Canada: government & governance January 2023-

Written by  //  February 3, 2023  //  Canada, Government & Governance  //  No comments

Aaron Wherry: The Liberals backed themselves into a corner on firearms — leaving no option but surrender
They had a bill, it had support. Then they got creative.
Conservatives were beaming on Friday after the Liberal government quietly and suddenly abandoned its hotly debated attempts to expand firearms restrictions through Bill C-21.
It was a “climb-down” and it was “humiliating” — that much seems beyond dispute. But if Conservative criticism was a deal-breaker for this government, the Liberals would have a hard time getting much of anything passed.
What truly forced the government to retreat was more likely the simple fact that they couldn’t count on enough support from everyone else. And the government’s mistake was to allow itself to get so thoroughly cornered that throwing up its hands was the only conceivable way forward.
C-21 was designed and presented originally as legislation to implement a national freeze on handgun sales. Had it remained that, it might have passed the House of Commons by now. The bill was approved at second reading last June, with all Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs voting in favour.

2 February
Aaron Wherry: There are questions to ask about government contracting — but MPs don’t seem interested in asking them
On Monday, as its second witness, the committee called on Amanda Clarke, an associate professor at Carleton University’s school of public policy and administration.
She has studied the issue of government contracting extensively — and she had some smart and interesting things to say on Monday.
“This issue of spending a lot of money on management consultants and seeing a lot of core public service work done by management consultants is not an accident,” she said.
It is the “inevitable dynamic,” she said, of a public service that has suffered from “a lack of investment in talent and recruitment and reforming HR practices to make it easier to bring people in,” coupled with “unhelpful oversight and reporting burdens” that follow from “a kind of error-free ‘gotcha’ mentality and a lot of scrutiny.”
“The demands for error-free government make it very difficult to be creative and innovative in the public service.”
Not just McKinsey: How governments learned to stop worrying and love consultants
Cal Bricker, PhD, has worked in senior positions in the Ontario public sector as well as with private-sector companies in the waste and alcoholic beverage industries
(Globe & Mail) …senior public servants no longer do the work. Their job is to manage consultants. The rationale is that you can flex costs based on demand. Don’t need the consultants any more? Send them on their way without severance, pensions and the like. Don’t worry about training, as the consultants are pitched as fully proficient. While this can sound attractive in terms of cost, the unintended consequence is that it can result in skill fade to the extent that the department or agency can no longer function operationally and must rely on consultants to perform core tasks. No need to check too far beyond the use of business consultants in government IT services to see evidence for this proposition. Absurdly enough, it is not uncommon in that space to see former department employees hired back as consultants to do their previous work at greater cost.

30 January
Parliament returns with Liberals facing pointed questions about ethics, health care
Parliament is back after a six-week break and the Liberal government is facing aggressive questions from the opposition bench about a number of ethical missteps and the sorry state of Canada’s health-care system — two issues that are poised to dominate this spring sitting.
On the ethics front, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called on the Liberal government to report the amount of money it has funnelled to McKinsey, a consulting firm that has received tens of millions of dollars in government contracts over the past seven years.
McKinsey has provided advice to the federal bureaucracy on immigration issues, among other matters. Poilievre said it’s not clear the government got good value for its money.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is grappling with a backlog of some 2.2 million cases as it works to review applications.
Amanda Clarke, an associate professor of public administration at Carleton University, said the focus on McKinsey is a distraction. … the study should focus on the public service’s reliance on consulting firms overall.
International Trade Minister Mary Ng was also in the hot seat Monday. The ethics commissioner concluded she breached Canada’s conflict of interest rules when her office signed a contract with Ng’s friend, Liberal lobbyist and CBC’s Power & Politics pundit Amanda Alvaro.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was focused on health-care issues on his first day back on Parliament Hill. He accused the Liberal government of allowing conservative premiers to undermine Canada’s public health-care system.

