Trudeau speaking with aboriginal leaders on the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women is a lot more positive than taking questions on the issue in the House of Commons.
By SHEILA COPPS
First published in The Hill Times on Monday, December 19, 2016.
OTTAWA—Question Period is the one hour a day that belongs to the opposition.
So it is understandable that opposition members should chastise the prime minister for skipping the majority of Question Periods in his first year on the job.
But it is also the reason that Justin Trudeau used his first year in office to focus on a national and international profile.
And that profile is not built during Question Period. If anything, opposition members work overtime to figure out a way to get the prime minister on his feet during QP. Success in getting a rise out of the leader pretty well guarantees that the issue will make the news, and usually in a way that puts the government in a negative light.
Last week The Huffington Post did a little digging to analyze the attendance of Trudeau and compare it to that of his predecessor, Stephen Harper. Harper’s QP attendance was better than that of Trudeau. The former prime minister did not attend 46 per cent of the sessions, while Trudeau actually missed 58 per cent.
To be fair, the Huff Post reported that two-thirds of Trudeau’s absences involved official events in other parts of the country or the world. But it noted that, in some circumstances, Trudeau scheduled events in Ottawa that coincided with QP.
Obviously, Trudeau’s communications team has figured out the obvious, that the prime minister’s message passes more effectively in fora outside Question Period just as the opposition message passes more effectively in QP.
But Trudeau is not the only one who skips the 2:15 p.m. daily grilling. On most days, the press gallery set aside for members of the media is usually empty, as reporters choose to cover the event from their bureau offices.
The toughest political nut to crack is changing the voting system. It is not for the faint of heart, or the novice. Voting changes have been entertained multiple times in Canada. Thus far, none have succeeded.
By SHEILA COPPS
First published in The Hill Times on Monday, December 12, 2016.
OTTAWA—I took the MyDemocracy.ca voting test and discovered what I already knew. According to the online government survey, managed by Vox Pop, I am a pragmatist.
The pragmatist in me says electoral reform is dead.
Its public interment by the minister responsible for democratic reform was not a pretty sight.
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef arrived in Parliament with great promise. She is fresh and authentic, two qualities that should have stood her in good stead in a tough portfolio. But what she made up for in enthusiasm, she lacked in experience.
The toughest political nut to crack is that of changing the voting system. It is not for the faint of heart, or the novice.
Voting changes have been entertained multiple times in Canada. Thus far, none have succeeded.
Back in March of 2004, the Law Commission of Canada recommended a change to the mixed member proportional system. That autumn, in the speech from the throne, the government promised to follow through with reform.
Multiple options were subsequently studied by a citizens’ consultation group, and a House of Commons committee, but in the end the current system prevailed.
British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have all taken a look, and decided against change. In two provinces, voters made the decision directly through a referendum.
In the rest, the politicians took a pass.
Castro was admired by many leaders, mostly because of his record in education and equality.
By SHEILA COPPS
First published in The Hill Times on Monday, December 5, 2016.
OTTAWA—Pierre Elliott Trudeau was accused of canoodling with Fidel Castro as the two struck up a friendship so deep that Castro served as a pallbearer at the former prime minister’s state funeral.
It should come as no surprise that Canada’s current prime minister would express affection and respect in the wake of the death of the Cuban nonagenarian.
Trudeau’s statement that Castro was a remarkable leader was met with virulent opposition in the Twittersphere and muted criticism from interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose.
Ambrose was smart enough not to belabour her point in a House of Commons exchange about the post-mortem comments. She knows that more than a million Canadians visit Cuba annually and witness Cuban reality firsthand. Those Canadians understand that the outpouring of cyberspace vitriol comparing Castro to Josef Stalin and Adolph Hitler is absolute absurdity.
Castro was a dictator but there is zero evidence he participated in mass disappearances or exterminations. On the contrary, there is a fair bit of proof that Castro focussed primarily on the purist of socialist objectives, including mass literacy and racial and gender harmony. He also negatively promoted his own cult of hero worship, with a heavy dose of police presence.
I first visited Cuba in 1974. The place was just opening up and I travelled there with a group of journalists who were working for the Ottawa Citizen. It wasn’t a work assignment, but a vacation. Continue Reading
© 2017 Sheila Copps.