Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Federal Update

Welcome back. I’ve taken a long break to try to recharge my batteries. During the time period there have been a lot of changes, so let’s run through them quickly.

In January of this year, the Conservatives were elected with the smallest minority government in the history of the Canadian House of Commons. Not cowed by this, newly elected Prime Minister Harper immediately set out to expand the Conservative Cabinet by appointing an unelected campaign manager to the Senate (CBC News 2006), and offering an otherwise satisfied Liberal Minister a seat in the Cabinet (CTV News 2006).

These actions are in spite of the fact that shortly before being elected, Prime Minister Harper himself said “First, let’s get on with the job of electing senators. A senate chair should be occupied by someone with a democratic mandate, and Canadians should be able to mark their ballot for their Senator : Under a Conservative government, Canadians will choose who sits in this chair” ( Conservative Party of Canada 2006). and “Finally, let’s get on with the job of cleaning up internal party politics. In recent years, there have been too many examples of political parties imposing candidates against the will of local constituency associations.

This is particularly anachronistic given that the local electoral district associations of each party now have their own legal status in the elections act. A new Conservative government will introduce and pass legislation to ensure a party’s local candidate must have the approval of their local constituency association” (Ibid.). Mr. Emerson was running for the Liberal party in the election and the Conservative party had their own candidate in the riding. Given these circumstances, it is highly unlikely that Emerson had the approval of the local constituency association at the time.

Of course, Mr. Harper campaigned on a platform of bringing accountability back to the government, which naturally meant that his first actions while in government would be to remove the ability of the press to question Cabinet Members except as decided by the government. He also sought to muzzle all the elected Members of Parliament unless they first cleared their words through the Prime Minister’s Office. Apparently, guaranteeing accountability means keeping people from learning things the government could be held accountable for.

References
CTV news staff (2006, February 6). Former Liberal David Emerson defects to Tories. CTV News. Retrieved from http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060206/emerson_defection_060206/20060206?hub=TopStories

Ontario Profs Strike-Out

In Ontario, post-secondary faculty went on strike for 18 days over the month of March (CBC 2006), a critical time if you’re on the standard semester schedule and want to be finishing assignments and taking your final exams at the normal times. At issue were the class sizes that professors had to teach and the lack of money provided by the provincial government to hire much-needed faculty. The matter was finally settled when both sides agreed to binding arbitration.

Part of this issue arose because the Ontario government’s plan for “Reaching Highet” tabled back in 2005 simply didn’t move fast enough to address the problems caused by a poorly planned tuition freeze, with most of the promised $6.2 billion not arriving until 2007 or later.

Alberta Does the Cabinet Shuffle

After Premier Klein received support from only 55% of the Provincial Conservative Party’s leadership electorate (a significant decrease from his typical returns of 70% or higher), he confirmed that he would be stepping down earlier than he first intended. However, as is his style, there was no chance that he would go quietly.

Shortly before the meeting, he issued an ultimatum. Any cabinet member who was hoping to take his job would have to resign their cabinet position by June 1, 2006 (Thomson 2006).

This statement caught a number of leadership hopefuls, including Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock, off-guard, and prompted a large-scale Cabinet shuffle. Minister Hancock has since relinquished the position to Denis Herard, MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta) for the Calgary-Egmont riding ( Government of Alberta 2006).

In addition, the AAlberta Budget was released, and notably for Athabasca University students, is the Alberta Government’s commitment to not only increase post-secondary education funding by 16%, but also to roll the Alberta Tuition Rebate into the standard operating budgets for the universities. This eliminates the possibility of Alberta Athabasca University students having to face an increase of double or even triple the norm.

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