Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mid-week check in

Tom Flanagan was quoted in the Hill Times on Monday, concerned about Harper losing control of his caucus and various issues:
"He's got to figure out what's wrong and fix the machine," Prof. Flanagan said. "I'm sure his hold hasn't dangerously weakened at this point, but if this kind of stuff continues, it could."
The usual list of suspect subjects were listed, most prominently the Quebec City arena funding. Well, we're at day three of the return to Parliament and there's a bit more evidence for this story line already.

First, this story is now making the rounds everywhere, as it should: "Medical files of veterans critic improperly accessed." A veteran's medical confidential files being used for political purposes? There are the legal questions but also ones of morality there. That department is already under fire for veterans' funding issues, this is only going to amplify its problems. And yes it sounds like this issue spans a good number of years but Minister Blackburn is the responsible minister today and this government needs to answer some serious questions. Pat Stogran is quoted in that CP report suggesting that his own files seem to have been accessed too. Is this a widespread practice in that department? Sounds like a third party investigation needs to occur, to say the least.

Second, the PM has apparently yanked back, within a day, the "mass arrivals" refugee proposals that had been circulated:
A proposal to create a new category of “mass arrival” refugee claimants who could be held in detention for two weeks while authorities investigated their backgrounds is off the table after Mr. Harper vetoed it at cabinet on Tuesday, government sources said.
Ah, word of the presidential veto makes its way out of the cabinet room. The changes were reported to be Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's to oversee, and were quickly criticized by experts as discriminatory and ineffectual:"Experts pan draft human smuggling plan." Now it seems Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is going to be in charge and it's back to the drawing board. I'm sure Jason doesn't mind, "...even though changing refugee policy would ordinarily be in Mr. Kenney’s court." Word also leaked out of Harper's instruction:"He told them to focus more on stopping the people who bring the migrants here." What he proposes to do exactly about offshore smugglers should be interesting to watch given the challenges inherent in that. And overall here, this little refugee proposal episode doesn't sound like typical legislative process. It sounds quite presidential.

Then there was the news of course about the record advertising dollars to the tune of $130 million. Not much really needs to be said about that one, the optics are terrible despite the spin. The Finance Minister was termed "berserk." And they could lose a big vote tonight.

Not the greatest start to the session but...I guess it's early.