27 January
Peter McKnight: Trudeau has good reason to limit use of the notwithstanding clause
Governments are too willing to invoke the notwithstanding clause pre-emptively when our rights are an inconvenience
Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has now expressed concerns about the clause, telling La Presse that he’s investigating the possibility of regulating its use: “[W]e are experiencing a certain trivialization of this suspension of rights,” said Trudeau, “And when you combine that with the rise of populism around the world, you can see that there are concerns about what might be done.”
Indeed, the whole point of entrenching rights is to insulate them from government — specifically, the tyranny of the majority. On that point, former senator and constitutional scholar Eugene Forsey remarked that with the notwithstanding clause intact, “the Charter would not have protected Japanese-Canadians who were forcibly interned during World War II. Nor will it protect anyone advocating an unpopular cause today.”
Nonetheless, supporters of the clause, including many who predicted it would be rarely used, argue that it acts as a “safety valve,” a constitutional way for Parliament to override court decisions.
25 January
Beryl Wajsman: Trudeau should heed Garneau warning on English rights
Prime Minister Trudeau’s proposed Bill C13 has changed deafening silence into dangerous threat that would further diminish those rights and encourage Quebec discrimination against minorities.
It was therefore heartening to hear the eloquent and courageous call by NDG-Westmount MP the Hon. Marc Garneau — a former Trudeau Minister — taking the government to task and warning that, “It would be an error to give Quebec free rein on language. It is discriminatory to the anglophone minority.” His attack on the Trudeau Bill should be a clarion call to all elected officials of character and conscience. …
The opportunism and cowardice of the Trudeau government is nothing less than a shameful abandonment of federal responsibility. If Pierre Trudeau led the fight to keep Canada together combatting the nationalist excesses of Quebec and giving no consideration to electoral profit, his son has reversed course and manifests total submission to whatever François Legault demands. It puts into question whether there is a new de facto legal status of the Canadian Confederation. Ottawa is giving Quebec sovereignty-association without the Quebec Premier even having to utter the phrase.
By incorporating recognition of Bill 96 which invokes the notwithstanding clause as a preemptive measure,Bill C13 sends the message that Ottawa will not entertain any argument or claim that calls into question the Quebec Charter of the French language. …
We can only hope that the opposition parties find their moral compasses and kill Bill C13. They should act before history writes that sad two-word epitaph — “Too late” — as this nation dissolves.
We would encourage them to act on these other words of Mr. Garneau’s as to what the responsibility of federally elected officials are.
“It would be a serious mistake for us, as federal members of Parliament on a federal committee examining a federal law, to leave the field open to Quebec to do whatever it wants in terms of language in Quebec.It is not appropriate to refer to Quebec’s Charter of the French language in Bill C‑13, which falls under federal jurisdiction and deals with official languages in Canada. By making this reference, we are de facto incorporating the Charter of the French language of Quebec in a federal statute.As federal MPs, we have a duty towards linguistic minorities in Canada, including Quebec’s anglophones.”

23 January
Former Bank of Canada senior deputy governor to brief Trudeau cabinet
Mr. Trudeau and his ministers gathered in Hamilton, Ont. on Monday for a three-day cabinet retreat ahead of Parliament’s return next week. On Tuesday, the cabinet’s first full day of meetings, experts will brief the group on inflation, recession threats and increases to Canadians’ costs of living, according to a source who was not permitted to discuss the private meetings publicly. The goal is to prepare the government’s responses to the biggest issues Canadians are facing, the source said.

Small Ottawa firm subcontracted ArriveCan app to multinationals, documents reveal
In addition to its study of ArriveCan spending, the government operations committee is also investigating the growth of federal spending on outsourcing and the increasing use of the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Trudeau says decision to contract out ArriveCAN app development was ‘illogical’
PM says he’s asked Clerk of the Privy Council to investigate procurement practices related to ArriveCAN app

18 January
Singh says Liberals must approve national pharmacare plan in 2023
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party will withdraw its support for the Liberal government if it does not unveil a national pharmacare framework by the end of the year.
Under a confidence-and-supply agreement reached last year, Mr. Singh and his MPs agreed to keep the minority Liberal government in office until June, 2025, in exchange for policy action on a list of NDP priorities.
These priorities include a new dental care program for low-income Canadians, and specific measures on housing affordability and climate change. The Liberals also promised to make “progress towards” universal national pharmacare by passing a pharmacare act before the end of 2023 and then working on a national formulary of essential medicines and bulk purchasing plan by the end of the agreement.
“We want to see national framework for pharmacare presented in Parliament and passed in Parliament by the end of the year,” Mr. Singh told reporters Thursday during a three-day caucus retreat in Ottawa before the Jan. 30 return of Parliament

