Making the grade
[PoliticsWatch posted 6:45 p.m. June 23, 2006]
|School's out for summer for Jack Layton,
Gilles Duceppe, Stephen Harper and Bill Graham.
School's out for MPs for summer.
Five months after the election of a new government, PoliticsWatch
grades the parties on their early performance.
The new government was not perfect, but accomplished a lot so far in
its first six months.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper not only supports the mission
in Afghanistan, he saw it as such a priority that he symbolically
made his first foreign visit a three-day stopover in Afghanistan,
including over-nighting on a military base.
The PM also accomplished the political play of the year so far when
he exposed divisions within the Liberal caucus by having a vote on
extending the Afghan mission.
The government was able to get its Accountability Act through the
House as well as its budget that cut the GST and created a $100
monthly child care cheque for parents with children under six.
Although the softwood deal has not been finalized, the Tories were
able to obtain a framework agreement with the Americans within
months of taking power, something the Liberals were unable to do in
over three years.
The Conservatives also get points for providing more transparency to
the appointment of Supreme Court justices and launching an inquiry
into the 1985 Air India bombing.
The Conservatives lose points, but more on process than
The appointment of floor crossing David Emerson and unelected
Senator Michael Fortier to cabinet in the name of increasing
representation from cities seems rather cynical given Harper's past
comments on floor crossers being opportunists and his position on an
The decision to ban cameras from repatriation ceremonies for fallen
soldiers and the decision not to lower the flag on the Peace Tower
does not sit well with many Canadians.
Also take points off for Harper's battle with the Press Gallery,
secret cabinet meetings and his decision to spin it as a
Tory MP Colin Mayes' comments about jailing journalists is
the kind of slip up the Tories successfully avoided during the
election. Mayes quickly apologized. Tory MP Pierre Poilievre's
unparliamentary behaviour is making him the Tory the opposition
parties love to hate. And Industry Minister Maxime Bernier
spent two hours before the industry committee without ever really
answering a question directly and used most of the time to talk
about Tory corporate tax cuts in the budget.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Treasury Board President
John Baird, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Trade Minister
David Emerson, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose
Pierre Poilievre, Industry Minister Maxime Bernier
Oh, where to begin?
For much of the sitting the Liberals appeared to be dosing off on
the job or playing hookie.
This would explain how the budget, which the Liberals were
vehemently opposed to, was allowed to pass in the House of Commons
without a vote when the Liberals failed to rise to oppose
Or what about the party's 18 per cent rate of absenteeism on votes?
The Liberals are largely preoccupied with a leadership race, that
includes nearly 10 per cent of its caucus.
Even candidates admit the leadership debate is a snoozefest with 11
candidates on stage.
Then there is the $5,000 donations from 11-year-old twins of a
pharmaceutical executive to Liberal candidate Joe Volpe.
For days Volpe and party officials defended the donations on the
grounds that it wasn't illegal.
The silence from other Liberal MPs on the matter was
Not only has the Volpe affair raised bad memories about Liberal
scandals and ethical standards being what is within the law, it has
also effectively neutralized the Liberals on the child-care issue in
question period. Questions about child care are now met with
responses from the governing party that include jokes about Volpe
shaking down children for money.
Then there is the Liberals' position on the Afghanistan mission
extension which is about as clear as mud.
The majority of the Liberal caucus voted against extending the
mission. However, the Liberals deny they are opposed to the mission
or not supportive of the troops, but rather voted against the
extension on procedural reasons, saying there wasn't enough time for
Even though their government sent troops to Afghanistan in the first
place, the Liberals are now for the mission even though they voted
against the mission.
The Liberals would have received an F were it not for a few young
MPs and leadership candidates who were never in cabinet but are now
taking advantage the spotlight. In comparison, most of the veteran
former Liberal cabinet ministers -- the nucleus of the Martin
government -- now look shell-shocked and lost without their large
staffs and limos in opposition.
The good news is the only way for the Liberals to go from here would
Ruby Dhalla, Michael Ignatieff, Dominic LeBlanc,
Bob Rae, Martha Hall Findlay
Joe Volpe, John McCallum, Carolyn Bennett, Bill Graham, Ralph
The NDP remains a well-oiled and disciplined caucus under the
stewardship of NDP Leader Jack Layton.
They have embarked on a politically savvy strategy of attacking the
Liberals equally as much as the governing party, knowing that
expanding their base will require Liberal voters.
The party has also staked out clear positions on the major issues of
the day, including Afghanistan. The party is now opposed to the
mission because of the Canadian role in the counterinsurgency
effort, so voters will know where they stand.
NDP MP Pat Martin has been a busy man in this sitting as the
party's ethics critic and has picked up where former NDP MP Ed
Broadbent left off. Martin has gone after Emerson, Volpe and was
the swing vote on the legislative committee examining the
Accountability Act. He is also one of the stronger performers in
question period and a quote machine for reporters.
With the Liberals out of power, the Bloc at times looks like
Wile E. Coyote without the Road Runner.
It was just over two years ago that the party appeared down in the
dumps until the sponsorship scandal exploded and revitalized the
Bloc. But now Adscam is old news and the Liberals are not in power.
In recent weeks, the Bloc has adjusted its strategy and is now
trying to draw attention to what they believe are Conservative party
policy positions that won't go down well in Quebec -- primarily the
Tory ambivalence to Kyoto.
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe continues to be a steadying force for the
party and a realist.
The Bloc decided to support the Conservative budget, but did not try
to sugar coat or spin its support.
"I will support it because it's a transition budget with a firm commitment to settle the fiscal imbalance," said
Duceppe at the time..
Duceppe accused the other opposition party leaders of playing games
and said the truth was none of the federal parties really wanted to
defeat the government and force an election campaign so soon after January's election campaign.
"It's not my style. I don't want to bluff," Duceppe said.
© PoliticsWatch® 2006. All rights reserved. Republication
or redistribution of PoliticsWatch content, including by framing,
copying, linking or similar means, is expressly prohibited without
the prior written consent of Public Interests Research and Communications
Inc. (PIRCINC). PoliticsWatch is registered trademark of PIRCINC.