Prime Minister Stephen Harper will ask the governor general to prorogue Parliament until October.
That means MPs get to hang out in their ridings while Harper designs an overhaul of his government — with an eye on the 2015 general election — after about seven-and-a-half years holding the reins of power in Parliament.
While the Opposition parties try and play on the short-term memories of Canadians with Tony Award-winning theatrics about Harper running from scandals and abusing Canadians’ democratic rights, this type of recess is perfectly normal for a government at this stage of its mandate.
But of course the NDP wouldn’t know much about that as it has never been in power federally.
And after the next election, it will return to its proper position as the third party in Parliament, after the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals paint a large number of orange seats a bright red.
Knowing this, Harper needs to hunker down and make a few tough decisions moving forward if he’s going to hang onto a majority government.
I believe Trudeaumania 2.0 could be as big a factor in the next election as the Jack Layton Orange Crush was in the previous one.
In fact, Harper really needs to take a hard look in the mirror and decide if his leadership has become a detriment to the party. Does he now wear too big a target on his back?
There are a number of very electable folks from his front benches. Justice Minister Peter MacKay, for example, is well-liked and respected.
However, it’s not just the face of the party that Harper must consider, it’s the policies.
A good example of the Tories being a bit out of touch with current Canadian trends occurred just last week, when MacKay bristled at the suggestion by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to have the option of simply ticketing and fining people caught with small quantities of marijuana.
It was explained at the convention of top cops that almost half of all drug charges are for 30 grams or less of pot.
The chiefs don’t want to legalize or decriminalize pot, but just offered a solution where the law would still be upheld — people would still be punished — but they wouldn’t have to be arrested and clog up the courts any more than they are now.
But on the same day in the same city — Winnipeg, one of the most crime-addled cities in the country — MacKay rejected the smart, logical and simplistic idea out of hand.
“These drugs are illegal because of the harmful effects they have on users — and society for that matter,” MacKay said in an email to The Canadian Press.
“As a government, we have a responsibility to protect the interests of families across this country.”
Such as keeping their loved ones out of jail for a joint or two, Pete?
With an unflinching stance such as that on a topic with which Trudeau is gaining much traction — he has called for the drug to be legalized and even admitted to having smoked some after being elected as an MP — it will be tough on MacKay and the Tories come election time.
Laws need to grow and evolve to reflect an ever-changing society. And political parties that refuse to bend — even a bit — tend to simply break.
The Tories have already congested the legal system by strengthening several areas of the Criminal Code — and I applaud most, if not all of those moves — but they haven’t really provided any resources to house the extra prisoners or funding to the provinces to build more jails or hire more prosecutors, staff, etc.
But as the majority of Canadians appear to be warming to the concept of loosening the prohibition on pot, why wouldn’t the Tories chill a bit on the issue? I’m pretty sure they would gain more voters than they would lose (who else would the modern-day Temperance movement vote for anyways?)
I realize this is the second time in recent weeks that I have written on this topic, but I feel it is one issue that needs explaining to those folks who simply don’t get it, man.
Then, we have the deadlocked provincial legislature, which is easily a show to avoid on Broadway.
In recent weeks, we have had an NDP MLA punished for making a gay slur against a Tory and other MLAs are complaining on and off the record about the heat, the loss of vacation time and the risk that key pieces of legislation could be delayed.
Then last week, Tory Leader Brian Pallister lost it in question period and used salty language twice on record and once under his breath.
The house is gridlocked in excessive and overheated partisanship and the prolonged legislative sitting — triggered by the PC Party, in an attempt to gain political points over the ham-fisted and perhaps even illegal introduction of a one-percentage hike to the PST by the Dippers — that is costing Manitobans a lot of money.
Keeping the legislature operating during the summer costs about $12,500 a day, the Winnipeg Free Press reported last week. The session was scheduled to wrap up June 13, with the NDP passing its bills into law, reported the Freep. But now, well into an emergency sitting that started June 17, Manitobans are on the hook for almost half a million dollars.
Enough is enough. Nothing is getting accomplished at this point and the Tories have made their point. The NDP has a majority and will eventually win out.
