Peter Penashue quits the cabinet and resigns his seat

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue announced today that he will be quitting the Harper cabinet and resigning his Labrador seat in order to run in a by-election.

The move comes as Penashue is under a scandalous cloud regarding his campaign during the 2011 election as he may have breached the limit and taken a corporate donation. Penashue’s defenders in the party state that he wasn’t aware of what had happened. Penashue is likely running to clear the air and take responsibility. He has also paid back $30,000 to the Receiver General for “ineligible” donations to his last campaign.

Penashue won Labrador for the Conservative Party beating incumbent Todd Russell with a margin of less than 1% of the popular vote. Liberals are now inevitably making the claim the seat was stolen now that Penashue has acknowledged the scandal.

Minister Denis Lebel will take over Penashue’s cabinet responsibilities as the interim intergovernmental affairs minister.

Here are the poll-by-poll breakdowns of Labrador in 2011. You can explore these results here.

Here is Penashue’s full statement:

“Due to mistakes that were made by an inexperienced volunteer in filing the Elections Canada return from the last campaign, I appointed a new Official Agent to work with Elections Canada to make any needed amendments to my campaign return.
 
During the examination we became aware that there were ineligible donations accepted by the former Official Agent.
 
Although I was unaware of the inaccuracies in the return, I believe I must be accountable to the people who elected me and therefore I am stepping down as the Member of Parliament for Labrador and will seek re-election through a by-election. I will also be stepping down as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.
 
My record as Member of Parliament for Labrador and Minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government over the past two years is one that I am very proud of.
 
I have worked to secure federal support for the development of Muskrat Falls, which will lead to $1.9 billion for our economy and thousands of jobs for Labrador. I have also worked with government and private industry to increase internet speed in Labrador, and delivered federal funding to pave the Trans-Labrador Highway.
 
There is much more to do for the people of Labrador, including protecting our way of life. We have scrapped the long-gun registry despite the efforts of the NDP and Liberals to keep it, and now we must continue to fight to defend the seal hunt against the NDP and Liberal parliamentarians who want to ban it. I will also continue to lead the defence of the polar bear hunt, something that is very important to Labradorians.

And the statement from the Prime Minister,

“The Honourable Minister Denis Lebel, currently the Minister responsible for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, will assume responsibility for Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.
 
“Minister Lebel is now also responsible for the overall management and coherence of relations with provincial and territorial governments and for strengthening Canadian unity.”
 
“I would like to thank Mr. Penashue for his service as Minister and to the people of Labrador.”

BC Poll shows Adrian Dix versus Christy Clark not over yet

Campaign Research just released some polling data on the upcoming BC election race. Here are some key findings:

– NDP 38%, LIB 33%, GRN 12%, CON 12%
– 18-34 year old demographic (+26% NDP)
– 35-54 (tie LIB/NDP)
– 55+ (+1% LIB)
– Greater Vancouver (+2% NDP)
– Rest of BC (+7% NDP)
– Men (+4% LIB)
– Women (+14% NDP)
– Right/Wrong track (35% right, 49% wrong, 15% DN)
– sample size 882 for decided voters (3.3% MOE, 95% CI)
– sample size 1,112 for right/wrong track (2.9% MOE, 95% CI)

Marc Garneau exits Liberal Leadership race, supports Justin Trudeau

Marc Garneau announced today that he’s landing his bid for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. In the end, Garneau admitted he just didn’t have the numbers to take on presumed front-runner Justin Trudeau. Garneau cited internal Liberal Party polls of 6,000 Liberals that showed Trudeau at 72% support, Garneau at 15%, Murray at 7.4%, and Hall-Findlay at 5.2%. The Murray campaign immediately disputed these numbers. Some have speculated that Garneau’s exit from the race is to prevent an embarrassing third-place finish behind Joyce Murray, when the Liberal race was billed as a two-man race by Garneau communications flacks.

Canada’s first astronaut in space threw his support behind the former substitute drama teacher saying that “Justin has risen to the occasion”.

