Thursday, March 17, 2011

PROC part 2

After some agressivly boring back and forth nattering ("You have to give us those!" "No we don't!" "Yes you do!"), the committee starts to heat up after lunch. The afternoon starts with a history lesson from professor Ned Franks who, in my opinion, is really the star of today's show, about the 8 previous cases of contempt in Canada, none of which involved cabinet members or the government itself, but this is kind of irrelevant fluff. The only part that I find myself disagreeing with the endearing Professor Franks is when he asserts that parliament should somehow 'constrain itself' by knowing which documents it can ask for or not. The notion itself seems ridiculous, but the alternative - the government saying what is too sensitive - is even more ludicrous. He reconfirms that the government does not have the right to say what it will and won't give the parliament.
To correct this problem from happening again, he suggests five points of reform, but when asked whether he thinks the government should be held in contempt or not he balks, saying it is for the committee to decide, but the best course of action is to prevent a similar problem from happening again.
The five (I didn't catch one) points being:
Parliament and government should work together to determine what is considered 'confidence' or not
All legislation should not pass first reading without a projected 5 year budget
Some official (that I didn't catch) should get their own interpretation of the finances
The House should undertake an inquiry into the House's ability to police papers
It is a pretty good assessment of how to prevent this from occurring again, and I respect his opinion, but I am not sure how quickly it could be instated.

Professor Franks believes that if parliament weighs a crime bill against an immigration program, cost must be considered; the house of commons must include a budget assessment at the second reading of any legislation, even considering the increased expected rate of expenses, which he feels an be accommodated for by skilled economists. When he outlines it so rationally, it makes me wonder why we have not included this idea before.

During the subsequent question period, it feels like the government is trying to undermine his authority by asking if he's written anything prior, but he asserts that he has dealt with similar circumstances before. The government continues on to say that just because papers are being hidden, doesn't mean they're anything bad, but the point is irrelevant; if I find my husband has a second bank account I don't care what it's for (Except for surprise vacations), I care that he's hiding things from me. The proceedings get bogged down at this point because the conservatives are really focusing on the dynamics of the budget estimates that would be attached to the second reading of every bill, which could be hashed out if and when the government ever decided to include them.
When asked what he, Ned Franks, thinks the government should do if the committee concludes the government is guilty, he replies: find them guilty, find them guilty and put them in jail, or just ignore it. He doesn't understand how, short of reading  all the submitted paperwork, the opposition can come to any conclusion, short of finding a way to ensure this doesn't happen again, a way to live with the government. The fact is, he says, that governments tends to keep information to themselves and this needs to be balanced by a higher power who can force them to be overseen and accountable.
McGuinty tries to act like the Liberals would be a happy, healthy, open government, but Franks functionally says, 'don't blow smoke up my ass, every government is the same - we should give parliament more power'. I really like him.

After dancing in and out of the room (camera, non-camera, camera)  for a bit, it seems a motion was put forth to make a draft that contains the conclusions of the committee in process, but with drafts not longer than two pages in both official languages. Everyone is losing their minds about it but I'm not sure why this is a big deal, or why the members think all Canadians should read it. It does require that no evidence be included in the draft, but it must still come to a specific conclusion, which is a waste of all those witnesses and scintillating debate. The motion is now to be distributed and they are adjorned. If you find yourself having trouble sleeping tonight, go grab a copy of the motion - it's not long, but it is boring.

No comments: