Feds want to 'change the channel' with consumer-friendly Throne Speech: Mulcair
Published Tuesday, October 15, 2013 7:04PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 15, 2013 10:49PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is “trying to change the channel” on the Senate expense scandal with a consumer-friendly Throne Speech that appears likely to make little, if any, mention of reforming the Upper Chamber.
The federal government has indicated that while its Throne Speech will cover its core issues such as the economy and job creation, it will include specific measures it says are designed to put more money in Canadians’ pocketbooks. These include capping domestic cellphone roaming charges, unbundling cable television channels and ensuring air passengers don’t get bumped from over-booked flights.
The consumer-focused plan also includes a pledge to eliminate fees for paper utility bills and address critical gaps in the food safety system.
Mulcair said the federal government has not shown interest in such measures before, and said the prime minister “doesn’t have credibility” on helping the middle class.
“They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, so trying to imitate some of the things the NDP has put on the table is fine as far as it goes, but don’t forget Stephen Harper has voted against these very things every time he’s had an opportunity to do so,” Mulcair told reporters in Quebec.
“So he can try to pretend he’s changed his tune, he hasn’t. What he’s trying to do is change the channel. He doesn’t want Canadians thinking about his Senate scandal.”
On CTV’s Question Period Sunday, Industry Minister James Moore laid out the “consumer thrust” of the Throne Speech, but said the government will wait to address Senate reform until after the Supreme Court weighs in on its mandate. Earlier this year, the federal government referred several questions to the court, including whether it has the power to abolish the Senate outright, or what support it needs for reforms, such as abolishing an out-dated residency requirement.
Despite the prime minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, the expenses scandal has hung over Ottawa, with new revelations last week suggesting Sen. Mike Duffy paid a friend $65,000 of his office budget for “little or no work.”
In August, an outside audit of Sen. Pamela Wallin’s expenses found more than $120,000 in ineligible claims, and the audit was referred to the RCMP. The Mounties have already opened investigations into the expenses of Duffy, Sen. Patrick Brazeau and former senator Mac Harb.
CTV’s Katie Simpson, reporting from Ottawa, said all senators “have absolutely every right” to be in the Senate chamber when Gov.-Gen. David Johnston reads the speech beginning at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday.
“That will be the shot for many cameras waiting to find out if they will arrive to listen to the speech,” Simpson told CTV News Channel Tuesday evening.
Mulcair said as question period in the House of Commons returns Thursday, his party will continue to press the prime minister on the expenses scandal.
“Answering those tough questions is part of his job as the prime minister of Canada,” Mulcair said.
Perhaps expecting a strong push-back from the opposition parties, a tweet from the Conservative Party asked followers: “We’re counting on your support for tomorrow’s throne speech. Are you with us?” The tweet was re-tweeted by the prime minister’s official Twitter account.
The government also released a minute-long promotional spot for the Throne Speech on YouTube, in which a female voice, believed to be Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, says the government will unveil its “new blueprint for achieving prosperity and security though these uncertain economic times.”