Selinger won’t back down. Or if he does, the changes to some bills will be so miniscule, the half-million-dollar-plus price tag just won’t be worth it.
A tweet from my friend, Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell, kinda sums things up:
@DrewCaldwell_: @Monstereditor We’ve still got work to do passing important legislation. #Tory filibuster remains obstacle; tactics in search of a strategy.
And then there were three ...
The Conservative Party of Canada now has three men vying to be the chosen one in the Brandon-Souris byelection, expected in November.
To recap, on Monday, Tweed’s executive assistant, Chris Kennedy, announced in the Sun he’s hoping to take over his former boss’ job.
Later that day, Brandon city Coun. Len Isleifson (Riverview) threw his hat into the ring.
Then yesterday, came word that Progressive Conservative MLA Larry Maguire (Arthur-Virden) will also seek the nomination, at a meeting to be held sometime in October.
As for the other parties?
Except for the rather odd plea from NDP riding association president Vanessa Hamilton — which she asked me to tweak the wording of last Friday night, after I had already put the page ‘to bed’ — for support from all parties on the left.
That concept — which hit the provincial media last week — has been shot down by the NDP and Liberals, leaving Hamilton out in the weeds for now.
Also last week in this space, prior to anyone announcing his or her intentions (wouldn’t it be nice to have a woman step up for the Tories? Hello, Leanne R.? Terry J.?), I suggested that of all the names being bandied about, that Kennedy would likely end up winning the Tory nomination, should he decide to run.
Now that he has officially declared and also has some competition — which is good for the Tory party — I still think he is the guy to beat. My thoughts are that Isleifson is entering into a profile-building project to help him in either the next civic election in 2014 — he could be a mayoral candidate — or the next provincial election in 2016 against Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell.
And I had a chuckle — and a fun tweet on Monday — after reading Isleifson’s announcement:
A tip of my middle-aged hat to 51-year-old @LenIsleifson who wants to take advantage of his “youth” as he vies for #bdnmb/Souris #CPC nod.
He’s clearly trying to counter the fact Kennedy truly is youthful — he’s 29 — and if selected and elected, would be the youngest Tory MP.
Then there’s Maguire, who I worked with briefly at the Manitoba Legislature in 1999 as I was ending my couple of years as a press secretary to the Gary Filmon cabinet thanks to an NDP victory (yes, still bitter).
Maguire is an experienced politician and an expert in the grain industry and well-versed in rural concerns.
But he’s also well into his 60s and I just wonder why he would want to even think about taking on a job that would involve so much driving and flying from Virden to Ottawa.
Of course, an eastern WestJet route out of Brandon would help ease that concern.
But I digress.
There are any number of reasons why Maguire came forward, but I can’t see him doing more than one term in Parliament, since he would be close to 70 at that point.
Personally, I think Maguire can best serve the folks in southwest Manitoba by staying exactly where he is and working as the critic for conservation and water stewardship under Opposition Leader Brian Pallister.
The provincial ‘speNDP’ is on its knees and the PCs need all the wisdom that senior members such as Maguire can bring forward.
I’m interested in seeing if any other Tories take a run at the Brandon-Souris vacancy and I patiently wait for the other parties to publicly name candidates.
The Brandon-Souris riding is one of four vacancies across the country to be filled in byelections.
And to celebrate everything that’s good and great about life — and the fact that the merciful short summer we were subjected to will shortly give way to the beautiful, brisk and bracing weather I adore so much — I am offering up a Whack of Schwag.
It’s a box of assorted goodies that have landed in the newsroom, along with a few Brandon Sun promotional items.
While I used to do this every other month, the flow of freebies into 501 Rosser Ave., has slowed down.
This is likely because we don’t do a lot of non-local book, movie or music reviews and a lot of companies have determined that flooding newsrooms with free stuff doesn’t always result in free publicity.
But the contents of this box will make someone happy, I’m sure.
So here’s the deal — just have an email in my inbox as close to noon Monday as you can and you’ll win.
It’s just that simple.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 23, 2013