Shuffling the deck at House of Commons committees

Akin at Committee
Your blogger and correspondent skulks about 253-D, one of the main committee meeting rooms in the Centre Block of the House of Commons.

I’m certain this post will be read by only the most die-hard of political geeks and, if so, welcome: You’re among friends here.

And so, for you, we present  changes adopted this week by the House of Commons to the rosters of the various standing committees of the House of Commons, recently switched up as new MPs arrived in the House courtesy of last fall’s by-elections but also because one party, the Liberals, has three of its caucus members busy trying to become the leader. The official report here and here has the changes broken down by each committee but here, in this post, I’m breaking it down by party and MP: Continue reading Shuffling the deck at House of Commons committees

Youth unemployment: About as bad as it ever was

Mulcair on Youth unemployment
New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on January 30, 2013 (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

In the most recent Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada (that would be the numbers for December 2012), we find the country has 4.46 million people who are between the ages of 15 and 24. Of those, 2.83 million are “in the labour force”, that is to say, they either have jobs or they are looking for jobs.

StatsCan says 1.28 million of them have a full-time job, 1.16 million have a part-time job while 398,000 of these young people say they can’t find any work. That means the unemployment rate among Canada’s young people in December was 14 per cent. By comparison, the unemployment rate for men 25 years of age and older was 7.6 per cent. For women 25+, it was 5.6 per cent.

This relatively higher unemployment youth rate has been a leading topic for the opposition parties in the House of Commons this week. Indeed, it was the first question the Leader of the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, put to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Question Period on Wednesday. Here’s the exchange from Hansard:

Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, more than five years after the recession hit in 2008, Canada’s youth unemployment rate is still sitting at 15%, double the national average.    According to a report by TD Bank, this represents lost earnings of $11 billion to date, which will take a generation to recover. The high youth unemployment rate obviously has significant consequences for our economy.  Why are our young people not one of the Prime Minister‘s four priorities?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, job creation and economic prosperity are our top priorities. In fact, the Canadian economy has created more than 900,000 net new jobs since the end of the recession. That is the best record of all G7 countries.    There are obviously still challenges in this regard, especially for some young people. That is why our budgets include specific measures for youth. I encourage the NDP to support these measures.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, young people suffered more than half of all the job losses during the 2008 recession. Nearly 280,000 jobs were lost among Canadian young people and to this day only about 30,000 have been recovered. Almost half of all young people who lose a job are not even eligible for EI. That is in the government’s budget, which we will not support. That situation is made even worse by the Prime Minister’s latest rounds of EI cuts.    Does the Prime Minister understand the devastating impact his failed policies are having on an entire generation of Canadian youth?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  Of course, Mr. Speaker, it is completely to the contrary. Since the recession ended we have created 900,000 net new jobs in this country, the best track record in the G7. There is no better place for a young person to be today than in Canada.     Challenges obviously still exist in the labour market and for young people. That is why the government has addressed this in a series of budgetary measures, things like the youth employment strategy that has created over 50,000 positions, the Canada summer jobs program and others, which the NDP unfortunately always votes against.

Notably, on Friday, the government will have something to say about the Canada Summer Jobs Program. Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has a press conference scheduled in Ottawa and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews will have the mirror version in Winnipeg.

As we get set for those press conference, here’s a couple of tweets from Laval University economist Stephen Gordon which help add some context to the StatsCan numbers and ensuing political exchange:


Hansard geeks rejoice! It's all going online!

I don’t know about you but I am constantly finding neat, new things at the Parliamentary Web site. It’s invaluable for political journalists and, I assume, teachers, researchers and others who want to know more about federal politics.

Well, here’s some good news — all of Hansard for both the House of Commons and the Senate will be making its way online over the next couple of years.

Right now, Hansards dating back to 1994 for the House of Commons and to 1996 for the Senate are already online and are searchable.  Continue reading Hansard geeks rejoice! It's all going online!

Parliament back Monday, Or, "How I Kept Speaker Scheer's chair warm"

Queen's Model Parliament 2013 - 4 - Version 2
The Queen’s University Model Parliament earlier this month with Speaker Akin presiding …

MPs return to Ottawa and the House of Commons Monday after a Christmas break which began on Dec. 12. Back in their ridings, government MPs handed out more than 150 cheques for new highways, curling club improvements, training for the disabled, marina improvements and all sorts of other things. The grand total for all those cheque presentations? $1.5 billion. So, for the sake of the federal treasury if nothing else, let me be the first to welcome the country’s MPs back to the House of Commons.

