::


:: PoliticsWatch Archives

> Frontpage
> Recent News
> News Archive

> Features Archive


:: Inside PoliticsWatch

> About PoliticsWatch
> Advertise on PoliticsWatch
> Contact PoliticsWatch
> PoliticsWatch News Syndication Services
> Jobs @ PoliticsWatch.com
> Press Contacts...
> Meet the PoliticsWatch team


:: PoliticsWatch Legislative Update

Harper losing his tight grip

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:10 p.m. October 20, 2006]

 

OTTAWA —  After the past week in Ottawa signs are beginning to appear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be losing his tight grip on his caucus.  

Since the winter election campaign, Canada's "new government," as they like to call themselves, has been primarily a one-man show. 

The previous break week was evidence of that. 

There was Harper in Vancouver at an outdoor photo-op making an announcement about this week's Clean Air Act, four high-ranking cabinet ministers by his side, not saying a word through the PM's speech and the question and answer period that followed. 

Most cabinet ministers are said to be still on a short leash and appear nervous when talking to the media -- fearful that one Vellacott-like slip up could result in the unravelling of the party's hopes for a majority. 

Harper supporters say the PM's domination of the government is just to ensure the government stays on message. Critics accuse him of being a control freak. 

Nonetheless, it seemed most of the Conservative caucus had been willing to go along with Harper's strategy because it has the intended goal of delivering the Conservatives their first majority government in a generation. 

But this week, the first cracks in that strategy were evident. 

On Tuesday, a poll for CTV News was released that showed the Liberals and the Tories were tied in the polls with 32 per cent nationally. 

Although polls change and it is just one poll, it is the first poll to show the Tories not in the lead since the income trust scandal rocked the Liberals during the election campaign. 

Even more astonishing is that despite controlling the agenda, delivering the promised one-per-cent GST cut and sending out a monthly cheques to family with children under six, Harper and the Tories cannot seem to pull ahead of a party that still has not selected a leader. 

More troubling is that Harper's plan to build his majority centred around increased Tory support in Quebec.  

The same poll showed Tory support in Quebec has plummeted to 16 per cent from 30 per cent in the spring.  

If a Tory drop in support continues, more and more MPs may be less concerned about Harper winning a majority and more concerned about saving their own seats. 

Surprisingly, Senator Michael Fortier, the only Tory cabinet minister who has job security, told reporters Wednesday what he thought the problem was. 

"We have to communicate better," Fortier said before abruptly leaving a scrum. 

With everyone in Ottawa aware that the government's communication strategy is largely controlled by the PMO, it's not hard to see who Fortier was blaming. 

Tories also started to turn on each other this week.  

Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn appeared before the Commons fisheries committee on Tuesday to discuss his plans and priorities. 

After about 90 minutes before the committee, the mood of the entire appearance had been cordial. 

Then Tory MP John Cummins asked Hearn about the government's groundfish strategy on the West Coast. 

Usually when a government MP asks a cabinet minister a question it tends to be a softball.

However, this time Cummins accused officials in the fisheries department of 
not keeping Hearn "fully informed" about problems he is aware of with the program. 

Hearn, who is known as one of the friendliest and most down-to-earth MPs around Parliament Hill, gave Cummins an uncharacteristically stern reply that was punctuated with his Newfoundland accent.  

"Mr. Cummins has absolutely no idea what goes on in my department," Hearn said. "My department not only keeps me informed, I direct most of what goes in my department." 

"Let's lay the cards on the table if that's what we want to do. We've had problems on the west coast this year, and a lot of them caused by a group involved with you, Mr. Cummins."

As Hearn continued his tongue-lashing of his colleague, a Liberal MP on the committee leaned back in his chair, looked at the handful of reporters behind him with a broad smile and said, "There's your story." 

The following day, outspoken Tory MP Garth Turner was surprisingly turfed from the Tory caucus by his colleagues.  

The PMO claimed no involvement in the decision, but few people in Ottawa believe that MPs would reduce their party's numbers in a minority Parliament without the PM's blessing. 

Turner's crime was apparently concerns that he revealed caucus secrets on his blog, but Turner said he believes the real reason was because of the criticism of his own government that had come dominate postings on his blog. 

At his news conference, Turner was asked if he thought the PMO was behind his ouster. He said he had no evidence of that. 

But asked if his dismissal was a signal to his caucus colleagues to stay in line, Turner said, "Of course. Will it make other people think twice? Perhaps it will. That will be regrettable."

So the Tories end the week with one fewer seat in the minority Parliament than they started out with, friction between ministers and MPs exposed,  polling numbers showing a majority becoming further and further out of reach, a cabinet minister openly criticizing the PMO's communication strategy and a long-awaited environment plan that appears headed for defeat. 

And this is supposed to be the easy phase of Harper's minority government. 

The current free ride will end after the Liberals elect a leader in December and the potential for an election will become a reality. 

The question is if Harper continues to be the face of the party, relegates cabinet ministers to the role of extras on a made-for-TV movie set and keeps his backbench muzzled how many MPs will stay in line if and when the Tories find themselves trailing in the polls to a newly elected Liberal leader and an election approaching? 


