The federal Conservatives are marking the end of the spring sitting of the House of Commons by lauding their “productive, hard-working and orderly” efforts to steer the country toward economic stability.
But the opposition parties point instead to government waste, scandals, and a contempt for the democratic process. And the Liberals say the only reason Canada has fared comparatively well during tough economic times is because the Conservatives inherited a solid fiscal framework when they came to power in 2006.
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan told reporters Thursday – the final day before the House was to rise for the long summer break – the top priorities of politicians on his side of the Commons have been, and continue to be, jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.
“Despite the opposition’s obstruction tactics and political theatre we delivered on our government’s commitment to Canadians to strengthen our economy and to support Canadian families and jobs,” Mr. Van Loan said. As proof that the Conservative plan is working, he pointed to the 760,000 net new jobs created across Canada since the height of the recession in June of 2009.
And on a wide variety of issues – from crime to free trade deals to killing the federal long-gun registry – “we got the job done,” Mr. Van Loan intoned.
The government’s omnibus budget bill, which was 425 pages long and changed nearly 70 different laws – many of them related to the environment – deepened the chasm that already existed between the Conservatives and the parties to the centre and the left. Opposition MPs complained the bill was designed to ram into law measures the government did not want to debate openly, many which they said had little or nothing at all to do with the budget.
When asked whether not getting the job done was was worth the cost of foregoing democracy, Mr. Van Loan replied: “The real cost is the cost of not being able to take decisions. That’s what we see in Europe. That’s what we see to some extent in the United States with political gridlock. And what is the consequence? The consequence is fiscal crises.”
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said the spring sitting of the House saw the Conservative government flout parliamentary democracy and prove its lack of vision and compassion by making cuts to Old Age Security, the environment and health services.
“These are changes that are going to have a huge effect on current and future generations,” said Mr. Mulcair. “Future generations are going to have to pay for the bad management and the bad choices made by the Conservatives.”
In addition, he said, the Harper government has been wracked by ethical and public administration failures. The moving target of the cost of a fleet of F-35 fight jets “is probably the greatest procurement fiasco in the history of Canada” and a number of cabinet ministers have found themselves in hot water, Mr. Mulcair added.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said the Conservatives government – and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in particular – have been is living off what they received from the Liberals in 2006 and they have been extravagantly wasteful with it.
“They have turned themselves into the very thing that they said they were opposed to. They said they were opposed to government waste; they’ve wasted money. ... They said they were in favour of increasing transparency and responsibility of the executive to Parliament; they are fighting transparency every step of the way,” Mr. Rae said.
“This transformation of the old Reform Party, which believed in free votes and open parliaments and believed in parliamentary accountability,” he added, “has turned into this secretive, conspiratorial government which is run from the top, in which members are not allowed to speak their mind.”