Liberal membership registration ends tomorrow. The party had boasted 294,000 supporters but only claimed 80,000 voter registrations by Tuesday. The Liberal Party’s “National Showcase” of their leadership contenders is on April 6th, followed by a reveal of the elected leader on April 14th.

Garneau would have been the most difficult putative Liberal leader for the Conservatives and NDP to attack as his resume makes him a bit of a national icon and hero. However, the Conservatives and NDP will be repackaging Garneau’s comments about Trudeau’s thin resume and inexperience and will be doing their best to tell Canadians that being Prime Minister doesn’t have the benefit of on-the-job training.

With Garneau’s exit, this Liberal leadership contest threatens to be another coronation for the party’s top job as Michael Ignatieff ran unopposed and Paul Martin ran with about as much popular support during that leadership race that Justin Trudeau enjoys now.

Liberal leadership numbers released

The Liberal Party of Canada president tweeted today:

That’s 294,000 members. At the outset of this contest, the Liberal Party of Canada counted about 100,000 supporters. We can take that difference to mean that 194,000 new supporters signed up during the leadership process. Justin Trudeau’s camp recently boasted that they signed up 150,000 new supporters. This means that 44,000 supporters are split between the other leadership candidates.

These are “supporters”, meaning they did weren’t required to pay any money to join the Liberal Party as full members. Other parties (the NDP and CPC) have members who pay an amount (usually $10 per year) to be a member of that party. Here’s a bit of a comparison regarding what we should take these numbers to mean:

The Conservative Party of Canada had over 250,000 sold memberships for their 2004 leadership race.

The Liberal Party of Canada, in their 2003 leadership race, sold 531,000 memberships.

The NDP in 2012 signed up 128,351 members to select their new leader.

Venezuelan government angry about Stephen Harper’s remarks on the death of Hugo Chavez

The Venezuelans have responded angrily to Stephen Harper’s official statement on the passing of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,

Here is their letter (rough English translation follows),

La República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores mediante esta nota, protesta de manera contundente y categórica, las declaraciones emitidas el 5 de marzo de 2013 por el Primer Ministro de Canadá, Stephen Harper, en tanto que constituyen expresiones insensibles e impertinentes en momentos en que el Pueblo venezolano lamenta y llora la irreparable pérdida física del Comandante Presidente Hugo Chávez Frías.
 
La República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores, en nombre del Pueblo Soberano que desde el año 1998 ha elegido libre y democráticamente su destino Socialista, se obliga a recordarle al representante del Gobierno de Canadá, que ha sido gracias a ésta Revolución Bolivariana que nuestro futuro como Patria independiente y soberana se ve más radiante y promisorio que nunca, en virtud del legado de nuestro líder histórico, el Comandante Presidente Hugo Chávez Frías.
 
La República Bolivariana de Venezuela cuenta con instituciones sólidas consagradas en la Constitución Nacional de 1999, que permitirán que el pueblo venezolano, continuando con el ejercicio de su derecho a la autodeterminación, se dirija libre y soberanamente hacia el Socialismo Bolivariano y a reconocerlo como la vía para un futuro del vivir bien, que asegure la mayor suma de felicidad posible para todos.

 
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs through this note, protest in a convincing and categorical way the declarations issued on March 5, 2013 by the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, while such expressions are insensitive and intrusive at a time when the Venezuelan people laments and mourns the irreparable loss of our Commander President Hugo Chavez Frias.
 
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and the Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the sovereign people that since 1998 chose their fate freely and democratically as a Socialist’s nation, is obliged to remind the Prime Minister of Canada, that it has been thanks to this Bolivarian Revolution that our future as an independent and sovereign country looks brighter and promising than ever, lead under the legacy of our Commander Hugo Chavez Frias.
 
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has strong institutions recognized in the Constitution of 1999, which allow to the Venezuelan people, continuing with the exercise of the their right to self-determination, moves forward free and sovereign towards the Bolivarian’s Socialism and recognize it as the way for the future welfare of its citizens, to ensure the greatest happiness for all.

