They should have given Marvelous Mike a nicer anniversary present.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 7, 2012    Now look at what you’ve done Mike.  The Dippers have called for a study on the inappropriate use of secret sessions at all of the federal government committees where legislation is studied, debated, altered and approved.  Had you not attempted to slip through a motion that would allow for those secret meetings the Dippers would never had known that the subject needed study.

And for this to happen on the anniversary of your being sworn in as a Member of the House of Commons in 2006 – well, this is a real let down.  With six years as an MP under your belt you now qualify for that deliciously fat federal pension – which is going to be kind of awkward to square when you meet with seniors later this month and tell them that you are bringing them some help with their income tax returns.  It is not easy being an MP – but you already know that.

Now for those readers who do not read what comes out of Ottawa every day – some background.

Burlington`s Conservative MP Mike Wallace tried to introduce a motion at the government operations committee, of which he is the vice chair, that would force the public to leave the room whenever the committee is determining such matters as which witnesses to call and what subjects to investigate.  Conservative MPs on other committees introduced similar motions.

Marvelous Mike explained at that time that witnesses at the government operations committee would still be heard in public.  “But then” he added “we go in camera to discuss who we are going to invite next and what study we are going to do, all that kind of stuff.  It gives members of Parliament an opportunity to speak frankly about what should be next for the committee to study.”  It also keeps the public from knowing anything about certain witnesses.

The Dippers were certain that the government was up to something and given that they are now the official opposition they felt they had to do something and because they didn’t know what to actually do – they opted to call for a study.

The federal New Democrats are trying to ensure that the Conservative government does not push the debate at Commons committees behind closed doors. Chris Charlton, the NDP Whip, introduced a motion Tuesday at the procedures and House affairs committee calling on the committee to begin a study of the “inappropriate” use of secret sessions at all of the committees where legislation is studied, debated, altered and approved.

“I think it’s really important that committees stay one of the accountable and transparent parts of Parliamentary process which they have always been,” Ms. Charlton said going in to the committee room.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “I think we have seen that the government members are increasingly anxious to move things in camera so that media can’t have access, Canadians can’t have access, and no one is sure what is happening behind closed doors.”

They were talking about you Marvelous Mike and I don`t think they were being very nice.  The least they could have done was congratulate you on the anniversary of your being sworn in as an MP – goodness knows, most of those Dippers aren’t going to make it to that, heaven on earth day, otherwise known as becoming eligible for a fat pension.  Most of them are one term members at best.

“For most Canadians, what happens inside committees is sort of insider baseball,” said Ms. Charlton. “But the reality is that when pensions, for example, are being debated in this House, Canadians have a stake in what happens. And by being able to makes submissions to committees, by having the media report about what’s happening in committees, they are informed about what this government is doing. It’s a critical part of accountability.”

Marc Garneau, a Liberal member of the procedures and House affairs committee, and by the way a former astronaut who was the first Canadian to go into space, said he agreed with Ms. Charlton.

The Committees should be “as public as we can be,” said Mr. Garneau. “There are a few occasions when it has to be in camera, but, as much as possible, the principle should be that it should not be in camera so the media and the public have maximum access.”




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