View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Rising Costs & Jason Kenney – March 6, 2011

Ottawa ON – Parliamentarians often lament the lack of interest that Canadians have in the political affairs of the nation. This past week offers a glimpse as to why that might be the case.

I would suggest that some of the most talked about issues of concern to Canadians this past week (setting aside the  weather), would be Libya, the spike in gasoline prices, the rising cost of food, pensions, mortgages and just making ends meet on the family budget. All of which are important topics that require policy initiatives from all of the parties.

Yet, what were our elected representatives focused on? Essentially they wasted their time asking some 16 questions on Bev Oda (79 questions in two weeks), 57 questions on the “in and out” issue and 10 questions in two days on Jason Kenney’s misuse of his parliamentary letterhead. Altogether this totals some 83 questions in this past week.

In contrast, in the last week the opposition asked five questions on pensions, none on food prices, three on gasoline prices and two on Libya. In addition, the government asked itself three questions on Libya.

I agree that questions should have been asked on some of the issues the opposition picked, but lets face it, the Oda issue and the “In and Out” issue are stale and old news and the Kenney issue has been blown all out of proportion.

Few Canadians are going to think it is terribly wrong that a minister asked someone to add the word “not” to an internal departmental memo to make her position crystal clear to the department. Whether or not she answered questions to the satisfaction of opposition MPs will get a collective shrug of voter’s shoulders while they pay for their groceries.

The “in and out” issue will get another collective yawn. It’s an old story. It was real news in 2007 when the story first broke and Canadians had an opportunity to vote the government out on this issue in the 2008 election. Everyone knows that court cases go back and forth until they are finally over and this one is far from over. The opposition can forget about Canadians rallying in the streets over this one. They will pass judgement when the legal process is finally concluded.

As for the Jason Kenney issue, I can just see Canadians huddled around the gas pumps whispering about how awful it is that the wrong letterhead was used. It might have been a stupid thing to do, but the gold medal for stupidity goes to the folks who sent the package to the wrong MP and to the folks that even put that strategy into print. Does anyone on the Hill think Canadians will be shocked to know that the Conservatives have a plan to win over ethnic votes? I doubt there is a single person of voting age in this country who doesn’t believe that municipal, provincial and federal politicians seek to sway ethnic voters to their side. The government admitted it was wrong to use parliamentary letterhead, case closed for the vast majority of voters.

As for the minister resigning over this issue, I recall a Prime Minister grabbing a protester by the throat and he didn’t resign over what would arguably be a far worse offence than using the wrong letterhead.

While people are dying in Libya for the right to be able to question their government, here in Canada we waste the opportunities available to us to ask real questions that matter. Is it any wonder the voters tune out what happens in Ottawa?

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

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  1. Perhaps I am more engaged in politics than the average Canadian that you have described here but I find that the continuous systemic contempt of our parliamentary process by the federal Conservative party one of the most serious topics in my lifetime. In my mind it is on par with the October crisis in 1970 when I was transporting weapons and ammunitions from Ottawa to the armories in Cornwall for protection from an FLQ armed attack.

    Are the conservatives that stupid and inexperienced to make all those “administrative errors” or are they deliberate attempts to subvert the system to achieve their hidden agendas? No one, not even the opposition have ever accused Mr. Harper of being stupid.

  2. Well said, Reg. The so-called Harper Government’s systematic accumulation of power by any means is undermining democracy in our country. You find that a yawn, Keith?

  3. You make it quite obvious that you are a CPC party supporter. I think it is very important to know if us Canadians have a party in power that is completely inept, (if we believe all these so called mistakes were just that), or we have a party in power that actually does hold parliament and indeed all Canadians in contempt. I would like to know some answers to questions on the economy and jobs, but seeing as how in the last month of watching CPAC, I have not seen one question put forth from any of the opposition parties, actually get answered. The only questions that do get answered are the self serving ones that get asked by the Conservative of the Conservatives.

    Absolutely disgusting is what it is.

  4. I want to know about this issue Keith,

    I really want to know about this.. Last I heard, this is Canada, it does not belong to Harper..

    I’m totally sick of this.. he even says its no big deal but it is.. This is unreal.. who the hell has the gall to support this?

    I bet our MP speaks for this.. I think our MP should take a stance and stand up for Canada.. Not harper.. but we all know where strings are pulled..

    In any case, this is deplorable.. And I won’t be surprised when the crap hits the fan…

  5. Easy to chuckle over the “in and out” scheme and Kenney’s letter head—haha, no big deal. Exactly what the Harperites do…no big deal, laugh it off.

    Sorry, these are the latest symptoms of a systematic attack on democracy in our country: the prorogations of Parliament, the persistent failure to be accountable, the disdain for transparency (the detainee file), the sackings and smearings of civil servants, the relentless (often personal) hounding of anyone who dares to disagree with the Harper line, the withdrawal of funding for humanitarian organisations, the closings of consular services around the world making it difficult for Canadians trapped overseas to come home, the over-the-top security set-up for the G20 (not to mention the provocative stupidity of holding the G20 in Toronto), the plans for mega prisons, the plans for mandatory minimum sentences, the denial of human rights (Omar Khadr)….and on and on.

    As I said in an earlier post, if you need reminding where we are headed with Harper, read Erna Paris in this month’s issue of “The Walrus.”

    Corruption and abuse of power, that’s what we are looking at right now with the Harper crowd here in Canada…and what the Libyans are at this moment fighting against.

    Wake up, Mr. Beardsley. Dictators blossom, when the press becomes a patsy to their actions.

  6. Rising costs. That was an obvious one, Keith. For the past four years I’ve been screaming at people to buy silver at $7., $9. and $11.00. This was a strategic way to avoid being hurt by the inflation we are going through. Invest in things that go up in price and then sell them to pay your bills. Buying television set for $500 is not an investment, car insurance is not an investment, a weekly $20.00 pizza is not an investment. A self directed RRSP with $500 in it, is an investment. The 83 questions asked in The House were mainly forms of obfuscation.

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