Hugo Chavez has died: World Reaction

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada:

“I would like to offer my condolences to the people of Venezuela on the passing of President Chávez. Canada looks forward to working with his successor and other leaders in the region to build a hemisphere that is more prosperous, secure and democratic. At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights”

Barack Obama, President of the United States:

At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Mahmoud Ahmadinijad, President of Iran:

I have no doubt that he [Chavez] will return alongside Jesus Christ and the Mahdi [the Hidden Imam] to establish peace and justice in the world

Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour,

“A great leader of poor and impoverished people has passed on. RIP.”

Jim Stanford, Economist for the Canadian Auto Workers:

Fareweil Hugo Chavez: Thank you for helping usher in a new era of hope and democracy in global south. Latin America will never be the same!

Jean Chretien, former PM of Canada:

On a personal basis, I had very good relation with him. He did his best… Always Chavez tried to have normal elections. Some people would say it was not completely normal but it was much better than other countries that were officially communist

Sean Penn, actor:

“Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion. I lost a friend I was blessed to have. My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela”

Oliver Stone, director:

“I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place.”

Meanwhile an average Venezuelan writes why he will not miss Chavez:

1. Your authoritarian manner (which reflected a flaw probably most Venezuelans have), and your inability to engage in an honest dialogue with anyone that opposed you. Even from your death bed, you had a Supreme Court justice fired because she didn’t agree with your politics.
 
2. Your disrespect for the rule of law and your contribution to a climate of impunity in Venezuela. In 1999, you re-wrote the Constitution to fit your needs, and yet you violated it almost on a daily basis. With this example, it is no surprise that crime exploded in Venezuela. In 14 years, our homicide rate more than tripled from 22/100K to 74/100K. While judges were busy trying to prove their political allegiance to you, only 11% of homicides led to a conviction.
 
3. Your empty promises and the way you manipulated many Venezuelans to think you were really working for them. In 14 years you built less public housing than any president before you did in their 5 year periods. Hospitals today have no resources, and if you go there in an emergency you must bring with you everything from medicines to surgical gloves and masks. The truth is that you were better at blowing your own trumpet than at getting things done.
 
4. The astounding level of corruption of your government. There was corruption before you got elected, but normally a government’s scandals weren’t made public until they handed power to the opposing party. Now we’ve heard about millions and millions of dollars vanishing in front of everybody’s eyes, and your only reaction was to attack the media that revealed the corruption. The only politicians accused of corruption have been from parties that oppose you, and mostly on trumped up charges. For example, Leopoldo Lopez was never condemned by the courts but you still prevented him for running for office. His crime? Using money from the wrong budget allocation to pay for the salaries of teachers and firemen -because your government withheld the appropriate funds.
 
5. The opportunities you missed. When you took office, the price of oil was $9.30, and in 2008 it reached $126.33. There was so much good you could have done with that money! And yet you decided to throw it away on corruption and buying elections and weapons. If you had used these resources well, 10.7% of Venezuelans would not be in extreme poverty.
 
6. Your attacks on private property and entrepreneurship. You nationalized hundreds of private companies, and pushed hundreds more towards bankruptcy. Not because you were a communist or a socialist, but simply because you wanted no one left with any power to oppose you. If everyone was a public employee, you could force them to attend your political rallies, and the opposition would not get any funding.
 
7. Your hypocrisy on freedom and human rights. You shut down more than 30 radio and television stations for being critical of your government, you denied access to foreign currency for newspapers to buy printing paper (regular citizens can’t access foreign currency unless you authorize it), you imprisoned people without trial for years, you imprisoned people for crimes of opinion, you fired tens of thousands of public employees for signing a petition for a recall referendum and you denied them access to public services and even ID cards and passports.
 
8. Your hypocrisy on the issue of Venezuela’s sovereignty. You kicked out the Americans but then you pulled down your pants for the Cubans, Russians, Chinese and Iranians. We have Cuban officers giving orders in the Venezuelan army. Chinese oil companies work with a higher margin of profit than any Western companies did. And you made it clear that your alliances would be with governments that massacre their own people.
 
