And the story of my time at Carlton's Model Parliament continues...
(for Part I, click here
Day two, and walking up the steps of the Hill that early in the morning was just as awe inspiring as I figured it would be. The whole ambiance of the place, inside and out, makes you just want to get out there and do your very best to try and make a difference, to try and make life better for each and every Canadian. And though it was just a Model Parliament, I still wanted to try and make a difference. I figured this weekend would be a good education, seeing how things really work inside the House... and maybe learn a thing or two about how the "other side" views things. Perhaps even find some common ground, from which we can work together to move things ahead. I sure got an education on that front.
So, first thing up was caucus. We prepped for the day at hand, which was going to involve Second Reading and the debate of the two bills at hand... the Liberals bill, Bill C-1111, entitled the "Kyoto Protocol Committment Act", and ours, which I don't have a copy of, but was a bill to privatize portions of the CBC. So, most of the team was there when I arrived, yacking back and forth. I did the Parlimentary Secretary thing... handle the Minister! "Hey man, could you score me a chocolate muffin?" while trying to walk a half dozen people through all our ammendments, fielding two dozen questions that would have been answered in due time had they just given Shane a chance to speak! "No prob man", and it was off for a muffin, that had been graciously provided. It sat there for about ten minutes until I told Shane, "Mr. Minister, just ignore everyone and eat your muffin." - "Yea, thanks man." - "No problem... just doing my job." I had gone there with the mindset of helping my Minister get done whatever needed to get done, and as a result, I think we made one of the better teams of the caucus. Anyway, we didn't have access to a printer or photocopier, so I had to madly copy down our notes off a laptop so we'd be ready to make our ammendments in the House. Oh, and since we had to hand a copy to the Clerk, we needed a couple of copies. Sore fingers... think of ten minutes until the end of an exam, with an essay question left to go. So, we got got that all done, then it was off to the House.
So, a guy named Chris was acting as our Clerk for the weekend, and he walked us through procedure and all. He helped us do everything properly and in order... the weekend would not have ran sucessfully without him. He was a cool guy... but more on him later.
First order of business was debate on the bills that had been introduced. Think of your typical arguments that righty and lefty friends have, in an orderly fashion... with a little bit of Question Period retoric thrown in for good measure. Our motion was to extend the Afghan mission to 2011. The Liberal Opposition tried to make the argument that there was no need to commit to that now... it was too far forward of a committment. We countered that funding for rebuilding efforts has already been approved into 2011, and that it makes sense that ensure that those helping to rebuild the country had the security they needed to enable them to do so. When the Leader of the Opposition touted the typical line, "Our troops should be rebuilding, not engaging in combat", I REALLY wanted to respond with, "Mr. Speaker, would the Leader of the Opposition care to enlighten me on how he expects our troops to dig wells and build walls while being shot at."
(to which I'm sure the caucus would have responded with a hearty "HEAR HEAR!") Someone else responded, but I forget what they said.
Anyway, I can't remember when exactly we voted on the motion, but the vote came down to 58 POUR, 32 NAY... "La motion ADOPTE". The Independent Feminists supported us too, which surprised some of our caucus... made sense though, as the Taliban is, you could say, rather anti-feminist. (at least THEY get that fact)
Then it was time for lunch. Off for a coffee with a bunch of people, then hooked up with a contact, a cool guy who works on the Hill. Made me late for caucus... oh well.
During this caucus meeting, we were prepping our MP's for what was in store during the next session. Basically, "During QP, anything Kyoto, let Shane answer", and "Here's the plan for Committee." Some in our caucus didn't want anything to do with Kyoto, but we told them that we weren't going to take the anti-Kyoto tact, we were going to seek to modify the bill so the majority in the House, CPC, Liberal, RSSF, etc, could support it. And even if the Liberals didn't support the modified bill, then it would be killed... job done, either way.
