Scheer wanted the House to sit more often; Peter MacKay wanted to be in the House to serve as leader of the Opposition;neither got what they wanted this week.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 22, 2020



Peter Mackay mouth open - shouting

Peter Mackay – at full bore.

Peter MacKay had a point – that the Conservatives needed to get a real leader to head their party. Though he may not have put it that way exactly.  And he was adamant the Tory leadership convention should proceed, coronavirus or not.

That would have been foolhardy and the party wasn’t having any of it. You just don’t assemble a thousand or more party members for that kind of passionate event in the midst of a deadly epidemic.

But if MacKay didn’t get the memo neither did Andrew Scheer. For him parliament was just another day’s work – and everyone should be there daily – business as usual. Perhaps he could be excused for his devotion to the highest political temple in the country. Working for government was the only real job he’d ever had.

Scheer pointing at self

Andrew Scheer

But hello, Mr. Scheer – there is a contagion raging throughout the land. Canada’s chief medical officer has told us that everyone’s health is important and MPs like everyone else need to exercise social distancing. As Britain’s PM, Boris Johnson, demonstrated, just because you’re an MP doesn’t mean you are immune from COVID-19.

But it’s pretty clear Scheer has trouble understanding what social distancing means. For example, when the government sent a nine person plane to pick up Scheer and two other MP’s, he insisted on bringing his whole family including all five of his children. Unmasked, they flew together sharing the same breathing space, and were packed-in like sardines in a can.

Unlike Scheer, the other three party leaders do get it. Green MP Elizabeth May believes they can hold the government to account without showing up in Ottawa. MPs from some provinces are required to quarantine after leaving their home province, making it difficult for them to attend. Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said the average person doesn’t care much about what MPs are up to in Ottawa [anyway].

So, stapled onto the first of a number of emergency funding bills was a request by the Liberals that they be given emergency authority to approve money bills without full parliamentary approval. That, they argued, would expedite the upcoming tranches of emergency funding bills to follow. Trudeau got royally hammered for trying that on.

House of Commons - chamber

The House of Commons Chamber that the members work in while the Centre Block undergoes a ten year re-build.

To be fair the government probably was just trying to be expeditious and avoid having MPs co-mingle as a group greater than five persons. In a minority situation the opposition could always work together to defeat the Liberals should they feel it necessary. And besides, as we all expected, the funding bills went through pretty much unchanged – so the debate was essentially a rubber stamp. But that was a war measure and this is not war – or is it?

And the funding did take longer to get in place as a result of having to follow due process – something Scheer later complained about, ironically. Though, in fairness, he wasn’t the only one to hold up the emergency response.

Peter O'Toole

Erin O’Toole

MacKay has been adamant that the Tories need a new leader. Of course he is currently the odds-on favourite, even though there is a rising tide for Erin O’Toole in western Canada. There are a lot of things wrong about Scheer but it was probably the mean spirited and miserable campaign last election that wrote his ticket.

Even though he had won the most seats in the House, everyone knew it was only because of western alienation. Some people prefer not to face the truth, even if it is in their best long term interest. Another pipeline or two are of no value if nobody is buying oil. And when the price of even West Texas oil falls so low that the oil companies are paying people to take the oil, it’s time to get out of Dodge…and your gas guzzling Dodge too. The future is clear.

Knowing Scheer had to go, the Tories must have been hopeful to pick amongst the wealth of potential candidates at their pleasure. But it didn’t turn out that way. Rona for personal reasons, Lisa because her neck wasn’t red enough. And Michael because he was just a nice guy – and we know where they finished.

And even Kevin was up to his ears after he and his wife got up to that nasty business with their yacht. Oh, if only Maxime was back in the game. Jason Kenny has his hands full at the moment. And Doug Ford… well….

So it’s Scheer for the interim and that’s a pity for all of us. He’s actually relented now and agreed to a new consensus plan, including virtual meetings. Still you’d think he’d get it. The only reason he’s still in that job is because COVID-19 postponed the Conservative leadership contest. But he still doesn’t take social distancing seriously. I wonder what Peter MacKay thinks about all that.

Leadership – it means walking the talk. That is another reason why the Tories need a new leader.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Scheer on COVID 19 –   COVID Emergency Bill –    Scheer Flight

Economic Response Plan –   Who Held Up Government

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8 comments to Scheer wanted the House to sit more often; Peter MacKay wanted to be in the House to serve as leader of the Opposition;neither got what they wanted this week.

  • Ray reinforces Peter McKay as the Liberal choice for leadership of the PCs. Steve Paikin twitter and a reply says it far better than we could.

    @CanadianPM asked why not just make the #CERB universal? He never really answers the question which is becoming an unfortunate habit.

    Ginny Balfour

    He does this everyday. Time for him to end these brieifings in his driveway and go back to the office and appear in front of his Ministers and health advisors like the Premiers do,.

    Thousands of facebook comments show the people want accountability for JT and that AS is the one to do it in the right place, the House. JT won’t do it though as he knows the country has lost confidence in him and he won’t last doing what he is supposed to do in the House.

  • fred Pritchard

    This was always about partisan politics, not holding the Government to account. The CON’s want face time on the national stage, they want the 30 second quips in the house to attempt to reverse their slide in the polls.

