A motion that Liberal justice critic Dominic Leblanc worked out with the Bloc proposes "an immediate study into allegations that Chuck Cadman was offered financial inducements in exchange for voting with the Conservatives in the House of Commons."
Leblanc expects approval Tuesday of the plan - which could require testimony from top Harper confidants Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan - since the two opposition parties have a majority on the government-chaired committee. Extra hearings would be added to the committee's agenda so that legislative work would not be disrupted.
The motion proposes the justice committee determine whether Section 119 of the Criminal Code, providing up to 14 years prison for bribery, and Section 41 of the Parliament of Canada Act, providing up to a year in jail for illegal compensation to an MP, "currently serve as effective deterrents in preventing attempts to bribe members of Parliament."
The Liberals and Bloc turned to the justice committee after the NDP, which says the matter belongs in the hands of police and prosecutors, served notice it would scuttled a proposed a Cadman inquiry at the opposition-chaired ethics committee, where the NDP has the deciding vote.
Every NDP supporter should shutter at the thoughts of praise from Stephen Harper:
Notice of the motion followed a rowdy question period, during which Harper accused Dion of smear tactics and praised NDP Leader Jack Layton for asking about what he considered more serious matters - the leak of Canadian diplomatic information that has affected the Democratic presidential campaigns.
"I would point out to the leader of the Opposition that when he was throwing around wild accusations of scandal, the leader of the NDP was already on top of this issue," Harper charged, prompting an uproar in the Commons.
"I remember in 2005 they (the NDP) didn't have the same view," Leblanc told reporters. "A number of people who were subsequently convicted following events around the sponsorship program testified at a parliamentary inquiry, so it's simply a facile and phony justification that doesn't hold up. Many successful criminal prosecutions have been held following witnesses coming to appear before a parliamentary committee."
It's a shame that these two opposition parties have to manoeuver around the NDP obstruction, but the good news, we will at least get an airing from the principles. So, while two opposition parties keep up the fight, on a critical point, the NDP seems content to use Conservative talking points and bask in praise from the Prime Minister. Where have we seen this act before?
A sidenote, the Liberals have been a disaster as of late, a fact which hasn't escaped many Liberal supporters. Despite apprehension about the Conservatives, despite issues which hurt the government, the Liberals haven't been able to capitalize, and I attribute much of this to their failed strategy of hiding, perpetuating weakness, reinforcing the challenges.
But, there is another storyline at play here, one that tends to go unnoticed. Despite the fact that the Liberals are wounded, in a precarious position, the party which should benefit, the NDP, has failed to do so, in fact the polling shows a situation where official party status is an issue, the unheard of scenario of a tie for third in Ontario. Disaffected voters aren't moved to the Liberal column, but they sure as heck aren't gravitating to the NDP either, despite favorable optics, relative to their old foe. I take this reality as a sign that the NDP's fixation on all things Liberal, forever calculating every position into an equation of Liberal benefit/Liberal harm isn't resonating with voters, in fact it's failing badly. The Liberal house is out of order, but maybe it's time for the NDP to reaccess their strategy, maybe it's time for NDP supporters to look with a critical eye, and take a swing or two, instead of echoing the leadership. It would appear, there is more than one party spinning its wheels.
It would be a pleasant surprise, if on Tuesday, when the Bloc and Liberals introduce their valid motion, the lone NDP member of the committee, Joe Comartin jumps on board.
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