The Legislative Update is posted every Friday afternoon when the House is sitting. To stay informed on all the political events read PoliticsWatch's  Morning Briefing updated at 9:30 a.m. ET Monday to Friday and the Daily Agenda updated at 6:00 p.m. ET Monday to Friday.
  
______________

Here's what's happening in the House next week 

Monday to Thursday:

The government is expected to deal with the following bills

Bill C-25 proceeds of crime, 
Bill C-26 payday lending. 
Bill C-27 dangerous offenders
Bill S-2 hazardous materials
Bill C-6 aeronautics
Bill C-28 related to the May budget


____________________

Committee Highlights

Tuesday, October 24

> Liberal MP and former solicitor-general Wayne Easter will appear before the public security committee's investigation into the Maher Arar affair. 

> The softwood lumber deal comes to committee this week.  International trade officials appear before the Commons trade committee to discuss the softwood lumber enabling legislation.  Industry lawyers are expected to testify on Thursday. The question is how much will the bill be amended in committee by the opposition parties, which have control of the committees. 

> Full Schedule


____________________

Bills the Tories have tabled in this Parliament 

C-2 An Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability

Status: Passed in the House June 21

This is better known the Federal Accountability Act, which a number of new measures and a massive list of amendments to current laws aimed at cleaning up government. The bill is the government's No. 1 priority and the Tories want it passed before the summer recess in June, but already some senators are threatening to hold up the bill because it creates a joint ethics commissioner for the House and Senate. 

C-3 An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act

Status: Passed in the House June 22

C-4 An Act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act

Status: Royal Assent May 11

C-5 An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts

Status: Passed in the House June 20

C-6 An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Status: Second reading May 5

C-7 An Act to amend the National Defence Act

Status: Introduced April 27

C-8 An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2007

Status: Royal Assent May 11

C-9 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment)

Status: Referred to justice committee June 6

C-10 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

Status: Referred to justice committee June 13

C-11 An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Status: Referred to the Transport committee September 21

C-12 An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts

Status: Referred to the public security committee September 22

C-13 An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006

Status: Royal Assent June 22

This is the budget implementation bill. The bill was accidentally given unanimous consent in the House on third reading when none of the opposition parties objected after confusion over who would speak to the bill.

C-14 An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)

Status: Referred to citizenship and immigration committee June 13

This bill makes it easier for parents to obtain citizenship for children they adopt from overseas.

C-15 An Act to amend the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act

Status: Royal Assent June 22

C-16 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act

Status: Introduced May 30

Referred to the procedure and House affairs committee September 19

C-17 An Act to amend the Judges Act and certain other Acts in relation to courts

Status: Referred to justice committee June 20

This bill sets salaries for federally-appointed judges at a lower rate than that recommended by an independent panel. The panel wanted 10.8 per cent increase plus cost of living. The government is offering 7.25 per cent in the bill plus cost of living.

C-18 An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification

Status: Sent to justice committee October 4

C-19 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

Status: Sent to justice committee October 3

This bill toughens punitive measures against convicted street racers. 

C-20 An Act respecting airports, airport authorities and other airport operators and amending the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act

Status: Introduced June 15

C-21 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (non-registration of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted)

Status: Introduced June 19

This bill we effectively kill the long-arm registry.

C-22 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (age of protection) and to make consequential amendments to the Criminal Records Act

Status: Introduced June 22

C-23 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments)

Status: Referred to the Justice committee October 16

C-24 An Act to impose a charge on the export of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and a charge on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States, to authorize certain payments, to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to amend other Acts as a consequence

Status:
Referred to trade committee October 18

This is the implementation legislation for the softwood lumber deal with the U.S. This bill is considered a matter of confidence for the minority government. 

C-25 An Act to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the Income Tax Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

Status:
Introduced October 5

This bill toughens money laundering and terror financing laws and would give the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada the power to monitor money wiring and travellers cheques services. 

C-26 An Act to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the Income Tax Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

Status:
Introduced October 5

This bill toughens money laundering and terror financing laws and would give the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada the power to monitor money wiring and travellers cheques services. 

C-27 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace)

Status:
Introduced October 17

This bill places the onus on three time sexual and violent offenders to prove to the Crown they are not deserving of dangerous offender status.

C-28 A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006 

Status:
Introduced October 18


C-29 An Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act 

Status:
Introduced October 18


C-30 An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Energy Efficiency Act and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act (Canada's Clean Air Act) 

Status:
Introduced October 19

All three opposition parties say they will vote against the government's main plank of its Green Plan.  

: Related Links

> Politics Watch's Big 10 issues for the fall
> MPs prepare for House's return 

© 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.

> More Recent PoliticsWatch News...







:: Got a News Tip?

Call the PoliticsWatch
tip-line at 613.232.0516
or
e-mail

 

PoliticsWatch Home  |  News Services  Voter Resources  |  Research Base

© PoliticsWatch® 2004. 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.
PoliticsWatch® | Canada's Political Portal™
85 Albert Street, Suite 1502, Ottawa ON K1P 6A4 |  phone: 613.232.0516
news@politicswatch.com  |  Terms of Service, Copyright, Trademarks, and Disclaimers Statement