    By demanding in person sittings, he is robbing the MP’s who live far from Ottawa their voice as their communities elected officials. Instead, all other parties agree that a virtual meeting can allow ALL MP’s to participate and contribute to the debate. So it may take a bit longer to hold a debate in a virtual setting, but we all have more time on our hands lately. In fact, the virtual sittings are allowing more time for questions that the in person sittings. So as you can see it was never about holding anyone to account, rather crass political gamesmanship like what is being played out in the United States.

    When compared to the American federal government, the Trudeau government has done an outstanding job supporting Canadians from coast to coast. Almost all Canadians have the support needed to put food on their table. They have put science and medical advice ahead of partisan politics, as evidence in their ability to even work with Dumb Doug Ford. It is easy to sit back in your chair and blame everything on Trudeau while forgetting the Government of Canada sets policy, the civil service of 287,000 employees who carry out the work. These folks are working hard, just like our crown ministers.

    One has to remember that it is the Provinces who are responsible for the health delivery serv ices in Canada. The Provinces are responsible for providing PPE to hospitals and others, NOT the Federal Government. The Federal Government is assisting the Provinces in acquiring scarce supplies, but one has to remember, that Canada is competing for the same scarce resources the rest of the world is seeking.

    Scheer is trying to make hay out of the fact that 2 planes had to leave China empty. So what. Can you imagine the logistical nightmare that are the Chinese Airports. Places leaving every two minutes (roughly 700 planes per day per runway), 10 transport trucks per plane to load supplies, so like 7000 transport trucks per day per runway to be unloaded.

    Think about it for a moment. You only have so much space to load planes, you only have so much space for trucks to park while waiting to be unloaded. Matching 7000 trucks to 700 planes (per runway) in a confined space such as an airport is a nightmare. You would need a team of logistics experts and co-ordination of all involved to stage the planes, to stage the trucks, to ensure enough workers and equipment to get it done.

    While I am no fan of the Chinese Government, I can appreciate the difficult nature of what is being asked of them 24 hours a day every day. Since I have actually held real jobs, unlike Scheer, , I have first hand knowledge, on a much small scale, of this logistical nightmare. Having exhibited at the Metro Convention Centre at trade shows in the past, they only have about 12 underground docks to unload trucks. With 800 booths and only 12 docks, you have to marshal your truck at an offsite parking lot, and wait for your timeslot. So multiple that by 10 and I can see how much harder this would be for the Chinese airports. Scheer might know that if he had a real job dong anything other than constantly complaining about Liberals.

    The majority of Canadians didn’t want Scheer, his own party didn’t want him, so why is he still talking?.

  • Stephen White

    The reason the Conservatives are arguing for a return of Parliament is that somebody needs to hold Trudeau and his minions responsible for the utter mess they are making in managing this crisis.

    Let us not forget that it was Justin, and his “frat boy” Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, who concocted the ridiculous proposal that would have allowed the government to increase taxation levels through regulation without recourse to parliamentary approval, and right through to the end of 2022. The Parliamentary Budget Officer called it “unprecedented”. Others have described it as a usurpation of Parliament and a blatant power grab. Coming from a PM whose father once referred to parliamentarians as “Nobodies”, his lack of respect for Parliament isn’t altogether surprising.

    Thankfully, there were Opposition members, notably Erin O’Toole, Scott Reid and Pierre Poilievre, who had the guts to stand up and challenge this, and whose actions compelled the government to back down. As usual, the Green Party and the NDP were nowhere in sight, but then they are usually out of sight anytime except during an election.

    The Conservatives are doing what they should be doing, which is questioning and challenging the government’s agenda. Thank heavens too for the press who continue to ask difficult questions during the PM’s daily press conference. Those questions usually begin with a request for his Lordship to explain another screw up, mistake or error, and end with the PM stammering and parroting his way through more feeble excuses.

    • Phillip Wooster

      Well said, Stephen. I find it interesting that Thomas Mulcair, a socialist if there ever was one, sided with the Conservative view that Parliament needed to be recalled to hold the government to account.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Lets agree we need balance within our democracy. In one corner of the arena we currently have the unholy coalition of the left in, Singh, Trudeau and perhaps May. Representing the interests of Quebec and the balance of power we have Le Bloc. What may be good for Canada is a party who is to the right of the first three. Perhaps a a party who could operate from the mushy middle. The CPC need to get their act together. The current iteration love to shoot themselves in the foot and are rudderless. Right now no party can afford an election and Trudeau is benefiting from his daily info-dump and would benefit from a snap election. Not a pretty picture.

  • Gary

    Not knowing who Michael and Kevin are and what yacht business you are referencing made it a little hard to follow. You should not assume all your readers are political insiders who follow every little misstep along the way as you apparently do. Next time, make it a more newspapery column and ditch the blogging feel.

  • Carol Victor

    Scheer has never been able to read the pulse of the nation. He missed “climate change” when it was and is clearly in the minds of most Canadians and now he is missing the point of dealing with this pandemic “social distancing”. He gets far too much air time, belligerent for the sake of being visible. We are different from Americans, we need teamwork to deal with this crisis not dissention for the sake of dissention.

  • Phillip Wooster

    “Working for the government was the only real job he’d ever had”. Ray, you must be referring to Justin Trudeau whose only real jobs, if you can call them that, were part-time supply teaching (too bad he had to get Heenan-Blaikie to negotiate his departure from that job, I mean that’s what all supply teachers do when they quit–hire one of Canada’s top law firms) and snowboarding instructor.