One of the most disturbing statements made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the recent federal election got little media attention. No real surprise there, but it should have.
“When I think about the biggest, most important economic policy this government, if re-elected, would move forward, you’ll forgive me if I don’t think about monetary policy. You’ll understand that I think about families,” he said in a media scrum on August 19.
Sorry about that, prime minister, but I for one will not forgive you.
I cannot think of anything more important for any government leader to think about and to be on top of than the economic well-being of the country they serve. Without a strong economy, which only comes with effective monetary policies, your ability to provide social programs for those that need them eventually dries up. You cannot adequately protect the environment and you cannot guarantee the overall safety of Canadians.
And if you think that statement by the prime minister was just a forgivable momentary lapse, an unintended slip of the tongue, think again. Three months later, when we finally have the Speech from the Throne to open Parliament, the Trudeau Government doubles down. More spending, as if Christmas came early. Something for almost everyone. But in that long speech, inflation was mentioned only once, and that briefly. There was not a single word about balancing the budget, reducing the deficit or managing our bone-crushing debt. Just spend, spend, spend.
Meanwhile, Canada’s inflation rate is higher than it has been in 18 years and every sign indicates it is going higher. Our deficit spending, on a per capita basis, is higher than most of the G7 nations. The price of gas is through the roof and food prices are increasing almost daily. To be fair, these are not problems unique to Canada, but it is a hell of a time for our prime minister not to be concerned about monetary policy and ways to fight inflation in this country.
There are also some serious economic indicators on the horizon that need immediate attention. That the prime minister came home empty-handed from the Three Amigo’s conflab in Washington, although perhaps not entirely his fault, is not to be taken lightly. It certainly means that jobs will be lost in the auto industry. It means there is no agreement on getting our natural resources to market. And the day after the prime minister returned to Canada, we got another hit with a seriously increased tariff on Canadian softwood lumber products. If that wasn’t enough, Prince Edward Island got smacked in the head with a potato embargo by the United States, crippling its largest export.
All of these, potentially and predictably, lead to an enormous loss of jobs in Canada. Then, of course, there are the jobs that will be inevitably lost as a result of necessary adaptation to the realities of climate change. Where is the plan to create new opportunities, alternate resources, and modern high-tech industries geared to the future that can replace these jobs?
On top of all of this is the vital issue of Canadian unity, exacerbated by the penchant of the Trudeau Government to cater to the Province of Quebec and virtually ignore our prairie provinces.
All of these are matters that are directly the responsibility of the federal government to resolve. Seldom, in my view, has it been more important to hold their feet to the fire.
But this government is doing everything it can to avoid accountability. They have learned nothing from the recent election where they failed to get the majority government they sought. Canadians sent a clear message. They preferred Justin Trudeau as prime minister, but they did not give him the carte blanche he was seeking. Instead, they opted for oversight and accountability to Parliament by electing a minority government.
As an early signal to the way they intend to continue to dilute the role of Parliament, the Liberals, with the help of what I believe to be their NDP puppets, opted for a hybrid Parliament for the foreseeable future. This means that elected members of Parliament can either come to Ottawa to be present in the House of Commons, or they can stay home and come in virtually from the comfort of their living room, wherever they are in Canada.
The result is that it will be much harder to provide oversight or hold the government accountable. Under this legislation for instance, the prime minister of Canada never has to appear physically in Parliament.
The Liberals, of course, argue that the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a hybrid Parliament. But that is the excuse and not the real reason. If it was, the prime minister would never have allowed a cluster of more than 300 MPs to flood the floor of the House of Commons last week, shaking hands, hugging each other, and ignoring any social distancing. It is hypocritical to suggest that that is okay but sitting in Parliament with proper COVID protocols in place is not.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet been beaten into the ground primarily because of the action of anti-vaxxers who just won’t let the virus die from a lack of a venue in which to mutate, it is in a much- reduced place from where it was a year ago. Millions of Canadians have returned to work full-time. Although some remain working from home, the vast majority do not.
More to the point, if throughout the pandemic health care workers, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and members of the Armed Forces can attend their place of work, why can’t members of Parliament, especially as we are working our way out of it? While there remain a handful of anti-vaxxers in the House of Commons, that unfortunate reality is not unique to that body. It exists throughout Canada.
Real debate, meaningful oversight, and effective accountability cannot be achieved remotely. Effective democratic governance requires a sense of community, an ability of legislators to meet face-to-face, get to know and understand each other, and as a result, on occasion, work together to find a middle ground on complicated and important national issues.
There is only one reason the Liberal Government wants a hybrid Parliament again during this term and that is the prime minister’s well-recorded adversity to accountability. Earlier this week our Member of Parliament, Scott Aitchison, shared this from his colleague Jamie Schmale, MP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock: “It’s not about safety. It’s an excuse to skip out on QP [Question Period] & skirt accountability.” He is right.
A hybrid Parliament cannot effectively hold government accountable. Diluting the effectiveness and the responsibilities of Parliament—especially at a time when so many life-changing issues facing Canadians need broad discussion, debate and resolution—is a mistake that needs to be addressed.
If the prime minister of our country is not concerned about issues such as how monetary policies will affect all Canadians, who will be, if not an empowered and effective Parliament?
History confirms that a government that ignores or supresses accountability is potentially dangerous. We ignore that, as sadly we likely will, at our peril.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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