I had the Throne Speech on in the background while I was doing some critique work yesterday afternoon. The speech was as good or as dull as any speech you’d care to pick. Yet another promise of a national day care system (how many promises is that now? five?), yet more platitudes about a new deal for cities, etc. The only difference was that the Liberals watered down their language and threw in little items to placate the Bloc, the NDP and one or two scraps for the Conservatives.
I watched CBC Newsworld during the speech itself and so got Peter Mansbridge’s commentary on the ceremonial procedings, such as the Black Rod hammering on the doors to the House of Commons to invite everybody over to the Senate Chamber for the reading, the interplay between the Senate and Commons speakers, etc, all of which I appreciated. I changed from CBC Newsworld to CPAC after the speech ended and the analysis began. It was interesting seeing the first few motions going through parliament and everybody getting down to business.
For the record, I think the throne speech will pass. I seem to recall Frank Miller’s Tories collapsing faster than this when the Petersen Liberals used the throne speech to bring the government down. The Conservatives may be talking about adding an amendment to the Throne Speech and may be threatening to vote against the speech if the amendment is defeated, but Stephen Harper himself moved to adjourn parliament that day. Neither he nor the Bloc seem to be in a rush to bring down the government. (Though it could happen tomorrow)
Still, the next few days should provide an instructive lesson in Canadian politics, as the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc all dance around the fact that the balance of power is shared between Mr. Chuck Cadman and the Speaker.
The BQ are People Too
One annoyance about the CBC’s coverage of the opening of parliament: they lined up Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, NDP leader Jack Layton and Conservative deputy-leader Peter MacKay to discuss the coming days and talk about their intentions with regard to the throne speech. From this I gleaned that the NDP were going to reluctantly vote in favour and the Conservatives were going to vote against.
My top question: What was the Bloc going to do? I don’t know, because no Bloc representative was among the participants. Indeed, no CBC reporter, at any time during the throne speech, managed to collar a BQ member of parliament and ask his or her opinion about anything.
This is silly. However you might feel about these people’s politics and their commitment to Canada, they are real-live MPs representing real people. They are a legitimate political force, and one which wields considerable influence in this minority house. This Canadian was left significantly uninformed by our national broadcaster as to the stability of this parliament, and I am at a loss as to why the BQ voice wasn’t heard. Are we ignoring them, or are they ignoring us?
There was a minute of silence in the House of Commons today to pay respects to Lieut. Chris Saunders, from Saint John, N.B., who died from injuries sustained while fighting a fire on board the Canadian submarine, the HMCS Chicoutimi. I’m sure that everybody who has heard the news is thinking about the man and his family with regret.
The submarine was the last of four slightly-used subs purchased from the British navy. Indeed, it was on its maiden voyage as a Canadian sub, travelling from Faslane, Scotland to port in Halifax. And one of the things that lots of people are going to say is, geez, why were these such lemons?
These submarines, purchased from the British Navy on supposedly good advice, have been frought with problems. The fire that left the HMCS Chicoutimi dead in the water in the North Atlantic was the culmination of leaks, dents, engine problems and worse.
These aren’t old subs. So what happened? In the case of the HMCS Chicoutimi, one could make the parallel to buying a used car only to have the engine catching fire on the way home from the lot, except the death and injuries do not allow me to be funny here. Did the British government know about these subs problems when they sold them to us? If so, we deserve our money back. Could the Canadian government have known before they signed the transfer agreement? If so, heads should roll. That will be just some of the questions that has to come out in a full, independent inquiry.
And we do need an inquiry. With the death of Lieut. Saunders, this has gone well beyond embarrassment.