Government MP gives rare tearful apology in House of Commons for failing to answer questions

Paul Calandra, the Conservative MP who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, gave a tearful apology today in the House of Commons for the way he failed to answer questions put to him during Question Period earlier this week from Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair.



Here’s the video of the original exchange between Mulcair and Calandra from Tuesday, Sept. 23. It was this exchange that Calandra apologize for on Friday:

Continue reading Government MP gives rare tearful apology in House of Commons for failing to answer questions

Flashback: Cressy storms the House of Commons

Joe Cressy hopes to make it into the House of Commons this year as the new MP for Trinity-Spadina, replacing Olivia Chow who resigned her seat to run for mayor in Toronto. I first met Cressy in 2009 in that very same chamber but on that day, he was part of a group of about 120 protesters who, in the middle of Question Period stood up and started hollering questions at the government from the public gallery. That’s a very big no-no House-of-Commons-procedure-wise and an army of security guards ended up dragging the protesters out. I was sitting in the House of Commons press gallery that day and Continue reading Flashback: Cressy storms the House of Commons

(Almost) Leaderless in the House of Commons Thursday

[PMO handout photo]
You were wondering what the leaders of your political parties were up to Thursday? Well, the House of Commons is in session and Thursday they debated a very important bill on some sweeping changes to Canada’s election laws. Unfortunately, most of your leaders were not able to be present in our legislature. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for one, had a very important meeting in Quebec City. (above). Continue reading (Almost) Leaderless in the House of Commons Thursday

Air passengers' bill of rights anyone?

In the House of Commons a few minutes ago, the NDP asked Transport Minister Lisa Raitt why there was no mention of an airline passenger’s bill of rights in the Speech from the Throne. Raitt chided the NDP for “speculation” about what would be in that speech.

That source of that speculation? None other than Minister of Industry, James Moore, on CTV’s Question Period four days ago:

Question Period host Robert Fife: What about the airlines? Are we going to be looking, we’re hearing some talk about perhaps an airline bill of rights to deal with some of the very frustrations that travelers have in dealing with airlines, being bumped, for example.

Minister Moore: Yeah. You know, when we put together a list of things that frustrate consumers on which the government can take action, the list gets long very quickly. Some of these things, of course, are taken care of in the free market. I’m a free marketer, free enterprise guy. But in other circumstances they can’t be and responsible government action is needed. With regard to air passengers, you know, I think people find it incredibly frustrating when they go to board a flight, a plane that has 165 seats, and an airline chooses to sell 175 seats in order to cover their margins in case people don’t show up. And people who have paid for their ticket show up at the gate, go through security, arrive on time, and they find that their ticket has been sold twice and that somebody else is occupying their chair and they have to get rebooked, sometimes missing a wedding, missing a funeral, and having their business life interrupted. That’s not fair to consumers, it’s not fair to travelers and we are looking to take action on that front as well.

Not often seen in Question Period: Zombies

Pat Martin NDP MP
New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Pat Martin speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 13, 2013. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Can’t say I’ve seen this subject come up in the House of Commons before. From today’s Question Period …

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP) : Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and the province of Quebec for putting in place emergency measures to deal with the possibility of an invasion of zombies. Continue reading Not often seen in Question Period: Zombies

The job-killing carbon tax. Again and again and again.

Speaker's Parade
The Sergeant-at-Arms carries the Mace into the House of Commons during the Speakers Parade at Parliament Hill in Ottawa Jan 28 2013, the first day of the new year for MPs. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Hon. Andrew Scheer follows on the right. (Andre Forget/QMI Agency)

We now have Hansard for the first week of 2013 in the House of Commons. Each day, there is a 45-minute Question Period. You’ve seen this. It generally gets the most media attention of any daily event on the Hill.

But just before Question Period gets underway (at 2:15 pm ET M-TH and 11:15 am on Fri) there is a 15-minute period for Members’ Statements. This period is provided for under Standing Order 31 so these statements are often referred to on the Hill as “S.O. 31s.”  The Conservatives mostly, but exclusively, are now using this period to bludgeon their opponents. (See my earlier post for more explanations: “The evolution of the SO31: From happy thoughts to political mud fights”) Used to be that Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals were the objects of the Conservative SO 31 ire. No more. Here’s what those of us who are paid to watch that 15-minute period of SO 31s have been suffering through for the first five days of this year in Parliament (and have every expectation of suffering through for many more days to come). I’ve excerpted just the juicy “carbon tax” bits … Continue reading The job-killing carbon tax. Again and again and again.

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:


The evolution of the SO31: From happy thoughts to political mud fights

Before every Question Period in the House of Commons, there is a 15-minute period where MPs are allowed to rise and deliver a one-minute “Member’s Statement” on just about any subject they want. These “Members’ Statements” are provided for under Standing Order 31 of the House of Common procedural rules. So, you’ll often hear an MP say, “I’m giving an ess-oh-thirty-one (SO31) today …” In Parliament Hill shorthand, SO31 is used a noun to refer to these one-minute-long member’s statements. 

Continue reading The evolution of the SO31: From happy thoughts to political mud fights