MPs launch study into federal McKinsey contracts, seeking documents and minister testimony
(CTV) A House of Commons committee has agreed to study the federal government’s contracts with the consulting firm McKinsey and Company, and will be seeking considerable documentation from both the firm and federal officials.
The House of Commons Government Operations and Estimates Committee met Wednesday and agreed to dig into the matter, after a surge in McKinsey’s federal contract earnings under the Liberals came to light.
The federal government confirmed this week that since 2015, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has awarded McKinsey 23 contracts for a total of $101.4 million, up from the $2.2 million spent under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

Tom Mulcair: Signs another federal election is coming
Bill C-13, the ill-considered rewriting of the Official Languages Act, could move anglo votes away from the Liberals.
A lengthy visit to Quebec from Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apparently reaching an entente on health care with Premier François Legault; bits and pieces of bureaucratic and legislative debris being swept off the runway. As the year gets underway, it really does appear 2023 could bring us our third federal election in four years.
Trudeau’s polling numbers remain steady and he’s a superior campaigner. But messy situations like the $100 million in contracts to U.S. consulting firm McKinsey could quickly spin out of control as the Liberals’ tendency to hide information makes the saga drag on. Trudeau saying he’d look into it was laughable. He’d had occasion to look at it as the contracts crossed desks in his own department, the Privy Council Office.
… he’s going to have to do something to convince Canadians he actually knows how to run the government. Watch for a cabinet shuffle, starting with Transportation, with Citizenship and Immigration not far behind.
Bill 96 remains a sore spot for many Quebec anglo voters and Trudeau’s justice minister, David Lametti, could get his hide tanned for his failure to defend the constitutional rights of a good chunk of his voters.
But it’s Trudeau’s Bill C-13, the ill-considered rewriting of the Official Languages Act, that could move anglo votes away from the Liberals. It is also opposed, as drafted, by Legault. Liberal election planning likely includes making sure this clunker never leaves the garage.
If organized wisely, the English-speaking community could play a prominent role in the campaign we seem to be headed for.

12-13 January
Don Martin: How bad was the committee hearing over holiday travel woes? Let me count the ways
(CTV) The airlines and airports that threw so many Christmas plans into hard reverse thrust have a simple explanation for the memory-destroying misery they inflicted on so many family holidays: Terribly sorry, but it’s not our fault.
The Standing Committee on Transport gathered Thursday with MPs demanding an explanation for how that highly unusual Canadian winter combination of heavy snow and cold temperatures which delayed or cancelled thousands of post-pandemic reunions. What they got was a gold-medal finger-pointing performance.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, who didn’t personally connect with airports or airlines until January 5, insisted the system has improved under his watch and that the mayhem was mostly due to the lousy flight plan by Sunwing, which stranded hundreds of Canadians in Mexico. …
When MPs at the committee finally stopped with their partisan questions and focused on why so many Canadians were stuck on planes waiting for a parking spot or trapped in airport departure lounges for days with little to no explanation from airline staff, the blame game began in earnest. …
But, of course, the overarching excuse was how a metre of snow, some high winds and chilly temperatures conspired to create a weather bomb that shut down on-time air travel by shredding connection schedules at major airports, this in a land where harsh winters are not exactly radical climate change.
Keep in mind this aviation holiday hell was unleashed after Toronto and Vancouver airports topped the charts as the worst airports on the planet last summer for delayed or cancelled flights, a feat which motivated the feds to host an industry summit last November to fix the problem ahead of the holidays.

12 January
Andrew Coyne: Canada’s F-35 jet procurement was a debacle – and it’s not even our most embarrassing one
More than 12 years have passed since the day in 2010 when the Conservative government announced it would buy 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, a replacement for the air force’s fleet of CF-18s that even then were universally described as “aging.” … Through two elections the Liberals promised they would cancel the deal – or as their 2015 platform put it, “we will not buy the F-35.” Even after the election, that remained the government’s position, even as it promised an “open competition” to replace it. So here we are, all these years later, and the Liberals have at last confirmed what has long been obvious: We will buy the F-35, after all. Eighty-eight of them, in fact, at a cost of $19-billion – $70-billion, including maintenance and operations. All those billions of extra dollars, all those years in delay – the last of the jets are now scheduled for delivery in 2032 – and for what? To buy the same jet we were always going to buy.
Launched in that same fateful year of 2010, the NSS [National Shipbuilding Strategy] had less to do with military procurement and more to do with the ambitions of the Harper government, those famous free marketers, to kickstart a domestic shipbuilding industry. It had two large components: combat and non-combat. The former was awarded to Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, and the latter to Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyard. Each was further divided into several projects, more than half a dozen in all. Virtually every one of them is now billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.

