View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Parliament Wraps Up Another Session – June 19, 2013

Dr. EvilCFN – Finally our MPs are taking a break and they have departed from the Hill for the summer break. That must be a great relief for the taxpayers and voters of this country who through the media had front row seats every day to the acrimony in the House.

This session wrapped up with plenty of mudslinging over the Senate scandal, Mulcair running the RCMP checkpoint and Trudeau contritely offering to return his speaking fees. We even had an MP defect from the Conservatives to add a little drama to the proceedings. No one can claim that this was a high water mark in Canadian parliamentary history.

Yet, even with the daily dismal display of House behavior, there are some positives to come out of this session.

The NDP’s Thomas Mulcair has finally come into his own in Question Period. His recent performance was excellent and long overdue. Thank goodness, he did what I have been suggesting for months and he tossed that silly little lectern aside and asked sharp questions without the aid of notes. Along with Mulcair’s improvements, in general the NDP performance in Question Period saw a marked change in their strategy and Question Period line up. It only took Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition two years to figure this out, but now at least they are becoming effective questioners. Putting partisanship aside, an effective opposition is a vital component of our democracy and while it will make things harder for the government, Canadians need an opposition that can hold the government to account.

The Liberals are an interesting contrast. Courtesy of the Conservatives self-inflicted Senate scandal, Justin Trudeau has had a chance to grow into his party’s leadership role in Question Period. Upon assuming the party leadership his Question Period performance was dismal. Long winded questions that allowed the Prime Minister to pick and choose what he answered didn’t help, nor did Trudeau’s nervousness. However, using the Senate scandal as his training ground, his performance has gradually improved. Today he is much more comfortable in his role.

For those who jumped on the Trudeau bandwagon with visions of a Trudeau led majority government being “a mere matter of marching” to quote Thomas Jefferson on how easy it would have been for the Americans to win the war of 1812, this session was a rude awakening. When on script Trudeau is effective, but he is unable to stick to his talk points and his comments continually get him into trouble. Trudeau’s comments on Quebec and Senate reform are but one example of how he takes what should be a good issue for him and he turns it into a controversial one. Add in an efficient Conservative attack machine and while still a very marketable political commodity, he is vulnerable and some of the shine has come off of the Liberal golden boy.

The Conservatives have not had a good session. Self-inflicted wounds hurt the most, are the most difficult to contain and always leave your side dazed and disgruntled. Conservative MPs may be on a summer break, but they will be hearing about their scandals for the next two and half months. The BBQ circuit will not be a happy place for them this summer.

This is one more reason for Harper to do a cabinet shuffle sooner, as opposed to later. His MPs need to be able to change the channel over the summer and have something positive to talk about with their constituents. If done before the Conservative convention it would also create a buzz and give a boost to Conservative Party stalwarts who are as depressed as their MPs over the scandals.

The summer break is also an opportunity for staff changes. Traditionally staff in both PMO and minister’s offices, make career changes once parliament is on a break. Ask any Conservative MP and they can give you a long list of the changes needed in PMO, changes that are needed to restore MPs confidence in that office and to deal with the MPs discontent. This won’t be an easy task for the new Chief of Staff, but replacing some of the “short pants” with a few “long pants“ is definitely long overdue. The recent exposure that PMO was directly sending out anti-Trudeau releases and information is but the most recent example of how not to do things. Clearly that type of attack information should never be sent through the Prime Minister’s Office. There are lots of other options they could have used.

The Prime Minister had a tough session. His image has been battered by the scandals and Canadians still aren’t satisfied with his answers.  He can use the break to refresh his mind and refocus his attention on the task at hand. This break will give the PM an opportunity to change the channel, refresh his cabinet, identify new priorities and position his government for the run up to the next election. The Conservatives may be battered and bruised, but they are far from being defeated and as the Liberals and NDP know, they are a dangerous political opponent.

Hopefully the summer break will allow all the parties to reflect on the good and the bad of this past session. When they return let’s hope they can tone down the hyper-partisanship a bit and work in the best interests of all Canadians. After all that is why we sent them there.

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. To sponsor this column please  email!

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  1. “through the media, Canadians had a front-row seat”. You should have said “through the biased-media, Canadians were brain-washed into thinking that the Conservatives are the worst and most thieving government this country has ever had. By distorting every little thing and blowing it up and spinning it into a catastrophe, the media is hoping that voters will forget anything Liberals have done or will ever do. They want to get rid of Harper. Period. And they’ll stop at nothing. If all Senators were audited, you’d find that the Liberals who have been there longer, have stolen more from the taxpayers than anybody, Harb being a good example. But no, you barely hear about Harb who stole much more than Duffy or Wallin, but all you hear about is those two, because they’re Conservatives. It’s disgusting and it’s the media who is losing credibility. Report the news, all of it, not just your one-sided spin.

  2. Disillusioned – After 7 long years of the Harper CONservative reign of terror, it is refreshing to know that the media have removed their right-focused glasses. As to “distortion”, keep in mind that reporting self-inflicted wounds is far more motivating than regurgitating dug dirt.

  3. Disillusioned have you been just reading the PMO’s talking points? The media for the past 7 years have been playing softball with the cons. The only bias is a CPC bias, it has been a great relief for sane and normal people to see the media ACTUALLY do its job. The left wing media bias is a myth, always has been, always will be.

  4. In response to “Disillusioned”. You cannot paint the “media” with one brush. The majority of the news outlets and media in this country, I believe, is run by right wing interests. Even the CBC, which offers some of the most objective views, thanks to the new bill just passed is likely to be more and more “influenced” by the Government who will now have control over contracts and salaries. So the media cannot be blamed entirely for the image of the Conservatives. Besides if you are concerned about media influence, simply tune in Question Period on any day and watch the immature behaviour that goes on. Questions are NOT answered. Anyone, Partisan or not, can see that the Conservatives usual method is to deny, attack the opponent and then spout sometimes unrelated “facts” about the success of the Conservative government. It is a sham to say the least.

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