While they were gone, incidentally, students from Queen’s University moved in to hold their annual Model Parliament. Continue reading Parliament back Monday, Or, "How I Kept Speaker Scheer's chair warm"

Hi, I'm Adrian Dix and I'm not the scary guy my opponents would have you believe

The B.C. NDP have responded (above) to some negative ads put up by a right-leaning group known as the Concerned Citizens for B.C. as well as other ads put out in the last week by the B.C. Liberals. From the B.C. NDP press release: Continue reading Hi, I'm Adrian Dix and I'm not the scary guy my opponents would have you believe

By the numbers: The Harper Conservative majority in the senate


Prime Minister Stephen Harper today appointed five new senators including Doug Black (above in an interview with me from March,2012) who got the most votes among all candidates to be a senator-in-waiting in Alberta’s provincial election last year.  With these new appointments, the 105-seat Senate is now filled with 53 Harper appointees. So it’s not only a Conservative majority in the Senate, it’s a Harper Conservative majority.

Since taking office, Harper has now made 58 appointments — some had already resigned, one died in office, and one (Fabian Manning) quit and then got reappointed. That means, with 58 appointments to the Senate, Harper has passed Brian Mulroney in terms of senate appointments.

That’s a bit of an awkward accomplishment for Harper who, in March,2004, said, “I will not name appointed people to the Senate.” Continue reading By the numbers: The Harper Conservative majority in the senate

Tax breaks to save heritage assets? What about our national parks?

Conservative MP Gord Brown
Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown speaks to members of the Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce during Thursday’s MP Breakfast at the Brockville Country Club. (RONALD ZAJAC/The Recorder and Times)

MPs have and will continue to criss-cross the country soliciting ideas that might make it into Jim Flaherty’s 2013 budget. (If you’re in St. John’s, NL Friday morning, you can bend the ear of the junior minister of finance, Ted Menzies at one of these consultations) One thing we know for sure about Flaherty’s budget: There ain’t a lot money that can be spent on new programs.  But what about tax breaks that would spur spending on public assets, assets the government would normally assume financial responsibility but for which, in a time of austerity, it doesn’t necessarily have the ability to do so? Continue reading Tax breaks to save heritage assets? What about our national parks?

Here we go: BC Liberals air first political ad ahead of spring election

Earlier this week, a group calling itself the Concerned Citizens for BC launched attack ads aimed at Adrian Dix and the BC NDP. Dix’ NDP has a 15 point lead on incumbent B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark with less than 16 weeks until e-day. Today, at separate press conferences, both Dix and Clark said they’d avoid negative ads.

Well, so far, Clark, at least, is true to her word and her party is first out of the gate with a political ad, i.e. paid for by the party. (You may have heard some controversy about the $15 million in taxpayer funds being spent on ad campaign that New Democrats say is a thinly-disgused pro-Clark campaign). Here’s the Premier:

McGill University seeks to ban its own student journos from filing ATI requests on it

A disturbing piece in the McGill Daily …

In December, McGill filed a motion with the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec against 14 McGill students, seeking to disregard several Access to Information (ATI) requests.

In the conclusion of the motion, McGill demands the authority to “disregard future requests […] submitted by the respondents or students of McGill or student journalists of The McGill Daily and the Link (Concordia University) or by persons associated to McGilliLeaked or by persons that could reasonably be linked to such requestors,” if those requests meet one of five vague characteristics.

One of those characteristics includes being “overly broad.” Another is if the request “is associated to one or more categories of documents and information published on McGilliLeaked, a website that compiles the results of ATI requests.

Some of the categories on McGilliLeaked include “administrative,” “contracts,” “construction,” “legal,” “expenses,” and years, such as “2010,” and “2011.”

via The McGill Daily » Keeping information under wraps.

The McGill University media relations office, having seen this article, provided me this morning with the 20-page motion it has filed in support of is request to disregard these and future ATI requests.:

McGill motion to block student journos from making ATI request by David Akin

In Conservative Kamloops, 600 show up for the next leader of Parliament's third party

Kelowna for Trudeau

Hate to steal again from the Instagram feed of Gerry Butts, an advisor to the Justin Trudeau for Leader campaign, but he gives us this picture tonight from Kelowna where, shortly after it was taken, his candidate spoke to the crowd. Butts, on Twitter reported:

Now, Butts is certainly not a disinterested party here, of course,  [UPDATE: The Kamloops Daily News goes with 600 as well in “Trudeau wows Grand Hall Crowd“]  but that certainly looks a rather full house  to me and it’s worth pointing out the following: Continue reading In Conservative Kamloops, 600 show up for the next leader of Parliament's third party