9. Your hypocrisy on the issue of violence. You said this was a peaceful revolution but you allowed illegal armed groups like Tupamaros, La Piedrita and FBLN to operate. You gave them weapons. You had the Russians set up a Kalashnikov plant in Venezuela. You were critical of American wars but yet you gave weapons to the Colombian guerrilla, whose only agenda is murder and drug-dealing.
 
10. Your hypocrisy on democracy. Your favorite insult for the opposition parties in Venezuela was “coupists”, but you forgot you organized a coup in 1992, and the military that was loyal to you suggested they would support a coup in your favor if the opposition ever won the presidential elections. There was no democracy in your political party: you chose each of the candidates for the National Assembly and for city and state governments. When the opposition won the referendum that would have allowed you to change the Constitution in 2007, you disavowed the results and you figured out a way to change the articles and allow yourself to be reelected as many times as you wanted. You manipulated the elections in 2010 to make sure the opposition didn’t get more than a third of seats in Parliament even though they got 51% of the popular vote. Your democracy was made of paper, you made sure there were no meaningful checks and balances and all institutions were your puppets.

Meanwhile, Iran declares a day of mourning.

Adding up Kevin Page

Kevin Page is the Parliamentary Budget Officer and a politically expedient folk hero in some circles. His office was created by the Harper government in 2006, being born in a political climate of cleaning up corruption after the sponsorship scandal, and after years of Conservative complaints about erroneous Liberal budget estimates when that party was in government. His current term comes due this year and the Library of Parliament has already put out tender for his replacement.

The Parliamentary Budget Office reviews government spending estimates, is independent from the Ministry of Finance, and produces information and reports for Parliament. The office is a necessary one because it enables parliamentarians to hold government spending promises to account and it brings increased transparency overall. The PBO is a welcome addition to our democratic process.

Critics of Kevin Page have complained that the bureaucrat has overstepped his mandate and has produced partisan reports. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is not a full officer of Parliament like the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commission, the Auditor General or the Commissioner of Lobbying, however, he has received more ink lately in Canada’s press than all of these positions combined. Much of this has to do with his position between the government, Parliament, and the money, and some of it results from the political tone and analysis from his office.

The role of the Parliamentary Budget Office should be strengthened, but much needs to be done to remove any accusations of partisanship or any sense of ‘empire building’ within it. Indeed, due to the importance that Canadians place on its purprose via Members of Parliament, the Press, and budgetary watchdog groups such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the National Citizens Coalition, there is a strong case to be made to give more powers to the office. The head of the PBO should be made a full officer of Parliament, however, reporting and conduct standards must be in place to ensure that the information — not the personality — is grist for the mill of political debate. Indeed, Duff Conacher from Democracy Watch, suggested that “Page might have been better served if he sometimes couched his language more carefully, if not his conclusions.”

Since the office is a relatively new creation and its head has served but one term, there will be growing pains as the experiment finds its footing in the Parliamentary and political landscapes. Parliament should continue to push the government to enhance the mandate of the PBO. However, as the importance of the mandated scope of the office increases to match the importance placed upon it, a mature set of standards should be outlined.

In particular, reporting standards should be consistant and fair. When the Ministry of Finance and the PBO have different methodologies for calculating costs, they will inevitably come to different results. Those discrepancies are the predictable fodder of fickle political chatter. When the government and the PBO measure the same costs over different reporting windows (as with the F-35 costs) their numbers will differ. When the costs of decades of veteran care are not standardly factored into conflict estimates, but are done so by the PBO, there should be no surprise that numbers will be different. Two sets of numbers, produced by two sets of bureaucrats, using two different methodologies have the danger of being opportunistically framed as political cover-up and scandal.

Further, the Parliamentary Budget Officer should not be tossed about like a political football. All parties are guilty of this as the Conservatives have attacked his numbers as politically motivated while the opposition have even pinned a medal on his chest (and issued a press release about the occasion). The NDP has also lionized Page in order to position themselves against the Conservatives. All moves serve to undermine the independence of the office. The outputs of the PBO cannot be perceived to be unimpeachable when its officer is used as a partisan tool.

