Tweed is in!

Merv Tweed

Peter Milliken has his first challenger:


Merv Tweed (left) Promises a Change in Decorum in Upcoming Parliament

For immediate release

Brandon, MB – November 5th, 2008 – Merv Tweed has announced his intention to put his name forward on the ballot to become the Speaker of the 40th session of the House of Commons, to be elected on November 18th.

“Having been the Chair of the Standing Committee for Transport, I’ve had the opportunity to present myself as a fair and judicious decision maker who has taken the interests of all parties to heart,” said Merv, from his office in Brandon Manitoba.

As an elected Chair in Parliament and a former Minister in the Manitoba government, Merv Tweed has the skills and experience to be an effective Speaker. “The decorum in the House has fallen to an all time low and there is enough blame to go around to all parties. I will change this if I’m elected Speaker, utilizing the tools of the position which have been unused for many years.”

Merv Tweed believes he has excellent support in all parties and is very hopeful that he can be successful in his bid to be Speaker.

– 30 –

Whither Peter Milliken?

Peter Milliken, as every politics-mad Canadian knows, is the Speaker of the House of Commons. Or at least he was for the 39th Parliament. On Nov. 18, the 40th Parliament of Canada will convene for the first time and its first order of business will be to elect a speaker. The election of a speaker is done by secret ballot which is preceded often by intense lobbying by the aspirants.

I can confirm, dear reader, that Milliken will, indeed, be one of those who aspires to be Speaker for the 40th Parliament.

There are other names being bandied about on the gossip circuit. I've heard that Merv Tweed, a Conservative from Manitoba, and Andrew Scheer, a Conservative from Saskatchewan who was assistant deputy speaker in the last Parliament might be interested.

With the retirement of Bill Blaikie, it seems unlikely that an NDP MP will put his or her name forward to be speaker. And we can rule out a BQ MP.

Now, here's an interesting little conspiracy theory advanced to me this afternoon by a smart and enthusiastic Hill staffer: The Conservatives may be interested in seeing anyone — even another Liberal – take the Speaker's job, so long as it's not Milliken. Here's why: Milliken has been the speaker for seven years and it's his dream job. Wily Conservatives though may be betting that if Milliken was deprived of his dream job, he might quit as an MP. After all, he was hinting during the last election campaign that this run would be his last. So, without the Speaker's job to keep him in Ottawa, some Tories think he might just up and vacate his seat of Kingston and the Islands, which Milliken and the Liberals have held since 1988. Milliken beat out Flora MacDonald who had held the seat for the Progressive Conservatives since 1972.

Now if Milliken quits his MP's job, that would free up a byelection and, given the fact that Kingston is a tiny little red dot in the sea of blue Conservative ridings between Toronto and Ottawa, the Tories have every reason to believe that they could take that riding.

So, for that reason, the Conservative leadership may suggest that the 143 Tory MPs cast their secret ballot for someone other than the incumbent.

Canadian auto sales: This just doesn't make sense …

As financial markets around the world tanked last month, what did Canadians do? Apparently, they went car shopping. And they weren't out buying the cheap stuff, either. Canadians went shopping for expensive cars.

“I must say that I am absolutely completely surprised by the Canadian performance,” auto analyst Dennis Desrosiers says in a note accompanying his release of the October sales data. “Did Canadians not open their investment statements in October?? or are they kidding themselves or did they enter the market in the summer and ordered their new vehicle and September and October are just showing the deliveries from these earlier in the year sales? I don't know.”

Overall, sales for last month were up 1.5 per cent compared to the same month in 2007. And sales for the year are on track, Desrosiers says, to be 1.4 per cent better this year than last. By comparison, Americans will buy 5 million fewer cars or light trucks this year.

