Harper sent to detention hall until report suits Professor

June 15, 2009

In a delicious bit of irony apparently lost on the Ottawa press corps, Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff inferred Monday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have to make up the time lost when he prorogued the House last winter before the Liberals  allow summer recess.  He didn’t say it in exactly that way, of course.

Instead he showed his disappointment with the wayward Stephen’s most recent economic report, but he chose to return the assignment for revisions before flunking it.  Stephen must realize, however, that if he doesn’t do some major work before Friday, he and his party will spend the rest of June in the House until he upgrades his work to a level acceptable to the professor and the Canadians he represents as Leader of the Opposition.

“If the PM has something good to help the jobless, I will support it.  I’m prepared to make compromises which will help the unemployed.  I’m looking for co-operation, not confrontation, but I’m ready to vote against the estimates on Friday, and yes, the full Liberal Caucus will be present in the House for the vote.”

As well as criticizing the E.I. gap, Ignatieff noted that the current estimate has dropped any mention of a plan to get the Canadian economy out of deficit, and this shows a significant lack of leadership.  Further, the spending statements and projections contained in the report failed to provide specific information Canadians need to know.

Ignatieff seems particularly concerned with the current medical isotope crisis.  He mentioned that he has spoken to the supplier in Australia.  “I asked, ‘O.K., can you scale up here?’  He responded that we can’t guarantee our supply will reach Canada.”  “This is a big deal.  Tell us honestly what the situation is.  This is a very serious failure of leadership by this government and I can’t let this go on longer.  This is a public health matter, not partisan politics.”

A journalist asked if Ignatieff would advocate taking funds from infrastructure spending to boost E.I. payments.  He responded by saying that on the subject of infrastructure spending, the Harper government leaves the impression of an adolescent with a garden hose spraying a backyard. On the other hand, the numbers in Harper’s own report make it clear that the most effective stimulus spending during the recession has been E.I. payments:  they provide immediate and effective help. “If Harper can convince me a large rise in E.I. would cause a big problem of public finance, I’ll listen.  But I want to help the unemployed.  I’d like to discuss this with the P.M.  He knows my phone number.  I’d like to work with him on this.”

“I don’t seek an election, but we need accountability and I want some answers.  He promised changes in three months in his last report. Now he mentions some plans to look at E.I. in the fall.  What counts is getting action to help the unemployed.  If he’s got something good to help the unemployed, let’s get it out now, not later, after the seasonal workers have missed the benefits.”

“Any sensible person understands that Canadians want to work.  There are 58 regional variations across Canada on E.I.  The P.M. won’t get away with saying that in three months he may come back to it.”

Accused of giving Mr. Harper a way out, Ignatieff responded:  “We just had an election.  I’m just trying to work with the government to make Parliament work.  I don’t want him to give in to me, I want solutions that are good for Canadians.

Tory cabinet minister John Baird had spent the quarter hour before Ignatieff’s speech today in front of a CTV camera attempting a pre-emptive strike on the Leader of the Opposition’s credibility by using the word “games” a lot.  Ignatieff came back with, “I won’t put a grade on this economic statement.  The stakes for Canadians are way too high for that. This is not a game. What Opposition is for is to ask real questions and seek real answers on behalf of Canadians.  The big prize here is to make Canadians feel we have a pretty good system of government here which can work for them.”

A CBC commentator concluded, however, with another games metaphor:  “The ball’s in Harper’s court.”

Canadians are unlikely to share the pain of parliamentarians if Ignatieff makes them sit through the month of June and even longer while they finish the work of a session cut short by last winter’s prorogation.  Serves them right.

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