Canada O'Toole says Liberals can play politics, Tories will focus on issues
Kelly McParland: An amazing thing happened — Erin O'Toole didn't fall into a Liberal trap
Something significant didn’t happen last week in Ottawa. It was right there for everyone to see, the thing that didn’t happen. It involved Erin O’Toole, the new Conservative leader. After his victory in the leadership race, it was almost universally agreed by those in the know that O’Toole would face a tricky task as he tried to navigate the complicated currents of his party. O’Toole became leader thanks to late-ballot support from social conservatives. Most had backed other candidates in earlier ballots, but picked O’Toole over Peter MacKay when it turned into a choice between the two, O’Toole having put more effort than MacKay into wooing them.
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said his party doesn't have confidence in the Liberal government, but that doesn't mean every issue needs to turn into a confidence vote.
Yet, his party is using their second chance this week to set Parliament's agenda to propose a motion calling for a sweeping probe by the House of Commons health committee into a host of issues relating to the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The motion is so broad and the demand for documents so massive the Liberals are expected to argue its passage would paralyze the government — the same argument used to declare an earlier Conservative motion on the WE Charity affair a confidence matter.
O'Toole and Kenney sit side-by-side for livestream without wearing masks
NOBLEFORD, Alta. — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole praised Alberta Premier Jason Kenney for his province's handling of COVID-19 as the two sat side-by-side during a livestream on Saturday, while neither leader wore a mask. "I'm the easiest guy to hang out with because I can't give it or get it from anyone for four months," O'Toole said, answering Kenney's question about how O'Toole was doing after he and his wife got the novel coronavirus last month. Kenney's United Conservative Party is holding a virtual annual general meeting from Nobleford, Alta.
The government survived the subsequent confidence vote on that motion — which would have created a special committee to investigate the WE Charity affair and other alleged examples of corruption — with NDP, Green and Independent MPs grudgingly joining with the Liberals on Wednesday to defeat the motion.
But all opposition parties blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for turning the issue into a confidence matter that threatened to plunge the country into an election.
The point of the health committee motion is to get the answers that will improve upon Canada's response to the pandemic, not force an election, O'Toole said Thursday.
"How would an election in the second wave of a pandemic improve our response?" O'Toole said.
O'Toole says creating committee to scrutinize Liberal spending, ethics is not grounds for election
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says creating a special committee to unearth details about potential misuse of tax dollars during the pandemic does not constitute legitimate grounds for triggering a general election. During a news conference in Ottawa, O'Toole said striking a so-called "anti-corruption" committee to scrutinize government spending, lobbying and the delivery of federal aid programs is simply about holding the government to account on potential misspending and ethical lapses.
"How would that help the well-being of Canadians? Mr. Trudeau is willing to put his own political fortunes, a continued coverup, ahead of the well-being of Canadians."
Today's motion was actually introduced by Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner at the health committee several weeks ago, where it appeared to have the support of Bloc Québécois and NDP members. But Liberal members argued strenuously at that time that they needed more time to digest such a massive motion.
Using an argument that's likely to be repeated by government members today, Liberal MP Darren Fisher told the committee that "the motion asks public health officials basically to stop what they're doing to protect Canadians and sift through emails and documents instead."
While the motion will be debated in the House of Commons today, it will not be put to a vote until Monday.
Among other things, today's motion would direct the health committee to scrutinize the government's slow progress in approving rapid COVID-19 testing, the impact of the government's reliance on World Health Organization recommendations that delayed travel restrictions and wearing of face masks, the Public Health Agency of Canada's communications strategy, the partial shutdown of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network early warning system and the adequacy of federal health transfer payments to the provinces.
This brawl in the Commons may end in a draw — but there will be others
That sound you hear emanating from Ottawa — a dull rumble of umbrage and purported principles — is the sound of your democracy at work. Maybe it's not the sound of your democracy working beautifully — NDP leader Jagmeet Singh used the word "farce" — but your democracy is still basically working. Minority parliaments such as the one we have now — where no one party has a majority of seats in the House of Commons — always seem very good in theory. In a minority situation (in theory), the government of the day can't run roughshod over the opposition, parties have to work together to find compromises and Parliament is in a much stronger position to hold t
And it would order the government to turn over a raft of documents from the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council Office, various ministers' offices and departments, and the Public Health Agency of Canada related to the government's preparation for the pandemic, the purchase of personal protective equipment and testing products.
It would also order the government to release all records related to the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and its subcommittees and its plans for distributing an eventual vaccine.
The demand for documents concerning the purchase of personal protective equipment could be particularly sensitive for the government. It has used a national security exemption to keep some procurement contracts secret, arguing that the intense global competition for PPE makes it prudent to protect the names of suppliers of items that are particularly hard to come by, such as N95 respirators, gloves and swabs.
A national security exemption also allows the government to purchase supplies more quickly.
The Conservative motion makes some allowance for national security concerns, stipulating that any redactions to the demanded documents be made only by the parliamentary law clerk and only for national security or personal privacy reasons.
O'Toole said all the questions on the table are reasonable. It's the government's response that isn't.
"We're going to let them play politics," he said.
"We're going to ask about rapid testing. We're going to ask about a better response. We're going to improve. That is the job of an Opposition."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2020.
The Canadian Press
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Octavia Spencer recently turned 50 and had to cancel her celebration due to the pandemic. Luckily, her friends stepped up by getting her birthday messages from lots of loved ones – and one from Keanu Reeves! "I was just sobbing. I didn't know I was going to receive that [compilation video], and then for someone I don't know being a part of it in Keanu, it was really sweet and just like the cherry on top," she told Access Hollywood. Octavia also recalled her chance encounter with Keanu in her early days in Hollywood. Plus, she shared what it was like working with Anne Hathaway on the set of "The Witches"! "The Witches" is streaming now on HBO Max.