Voter turnout at advanced polls jumped forty percent or more in thirty-two ridings across the country, according to Elections Canada data. In Calgary nearly 200,000 voters rushed to polls in advance of today’s general election. “Turnout in some ridings was remarkable,” an official said.
Cabinet in a rushed executive order granted a Liberal appointee indefinite paid leave. Michèle Gagné, a Québec City consultant, did not take questions. Cabinet authorized the benefit even as ministers campaigned for re-election: “We cannot provide any comment.”
A federal labour board has upheld the firing of a whistleblower who leaked Department of Employment files to a reporter. The Employment Insurance claims investigator alleged managers were offered $50,000 bonuses for disqualifying legitimate applications for benefits: “I did so as a matter of conscience.”
The advocacy group Democracy Watch has lost a bid to intervene in a constitutional challenge of political fundraising limits by TV celebrity Kevin O’Leary. Ontario Superior Court ruled broad arguments of fairness under the Elections Act did not require comment by the group: “Money flowing from individuals to political parties risks negatively affecting public confidence.”
for the 1984 elections
Bringing America Back
his dislike of the gay community
an increase in homelessness
tax cuts for the rich
incentives for burning fossil fuels
His bronze statue
in the United States Capitol’s rotunda
is where a Trump golden statue
may be erected
by the defibrillator.
(Editor’s note: poet Shai Ben-Shalom, an Israeli-born biologist, examines current events in the Blacklock’s tradition each and every Sunday)
When picking his first cabinet in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper arranged an odd series of background checks with an aide. Harper sat at one end of a table, the aide sat at the other end and asked all the embarrassing questions you’d expect of appointees being vetted for cabinet.
The arrangement meant candidates had to answer the aide while turning their back to the Prime Minister. With one exception all candidates faced the aide while saying, “Yes, Prime Minister”, “No, Prime Minister”, recounts Off And Running. Apparently no one felt ridiculous.
By anecdote and candid interviews, author David Zussman recounts one of the most profound and least-chronicled democratic rituals: the peaceful transition of governments. The experience is “limited to a small, relatively secret team of people who work in isolation and away from the public eye”, notes Zussman, a former Privy Council assistant secretary.
“No one in government is ready for the monster of government,” Zussman quotes a former aide; “One characteristic of a newly elected government is that it is rarely ready for the demands and decisions that are required during the post-election period.”
Few had a rockier start than Harper. He suffered a severe asthma attack on the day he gave his first speech as prime minister-designate, presumably due to stress; and after the weird cabinet vetting process included among the new ministers a rival MP just elected as a Liberal, and his campaign manager newly minted as a senator.
Off And Running explains how post-election transition works. Some of this is ponderous: are readers wiser for learning a former deputy minister developed a Hundred And Fifty Day Book to “help ministers survive the first months in government”? Nor are transitions inherently dramatic or meaningful. Canadians conduct themselves pretty well without bread riots or arson fires regardless of who is in government.
Yet Professor Zussman has a reporter’s eye for detail and a knack for snappy interviews. Readers are told for the first time that former Conservative staffer Derek Burney thinks the size of Harper’s 38-member cabinet is ridiculous: “I think it’s egregious. I think it’s obscene. It’s not even helpful”.
They learn Paul Martin picked his cabinet in part on the views of his wife: “Sheila had a very strong view about what was going to happen to certain people because of her relationship with their spouses. In the cases of some appointments, you could tell that a certain degree of cabinet-making had taken place in the bedroom”.
And we are told Mila Mulroney was a Mommy Dearest who petrified the staff. Longtime Conservative aide Geoff Norquay recalls meeting her for the first time in 1984 with the children in tow: “One of them made the mistake of saying, ‘Mommy, I’m bored.’ And there was this stream of Serbian that erupted, and ended in English. The last thing she said was, ‘In politics, you are never allowed to be bored!’ And she’s saying that to a six-year old, a four-year old, and a two-year old, very seriously. I vowed at that point never to cross Mila Mulroney! It scared the shit out of me!”
Whether awkward, or peevish, or strange, Off and Running reminds readers that government is still run by humans — and you know what they’re like.
By Holly Doan
Off and Running: The Prospects and Pitfalls of Government Transitions in Canada, by David Zussman; University of Toronto Press; 299 pages; ISBN 9781-4426-15274; $29.95
An Ottawa lawyer was paid nearly a quarter million dollars for seven months’ work at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Redacted billings are detailed in Access To Information records from the Privy Council Office: “Can anything be done more efficiently?”
A Montréal think tank yesterday warned of “significant economic consequences” if Parliament repeals a 12¢-a litre carbon tax on gasoline. The Ecofiscal Commission did not disclose its ties to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s office, and did not take questions: “It’s lose-lose.”
A federal anti-trust probe of Canada’s second-busiest airport yesterday collapsed after a five-year investigation. The Competition Tribunal ruled there was no evidence the Vancouver Airport Authority breached the Competition Act in its handling of in-flight catering contracts: “What happened? Who did what? How was it done? Why?”
Human rights tribunals cannot police the press, an Ontario adjudicator has ruled. The decision came in the case of a man who complained of discrimination after media published his mug shot: “It is plain and obvious.”
The Department of Public Works in Access To Information records details thousands of pages of construction defects in the costly refit of Parliament Hill, from doors that wouldn’t open to window blinds that didn’t close. Renovations have cost taxpayers $3.04 billion to date with billions more in unknown costs: “I can foresee an outraged Canadian public looking at the total bill for this.”
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna yesterday distributed new campaign signs deleting all mention of “Team Trudeau”, and said Liberals could lose the October 21 election. McKenna’s campaign said the remarks were prompted by late polling: “I do think it is a ploy.”
A non-union contractor blacklisted from municipal works for breach of a Fair Wage Policy has successfully challenged the sanction in Ontario Superior Court. Cabinet proposed similar blacklisting of federal contractors but shelved the idea in July: “A decision that was arrived at unfairly cannot be upheld.”
The Conservative Party yesterday proposed a forty-fold increase in fines on public office holders found in breach of the Conflict Of Interest Act. Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion earlier advocated a similar rewrite of the Act with “serious consequences” for scofflaws: “This would help to build trust with the Canadian public.”
The Department of Public Works says it can find few legitimate incidents of cronyism is federal contracting, just eight cases in two years. Cabinet earlier rejected a Commons committee proposal to grant whistleblower protection to contractors who report wrongdoing: “It’s deny, delay and eventual destruction of the whistleblower, and I’ve lived it.”