This is the year that was

Aaron Wherry’s rough guide to 2012

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Culled together from a year of blog posts, sketches, features, interviews and links, a rough guide to the last 12 months. For a longer version, see all the weeks that were.


We considered the permanent campaign. Joe Oliver worried about foreign radicals. Lise St. Denis decided to become a Liberal. Stephen Woodworth challenged everyone to a debate. A problem with the same-sex marriage law was discovered. Michael Ignatieff said goodbye. Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty flirted with a federalism debate. Keystone XL was rejected to mixed reaction. MP pensions were put up for debate. Newt Gingrich shouted out the Prime Minister. John Baird championed gay rights. And Mr. Harper mused of major transformation, the ramifications of which is unclear.


The House reconvened and Old Age Security became the focus. Diane Finley pleaded her case. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu suggested convicted murders kill themselves. A citizenship ceremony was staged. A symbol of the government’s economic management went out of business. Vic Toews directed CSIS that it could make use of information obtained via torture, then explained his position using a ticking time bomb scenario. Larry Miller likened the gun registry to Hitler’s Germany, apologized and then reiterated his comparison. Vic Toews attacked. Vic Toews tabled. Vic Toews parsed. Vic Toews denied. Vic Toews retreated. The Internet mocked. The Prime Minister foretold. The government accused. The Internet was unforgiving. And Vic Toews seemed unclear. Justin Trudeau said something silly, but entertainingly refused to apologize. Glenn Thibeault parodied Mr. Trudeau. An Ontario judge refused to follow the Harper government’s advice. Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor broke big news of electoral chicanery. I talked to Brad Trost and considered Vic Toews and our rhetorical standards.


As to what happened in Guelph, the Conservatives pleaded ignorance. The list of ridings where voters received suspicious calls about their polling stations grew and grew and grew and grew. The Conservative party gave up its appeal of in-and-out. The Harper government was “forthright” about the F-35 and thus contradicted itself. The Conservatives attacked Bob Rae. Craig Scott was elected in Toronto-Danforth. After some delay—including a denial of service attack—the NDP chose Thomas Mulcair as its next leader. The Conservatives had their talking points ready. We explained how Mr. Mulcair won. And how Brian Topp nearly did. The budget was tabled, including billions in cuts and the elimination of the penny. Bev Oda looked forward to more nutritious infants. And Justin Trudeau knocked out Patrick Brazeau.


The auditor general passed judgment on the F-35 procurement as we recalled what had been said about it. Peter MacKay tried to explain that $25 billion, but the timeline for the F-35 remained a bigger question. The Defence Minister’s explanations were questioned and reviewed and his math was checked. Thomas Mulcair was introduced to the television-viewing audience. Martin Luther King Jr. was invoked. Bob Rae danced. Jason Kenney looked to transform immigration.Bev Oda enjoyed an expensive glass of orange juice. The budget bill was, once again, a behemoth. It was duly unpacked and lamentedBruce Hyer went indie. The House debated a debate about abortion and Gordon O’Connor took a stand.


The budget bill behemoth was explored and debated. Stephen Harper’s previous complaints were recalled. The government tried to invoke the Liberal standard. We tallied the page counts. I talked to Peter Van Loan and recalled Speaker Lamoureux’s ruling. The Conservatives and New Democrats negotiated. Nathan Cullen was hopeful, but a deal was rejected and so the games began. The opposition and the government stated their cases as C-38 passed second reading. David Wilks was sort of maybe willing to vote against the budget bill, but he told his constituents that one MP wasn’t going to make a difference, so he pledged to support the budget. Even if he still had complaints. We pondered the meaning of it all. The Young Stephen Harper called for more free votes. Marc Garneau lost his toy shuttles. Jonathan Tremblay offered to make it up to him. We thought about the power and purpose of the MP. Thomas Mulcair mused of Dutch Disease and then tried to explain himself. John Baird warned that a carbon tax would kill your family. James Moore and Dean Del Mastro took issue with the birds and the bees. Diane Finley introduced EI reforms. We had dinner with Megan Leslie and Michelle Rempel. A foot was delivered to the Conservative party and a hand was nearly delivered to the Liberal party and the search for a suspect began.