And what was hot last month? How about Mercedes-Benz? Mercedes saw sales jump 32 per cent last month compared to the year-earlier period. Audi was up 67 per cent. BMW up 27 per cent. OK, Porsche only sold 114 cars in Canada last month, down 27 per cent from 156 sold in October 2007. But still …

Meanwhile, Desrosiers reports that Toyota could take the number two position in Canada by year's end for total sales of cars and light trucks. For the first 10 months of the year here's the ranking for units sold (with per cent change compared to first 10 months of 2007):

  1. General Motors: 314,543 (-9.4%)
  2. Toyota: 201,614 (+16.1%)
  3. Chrysler: 193,927 (-0.7%)
  4. Ford: 188,862 (-7.4%)
  5. Honda: 151,579 (+9.2%)

Afghanistan: The challenge of keeping returning refugees happy…

The Afghan repatriation program has been suspended for the winter and will start up again in March, the United Nations said today. The UN notes that more than 275,000 Afghan refugees have returned home, almost all of them from Pakistan.

…over 5 million people have returned to Afghanistan since 2002, representing a 20 per cent increase in the country’s overall population. Some 4.3 million of them were assisted through UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme for Afghan refugees, the world’s largest for the past six years.

“I think it is very clear to everybody that an increase in a population with a refugee return programme of that dimension would represent a very sharp challenge for even a Western industrialized country. We are certainly not aware, in recent history, of any country that has absorbed so many people in such a short time,” [said Ewen MacLeod, Acting Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Afghanistan]

By comparison, I should note, Canada lets in less than 250,000 immigrants every year.

… return and reintegration in Afghanistan will become more challenging. The returnees face many difficulties, including lack of job opportunities, shelter and basic services such as health care and education. “In order to create sufficient employment opportunities the economy has to grow at a quicker pace to absorb more workers in labour markets,” Macleod stated.

The UN notes that refugees are not returning because of “pull” factors that draw them back to Afghanistan. Rather, the UN believes a combination of factors are “pushing” refugees out of Pakistan and back to Afghanistan:

…the high prices of food and fuel which have strongly impacted Pakistan’s economy, the closure of the large Jalozai refugee camp in the Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the “changing” security situation in Pakistan, particularly in NWFP, where the majority of Afghan refugees live.

Who's who in the House


Now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has named his cabinet, other leadership positions within the House of Commons will soon emerge. I suspect by the end of the week, for example, we might learn who gets to be a Parliamentary Secretary. One who will not be a PS is Guy Lauzon (left), the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture. Lauzon today was named the chair of the Conservative national caucus, succeeding Rahim Jaffer, who was defeated in the last election.

The Conservatives are the only one of the parties in Parliament whose caucus chair is appointed by the leader. Every other caucus elects its own leader.

Also today: Opposition leader Stéphane Dion annnounced some leadership positions within his own caucus, namely:

• Ralph Goodale and Marlene Jennings continue their roles as House Leader and Deputy House Leader respectively.

• Rodger Cuzner takes up new responsibilities as the Liberal Whip, succeeding Karen Redman, who also went down to to defeat in the Oct. 14 election. Marcel Proulx is the deputy whip.

• In the Senate, Senator Jim Cowan will lead the Liberals and Senator Claudette Tardif will be his deputy. Senator Jim Munson is the Liberal whip in the Senate.

It's official: Telegdi loses by 17 votes for closest race so far in 2008

As much as it was a surprise to see Conservative Rahim Jaffer lose to NDPer Linda Duncan in Edmonton, it was perhaps more of a surprise to see two Liberals lose in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Liberal Whip Karen Redman lost to  Conservative Stephen Woodworth in Kitchener Centre and tonight, Elections Canada announced the results from the judicial recount in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo and it continues to be a downer for Liberals in the Waterloo region.

While the results narrowed, Liberal Andrew Telegdi is still out and Conservative Peter Braid is still in. On election night, Braid was up by 48 votes. After the recount, he is declared the winner by 17 votes or 21,830 to 21,813.

As Alice notes: “…17 votes represents a margin of less than 0.0% of the valid ballots cast (17/60534 = 0.02808339115207982290943932335547% of the vote, to be precise)”. She concludes that that makes Kitchener-Waterloo the closest race for 2008, pending the outcome of the drama in Vancouver South.