of Sparks Street

Harper’s Israeli Rorschach Test

Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling

 

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