Sunday, June 07, 2009

 

It's no accident that the Commons is no longer capable of its defining task of overseeing public spending.

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Remember that great German philosopher who said we must hit bottom before we can climb to the top, or something like that. I figure a lot of us hit bottom on May 12, 2009 but I have very little patience (none, in fact) with anybody who parks his/her sorry butt at the bottom, wringing their hands, and crying "We're all gonna die!" Of course we are, you silly ass. It's what we do while we're alive that counts. But that's the thing: what do we do?

Practice question: why is it not OK for the public to own BC Rail, BC Hydro, PetroCanada but it's OK for us to own 12% of General Motors now?


Jim Travers is a national columnist who I pay attention to. He's thorough, well-grounded, experienced ... and tolerant. He has never come across like one of those CanWest trained poodles, partly because Toronto Star is known for its independence. You can see Jim Travers each Friday on Don Newman's "Politics" too (CBC Newsworld), always a rational analyst.

In this column, Travers is describing the national government which seems to have the same confused management style as the B.C. government has.
Lately his tone has hardened, sharpened until he's been sending "John Ward" style messages which sound like warnings against our own governments. When John Ward said it on Dec. 29, 2003, I believed he might be correct. Now, 5 years later, when Travers says we've hit bottom, I believe him. What's more, I believe there's something we can do about it.

If you go to the original Toronto Star story, you'll see 28 comments. Judge for yourself, how quickly frightened citizens, while recognizing the truth of what he's saying, will simply keep whimpering: "We're all gonna die!" But there are also vigorous statements about how we're gonna live, to grieve, to face the facts, and to start again. - BC Mary.

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MPs not minding the store. So why are they there?

Ottawa bailed out General Motors to the tune of $10.6 billion June 1, 2009, a move done with little debate and less documentation, Jim Travers says.

Toronto Star - June 6, 2009


OTTAWA. Dysfunction is measured here in an Everest of Loonies. That already towering summit rose this week by 11 billion of them, give or take a few misplaced millions.

First, with little debate and less documentation, the federal government gave General Motors a $10.6 billion gift thinly disguised as a 12 per cent stake in the bankrupt company. Then from a secret briefing book came startling news that this year alone taxpayers are spending $315 million on the chronically ill Chalk River nuclear facility, cranking the total to some $1.7 billion since Conservatives came to power.

As much as rivals hope the problems stick to the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper didn't create either mess. Canada's auto sector is bleeding from multiple wounds, some caused by recession and seismic global shifts, some self-inflicted. Keeping the vintage reactor operating, let alone selling CANDUs and producing medical isotopes, is one of the inherited horrors that sap the fun from winning elections.

So the issue isn't blame, it's accountability. Members of Parliament weren't asked and don't know enough about the GM bailout to decide if it's the best possible way to spend more than $300 for every Canadian man, woman and child. And they certainly can't make rational decisions about the nuclear industry's safety or viability when the watchdog is sacked for doing her job and as long as following the money trail is a fruitless scavenger hunt.

What MPs don't know can hurt us all. They – and we – need more than a prime minister's assurance that buying a piece of GM is in the national interest. They – and we – need to know that having a seat at the boardroom table will give a voice strong enough to insulate jobs, investment and research from the forces of corporate desperation, a border thickened by protectionism and a Canadian dollar rocketing towards U.S. parity.

Inconvenient as ever, the awful truth is that those who make their living representing we-the-people know about as much about the GM bailout as they did about the Chalk River sinkhole before Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt's briefing book was left behind. Even more unsettling than that truth is another. It's no accident that the Commons is no longer capable of its defining task of overseeing public spending.

In the decades-long migration of power from Parliament to prime ministers, backbenchers were left out of the loop. Pressing issues once openly debated in the Commons were shuffled to committees where fluid membership, pinched resources and extreme partisanship guarantee the best questions are rarely, if ever, answered.

Here's how it worked – or didn't – in applying due diligence to the auto rescue. A sub-committee heard late-night testimony for a file-and-forget report pre-empted by cabinet's decision to impose a 60-day restructuring deadline. Or, put another way, MPs had no meaningful influence over a decision with profound implications and a price tag of roughly 20 per cent of this year's projected $50 billion deficit.

There's nothing new here about not knowing enough. A memorable example is the artful way Liberals lifted the rug to hide the cash that became the Quebec sponsorship scandal. But deficits for the foreseeable future bring fresh urgency for politicians to prove to citizens, taxpayers and voters that every cent is wisely spent.

A dilemma is created by the continuing failure to meet that minimum standard. If MPs can't do their most important job, why bother coming here at all?
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Comments:

Look at the BC Rail Case

I've wished a thousand times that the rest of Canada would begin to pay attention to the offences being committed against British Columbia. The whole sorry mess is being exposed by the trial in BC Supreme Court investigating how the Campbell government happened to lose Canada's 3rd largest railway. Millions of dollars are going down the drain as Crown Prosecutors and Campbell Cabinet ministers try to prevent the necessary documents from being read in court. The deal itself giving BCRail to CN remains secret after 5 years! There are connections from the accused to a sparkling array of Canadian political celebrities ... all of it ignored by the media and by the nation's leaders. Jim Travers asks why our MPs are there. I ask why CanWest is there. More's the point: I ask who's running this country?

Submitted by BC Mary at 9:56 PM Saturday, June 06 2009
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It's laziness and apathy. When you have a party like the (Reform/CA)Conservatives a party that DOESN'T believe in government you can expect a little bit of reluctance to step in and do anything. Why else would they be so eager to sell off Gov. properties so that they don't have to deal with them. The fact that a majority of the MP's are grossly unqualified like Flaherty we should be so lucky that not a lot of them are stepping in making things worse. They would have to care about ALL Canadians (and not certain provinces) to want to make a difference and govern.

Submitted by blueburn at 8:01 PM Saturday, June 06 2009
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Truth as we've seen it (past), governments 'buy' using public funds then 'sells' (says not profitable) to friends, relatives, cronies for a song! Grand theft and we stand by with our mouths hanging open doing nothing.

Submitted by rroarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr at 6:06 PM Saturday, June 06 2009

and 25 more comments before the Comments section was closed.

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Comments:
" Pressing issues once openly debated in the Commons were shuffled to committees where fluid membership, pinched resources and extreme partisanship guarantee the best questions are rarely, if ever, answered."

Unfortunately, it is worse than Mr. Travers suggests above. Actually the best and most relevant questions are rarely even ASKED!

Just look at the sham that was supposed to be a Parliamentary committee looking into Lyin' Brian and the mysterious bags of money, that he thought was even tax free for a number of years (or unwilling to report). The real questions aren't asked and the discrepancies between previous testimony and current revelations are studiously IGNORED by all the old boys and girls.

But things are going well in BC, I just heard on the radio this morning that that pale imitation of Orange County - Kelowna, the place where young people from our community have to go for work or higher education and the sick for medical treatment has now hit 11.5% unemployement, and we all know that must actually mean over 20%, as the counting method is designed to hide unemployment. But these guys (Kelowna) would elect a dummy with a provicial Liberal label or federal Conservative label and just did both yet again. But not to worry, these guys both in Ottawa and Victoria are "masters of finance" - well they know how to steal anyway!

Big news from Victoria and the House of Horrors is that all our new MLAs are getting sworn in today - except for Vicki Huntington for some reason - she gets sworn in all alone tomorrow. Are they sending her a message?
 
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