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Political points: Harper has a hidden agenda? So does everyone else

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Dec. 6, 2012.


Political Points is your daily guide to some of the stories we're watching in Ottawa and across Canada, by The Globe and Mail's team of political reporters

Harper has a hidden agenda? So does everyone else

Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians think Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a hidden agenda, according to a new poll from Angus Reid.

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At least, that's the headline number. In reality, respondents were equally suspicious of their premiers and half were sure their mayor was up to something.

The results point to wider distrust of politicians than suspicions of Mr. Harper in particular. Distrust was particularly high in Quebec – little surprise, with some of the bombshells that have so far come out of the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption.

The results also align with those of a recent Samara study, which found a substantial proportion of the population was dissatisfied with the state of democracy in Parliament.

As for what laws the suspected hidden agenda would enact, the Angus Reid poll found most people did not think senators would get elected, same-sex marriage would be repealed, abortion would be banned or the death penalty would be reinstated. They were pretty sure arts funding would get cut, though.

The poll's weighted results were drawn from 1,508 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The F-35 price tag gets heavier

The Harper government is preparing to walk away from purchasing the F-35 fighter jet contracts because of ballooning costs, though the PMO's Andrew MacDougall was quick to point out on Twitter that "cabinet has not taken a position" yet.

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The decision to shop around for a new warplane is a stunning reversal for the government, which has staunchly defended its choice for two years. But an Auditor-General's report earlier this year indicated the price tag for the project could be at least $25-billion, far more than advertised, and sources tell The Globe's Steven Chase that new cost estimates indicate it could reach north of $40-billion.

An audit from KPMG is expected to be released before Christmas, likely next week.

Ottawa to clarify when foreign takeovers are OK

After four months of deliberations, the Harper government is set to finally decide today or Monday whether to allow two big foreign takeovers in Canada's oil industry. The Conservatives are attempting to walk a fine line: encouraging ties with Asian countries, which it has sought increasingly in trade deals, while acknowledging unease in the backbench and among the public about foreign state-owned firms owning chunks of a vital Canadian industry.

Given previous snags along the way, though, a decision could be delayed even further.

Canadians are emitting less greenhouse gas, more or less

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Today's the final day of the United Nations climate talks in Doha, which Environment Minister Peter Kent is attending.

International agreement is still pending on many key issues and, meanwhile, Canada can't even agree on whether our emissions are going down or not. Environment Canada and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May sent out duelling press releases yesterday, with the government saying greenhouse-gas emissions were the lowest they've been since 1990 and Ms. May saying those numbers were misleading.

It's a matter of accounting, according to the Green Party – the difference between per capita and total measures.

"The Minister hopes to distract us from 2011 total emissions which have gone up. According to international reporting published in the prestigious journal Nature Climate Change, Canada's emissions hit an all time high of 600 million tons in 2011," said Ms. May in a statement last night.

No shortage of f-bombs

The after-effects of the verbal almost-brawl that burst out between the Conservative and NDP house leaders on Wednesday can still be felt in the House. Tories are still calling for NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to apologize for his part in it, as Peter Van Loan did yesterday.

This is not the first time unparliamentary language has been used lately, though. Bill Curry has a helpful (and funny) guide to other recent incidents. Compared to the kind of brawls other legislatures have faced, though, ours seems so politely ... Canadian.

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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More


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