Elizabeth May took a stand against the budget implementation act. We explained C-38, recalled the Reform party’s fight against the Nisa’ga Treaty and talked to Ms. May. C-38 was subject to protest. And after the House voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and voted, C-38 was passed at report stage. Wayne Easter said there was no Nazi salute, but Joe Oliver repeated his complaint. David Wilks explained himself. Bob Rae decided he wouldn’t seek the Liberal leadership. This happened. James Lunney quibbled with his government’s cuts to the coast guard. The Conservatives launched their first attack ad against Thomas Mulcair. We tried to put those attacks in contextJoe Oliver and Leona Aglukkaq were confronted by doctors protesting the government’s cuts to refugee health care and Jason Kenney was challenged by Ontario’s health minister.


Bev Oda called it quits, leaving consternation in her wake. The NDP launched attack ads. Jason Kenney invited your thanks. Bal Gosal was interrupted. Rob Anders objected to the honouring of Norman Bethune. Thomas Mulcair said plans for the Northern Gateway pipeline should be scrappedwagered it would never come to be and then put on his cowboy hat and visited the Stampede. Etobicoke Centre went to the Supreme Court for a debate about democracy. We talked to one of the doctors behind the protests over cuts to refugee health care. Mr. Kenney’s office responded. A student interrupted the Immigration Minister. Mr. Kenney stated his case to the Edmonton Journal. Doctors confronted Leona Aglukkaq. And a shooting in Scarborough was cause for reflection and reaction.


An Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin sprung a leak. Joe Oliver didn’t want to talk about Christy Clark’s demands, but James Moore had lots to say about Ms. Clark, Northern Gateway and Enbridge. Peter Julian chided. Enbridge defended itself. And the pipeline debate made it into Rolling Stone. Stephen Harper pardoned some farmers and the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly ended. Chris Alexander blamed the opposition for a “misunderstanding” among that public that a decision had been made to purchase the F-35. And he didn’t appreciate my pointing to a bunch of public comments from the Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Associate Minister of Defence suggesting such a decision had been made. And he asked me to agree with him that, whatever the Prime Minister and Defence Minister once said, no contract had been signed. The final word went to one of Mr. Alexander’s Facebook friends. Jack Layton was remembered. I talked to the people who helped him write his last letter. Helena Guergis’ lawsuit was dismissed. The Harper government cut nearly 3,000 environmental assessments, including 500 in British Columbia. Senator Joyce Fairbairn’s dementia disclosure was revealed. Brent Rathgeber considered his own maverickness. And the NDP returned union sponsorships.


The farce. A shooting in Montreal brought the political world together and started a debate about politics and violence. Pierre Poilievre challenged organized labour. Mark Carney took on Dutch Disease. The Harper government abandoned the asbestos industry (and was cheered for doing so). Canada’s diplomatic war with Iran was debated. The Avro Arrow was touted as a solution and Lewis MacKenzie appealed to gynaecology. The Harper government referred its Senate reforms to the Supreme Court and Stephane Dion chided the Conservatives. After MPs chose sides—see herehereherehere and here—Motion 312 was defeated. Stephen Woodworth vowed to fight on. Opposition MPs questioned Rona Ambrose’s vote. Mark Warawa tabled the next fight. And Omar Khadr returned home.