Canadian airline execs apologize after being grilled for chaos
Canadian airline execs are being grilled by the government about the dismal customer service provided during the holidays, causing flight delays and cancellations, and leaving many travellers stranded in other countries.
On Thursday, top Sunwing, WestJet, and Air Canada executives were questioned by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN).
The airlines apologized to customers for the damper their service put on Canadians’ holiday plans but maintained that the weather was out of their control and that the government should have helped improve aviation infrastructure.
The panel included several members of parliament, who complained that the people in the constituencies were impacted severely by the mismanagement, and provided specific examples of travellers calling for help on social media to illustrate their point.

4-5 January
Conservatives, NDP call for urgent committee meeting on holiday travel mess
(CBC) The chair of the committee, Liberal member of Parliament Peter Schiefke, tweeted Tuesday that he planned to call a meeting to address travel woes with the CEOs of Sunwing Airlines and VIA Rail.
Ottawa Playbook: Hurry Up and Wait
“Given his role in overseeing Canada’s transportation system, it is important that these hearings include a two-hour appearance by Minister of Transport OMAR ALGHABRA.”
— A reminder: Alghabra hosted a November summit meant to prevent chaos in the holiday season (Transport Minister Omar Alghabra holding summit to address holiday travel). Oops?

4 January
The value of one consulting firm’s federal contracts has skyrocketed under the Trudeau government
The consulting firm McKinsey & Company has seen the amount of money it earns from federal contracts explode since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to power — to the point where some suggest it may have a central role in shaping Canada’s immigration policies.
A Radio-Canada investigation also learned the private consulting firm’s influence is raising concerns within the federal public service.
Paul Wells: Shine a brighter light on contract government
Ottawa’s becoming addicted to consulting firms. Other countries have rung the alarm. It’s time for the same to happen here.
This is only the latest evidence of a massive trend in Canada’s federal government, in many provinces, and abroad: the contracting-out of complex problems to private firms that charge a premium; are never around when problems arise later; often produce work of questionable quality; and are too often exempt from even the minimal transparency and accountability that’s expected of work done in-house by the regular public service.

3 January
Canada is picking up the political radicalization bug from the U.S., new report warns
Political issues are being weaponized at the expense of national unity, says Eurasia Group’s ‘Top Risk’ report
A U.S.-based research group that specializes in gauging geopolitical risk says Canada is showing signs of the same political contagion and polarization that has afflicted American politics.
The warning is contained in Eurasia Group’s annual “Top Risk” report for the new year, released Tuesday.
While Canada does not make the consultancy’s “Top 10” in terms of geopolitical or instability risks, the group produced three standalone sub-reports on countries affected by worldwide political turbulence: Canada, Japan and Brazil.
In its analysis, the group sees most of the risk to Canada coming from the political convulsions in the United States.
He said the toxic political culture in Washington and throughout the U.S. is spilling across the border and it is likely to get worse in the coming year.
“The media environment in Canada, and the social media environment in Canada is increasingly resembling the media and social media environment in the United States,” Bremmer said Tuesday.
“It is dysfunctional. It is rife with disinformation. It is deeply polarized. [The online discourse] is a bunch of people that do not reflect the average Canadian, do not reflect the average American in both countries.”
Policy issues, especially energy and climate change, are being weaponized in Canada for political gain at the expense of national unity, he added.
Canada has long seemed impervious to the political divisions and dysfunction apparent across the border in the United States. But the trucker convoy that occupied the capital of Ottawa last year—ostensibly protesting Covid-19 vaccination mandates—was a big indication that something had changed. In 2023, deepening polarization and regional antagonism in Canada will add to growing political instability on the continent.

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