The main thing that Shane and I wanted to accomplish was to ensure that there would be no means for meeting our "targets" via the trading of emission credits... my MAIN beef with Kyoto. So, the evening before, we had gone through the bill item by item, and basically, re-wrote it...
1) We updated the target date of 2012 to 2016, citing that we were unable to keep the original committments due to, as we put it, "10 years of innaction by the previous government."
2) We then planned to strip out the next clause about establishing a $1 billion dollar "Climate Fund", sought to modify the next clause regarding $2-3 billion for a Federal-Provincial projects Partnership Fund (can you say "Adscam II"?)
3) Altered their "hard caps" section to the infamous "intensity based caps", but only for a short term, writing into the bill a transitional phase to a hard cap system.
4) Hey, we're nice guys... we left their "Clean Air Plan" and wind generation sections alone.
5) We actually INCREASED their proposed percentage for bio-fuel content in gasoline and diesel from 5% to 10%.
So, after lunch and caucus, now back in the House, we had Members Statements, then Question Period. Then, it was time to see what it was like in the Committee phase of things, with a "Committee of the Whole", where the entire House sat in on Committee, debating and amending the bills at hand. Remember I said the other day, "The Liberals Kyoto bill never knew what hit it this weekend"? Yea, this is where that statement came into play. First clause, the name of the bill, we leave alone. Second clause, we ammend the dates, as stated above. Then, on the third clause, a little event occurred next to me that I will NEVER forget...
Enter Shameer. He was our Government House Leader, and he had come up with a little surprise that very few even in our caucus knew about... I think only the PM, Government Whip, and Shane our Enviro. Minister knew what was coming. He all camly stands up, paper in hand, and in a quiet and mild-mannered way says, "Mr. Chairperson, as the next two clauses related to matters of spending, I would like to have this bill ruled unconstitutional
, as only the Government has the authority to make spending decisions."I NEARLY DIED
. I'm sitting there, holding my hand over my mouth, trying my best not to bust a gut laughing. Most of our caucus was looking around at each other asking "What did he just say?", while I'm sitting there dying. The faces of the Opposition were priceless. The Chairperson and the Speaker get together, and start pulling out various manuals from the Clerks desk, the Leaders of the parties get called to the table to try and figure out what they're going to do. Most of my party is still clueless, so I fill them in on the fact that we may have just gotten their whole bill tossed out off the table! Anyway, since that would have killed most of the weekend, and we had another couple of aces to play, we ended up sort of withdrawing that one, stating that our next ammendment would rectify the impass. But man oh man, Shameer is one that I'm going to keep my eye on, because if he might just go places if he's learned how to pull a stunt like that already!
Anyway, on we went. The next ammendment did fix the whole thing... "Mr. Chair, I would like to ammend the bill by removing section 4.1 completely". "All in favour?" "YEA!!!" "All opposed?" "nay." "In my opinion, the YEAS have it." And so went the NEXT HOUR. Finally, when all was said and done, our "new and improved bill", as I like to think of it, was ready. So, the final order of business was for Committee to send the bill back to the House for its consideration. However, as it was a bill introduced by the Opposition, they had to be the ones to send it back. So, as they were of the opinion that it was no longer their bill... THEY DIDN'T SEND IT BACK. Thus, there and then, the bill died.
It was a shame. I figured they'd at least send it back so we could debate it more, but they just let it die instead. We figured they'd take door number one or two, either support it in it's modified form, or vote against it on 3rd reading... but they chose door number three instead. I think it would have been better to send it back to the House for consideration, then perhaps we could debate and find some means of getting support. But alas, they chose what I refer to as the "It's either full Kyoto, or I'm taking my ball and going home" approach. No wonder it's difficult to get anything done in Ottawa.
Anyway, there's more to come, but that's it for tonight. Oh yea, almost forgot... somewhere in the course of the day, I ended up getting challenged to a "dance off".
Tune in later for the details! (how's that for a cliffhanger?) ;-)