Rob Anders tried to implicate Thomas Mulcair in Jack Layton’s death. Mr. Anders apologized. Olivia Chow dismissed his theorizing. Peter Stoffer deemed Mr. Anders to be a “complete dickhead.” Nathan Cullen struggled with the existential crisis of members’ statements and then the NDP tried to use the time to publicly shame Conservative backbenchers. John Baird lectured the world. Justin Trudeau declared his candidacy and tried to quote Goethe, but might’ve been mistaken. Rob Anders worried about bathroom access. Diane Finley tried to quietly fix a problem with the Harper government’s EI reforms. Megan Leslie had a bad dream. While cutting billions elsewhere, the Harper government spent millions to promote itself. After the House debated Stephen Harper’s previous position on omnibus legislation, the Harper government tabled another omnibus budget bill. Kelly Block was forced to defend a flyer. Peter Penashue’s election campaign raised more questions. Mr. Penashue pleaded inexperience. Megan Leslie pointed out references to the “environment” on a government website. The government promptly removed most of those references, but links between the environment and the Navigable Waters Protection Act seemed hard to deny. After an incident aboard an Air Canada plane, Romeo Saganash sought help for an alcohol problem. Maurice Vellacott awarded Diamond Jubilee medals to two anti-abortion activists.  The Supreme Court ruled against holding a by-election in Etobicoke Centre. Brent Rathgeber questioned Russ Hiebert’s bill on union disclosure. And Olivia Chow was projected to win a hypothetical mayoral race in Toronto.


C-45 was divvied up, but with little time left for study. MP pension reform became official. Irwin Cotler saw problems beneath Blake Richards’ mask bill. Brent Rathgeber explained his objections to the transgender rights bill. Brian Masse questioned pro sports leagues’ objections to the sports betting bill, while the Senate seemed poised to intervene. The Parliamentary Budget Officer tried to explain the government’s budget cuts. Jim Flaherty again avoided the House and again adjusted his budget projections. Stephen Harper promised to balance the budget by 2015 anyway. Michael Chong explained his opposition to C-290 and his concerns about how the bill passed the House. Brian Masse and Joe Comartin defended Windsor against Stephen Colbert. Stephen Colbert was undaunted. David McGuinty criticized Conservative MPs from Alberta, then apologized and resigned as the Liberal party’s natural resources critic.  Justin Trudeau was discovered to have made disparaging remarks about Albertans. His campaign said the remarks had been taken out of context. A day later, Trudeau apologized. And then his campaign tried to raise some money. Elizabeth May was named Parliamentarian of the Year at our annual celebration. Joe Fontana was charged. Stephen Harper met Justin Bieber. Brad Wall ripped the Harper government’s changes to refugee health care. After Joan Crockatt warned that an opposition MP wouldn’t be able to get you a new passport, she was elected in Calgary Centre. Mark Carney planned a trip to England. Joyce Murray and Marc Garneau announced their candidacies for the Liberal leadership. Bill C-398 was defeated. And Canada was one of nine countries to vote against non-observer member status for Palestine.


Peter Van Loan got upset with the NDP. There were post-fight interviews and points of order and Paul Dewar testified as to what he saw. We recalled previous commotions. And Keith Beardsley considered the whole mess. Justin Trudeau used the word “failure” to describe the long gun registry and ruled out increasing the GST. Then Mr. Trudeau tried to define failure. John Baird clarified the Harper government’s position on Israeli settlements. The CNOOC and Petronas deals were approved and the Prime Minister explained his policy on foreign investment. The F-35 audit was released and the reset button was pushedDean Del Mastro and Bob Zimmer tried to put the new price tag in perspective. Thomas Mulcair explained the NDP’s position. Chris Alexander kept trying to make sense of the government’s handling of the file. Myths and facts were clarified. Kevin Page considered the F-35 experience. The Prime Minister offered his version of events. We talked to Thomas Mulcair, as the NDP leader made the end-of-year rounds. Despite objections, C-377 passed the House. The Speaker spoke of decorum and parliamentary democracy. The Conservatives taunted Mr. Mulcair. The issue of civility started an argument. A royal commission on taxation was proposed. Mark Carney was courted by the Liberals. Justin Trudeau angered Catholics and God apparently felt it necessary to intervene. Pat Martin tweeted a tirade and then quit Twitter. And the Idle No More movement brought a protest to the Hill.