Page has been no political shrinking violet either. While it is laudable that he took the government to court in order to force departments to open their books so that he could fulfil his mandate, he deserves no praise for his political statements about the government’s handling of his office or of himself. Consider his sour grapes letter to CBC’s As It Happens, as a recent example. To get to the point, the PBO should not make political conclusions about his numbers and the government’s direction, but should only report the numbers. While the government was making a case about the long term viability of entitlement spending and Old Age Security, Mr. Page waded into the political firefight declaring the government wrong and OAS spending sustainable. His job is to report the raw numbers; leave the political arguments and conclusions to the elected political adversaries.

With all considered, Kevin Page deserves our thanks for being the test pilot of the shaky first term of the PBO. He has both intentionally and unintentionally helped establish the boundaries of the office and what Canadians expect from it. Increased transparency and government accountability can only be good moves forward in a democracy. However, to be a reliable outlet of budgetary information for Parliament, it must continue to mature to provide information with predictable consistency and in the absence of political ego and glory.

Justin Trudeau channels Kim Campbell

Justin Trudeau:

I’m not going to be putting forward a comprehensive platform over the course of this leadership. And that’s because the Liberal party has gotten far too much in the habit of generating a platform by the leader and some very smart people around them, that they then turn to Liberals across the country and say ‘now go and sell this door to door.’
 
This leadership is the beginning of a platform-development process, not the end of it. And what we do around connecting and drawing in ideas from around the country, not just from Liberal circles, but from Canadians who are looking for a better option, right across the country, will be the big work we have to do over the coming months and even years leading up to 2015.

Marc Garneau has responded to Trudeau’s lack of policy vision.

Marc Garneau takes on Justin Trudeau

Finally! But the critique is in text form which makes it difficult for Conservatives to create ads.

In a blog post titled “Leadership means taking a stand”, Garneau’s main criticism of Justin Trudeau is that he lacks policy direction and that saying that you’ll fill in the blanks after winning the leadership just isn’t good enough.

“Justin believes telling Canadians we need a ‘bold’ plan and a ‘clear vision’ without defining either is good enough. He speaks in vague generalities, and on his two key priorities – the middle-class and youth – he has presented no direction.”

“[Selecting Trudeau as leader would be] like asking Canadians to buy a new car without first test-driving it.

We must know what we are voting for, not just who we are voting for.”

Bob Rae has responded to the tension between the two by saying,

“Politics is a lot more like hockey than it is like ballet.”

Justin Trudeau will be good for the coffers of the Liberal Party, but either Marc Garneau or Martha Hall-Findlay would be good for its soul. Liberals perceive that their party’s main problem is that it keeps losing. True, but if they look at the cause, it’s that the party has no serious policy foundation.

Patrick Brazeau is removed from the Conservative caucus

Prime Minister Stephen Harper removed Senator Patrick Brazeau from caucus today after the Senator was taken into Gatineau police custody this morning just after 9am, according to reports.

CTV’s Robert Fife broke the news after an internal memo was circulated by Senator Marjorie LeBreton, the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Politically, Brazeau faces questions regarding his housing allowance and primary residence in Quebec. In what seems to be an unrelated matter, he has now run aground with what appears to be a new set of personal issues.

Statement

 

Date: February 7, 2013

For immediate release

 

STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE MARJORY LEBRETON, P.C. ON SENATOR BRAZEAU

Minister LeBreton today issued the following statement in regards to Senator Brazeau:

 

“In light of the serious nature of the events reported today, Senator Brazeau has been removed from the Conservative Caucus. As this is a legal matter, I cannot comment further.”

 

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Déclaration

 

Date : le 7 février 2013

Publication immédiate

 

DÉCLARATION DE L’HONORABLE MARJORY LEBRETON, C.P. AU SUJET DU SÉNATEUR BRAZEAU

 

La ministre LeBreton a publié la déclaration suivante aujourd’hui au sujet du sénateur Brazeau:

 

“Étant donné la gravité des événements rendus publics aujourd’hui, le sénateur Brazeau ne fait plus partie du Caucus conservateur. Comme il s’agit d’une question légale, je ne peux commenter davantage.”

 

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