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Our guest blog today comes from Steve Andrews, who is a retired energy consultant and contributor to the Peak Oil Review, reachable at email@example.com. We reached out to CERA to determine its interest in providing a response, but did not hear back.
“False optimism leads to very poor investment decisions.”: Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and Chief Investment Strategist, GMO
Ten years ago this month the Oil & Gas Journal published a story from CERAWeek—an annual elite conference for the oil industry put on by Cambridge Energy Research Associates—that bears revisiting.
Why go back? Three reasons. First, CERA arguably has maintained the highest profile of any oil industry analytical shop since at least the turn of the century, thanks in large part to founder Daniel Yergin’s reputation. Every time there is a surprise in world oil supply, he’s the media’s go-to guru. When the National Petroleum Council convenes a world oil study, you can bet the ranch that CERA will play a lead role. When the US Senate or House convenes a committee hearing on oil, CERA often sits on the panel; they also deliver some of their key research papers free of charge to all US lawmakers. Their policy-oriented footprint is large and their strategic media outreach effective.
Second, at the time CERA’s 2004 forecast of seven years of history-breaking sustained growth in world oil production capacity struck many players as being an unreasonably if not outrageously optimistic headline. How does it look 10 years later? Way off base.
Third, if CERA’s oil forecast was that off base a decade ago, should we believe the current abundant-oil storyline that CERA jumpstarted in the fall of 2011 and that has been embraced by the press and policy makers alike? So let’s look back.
On CERA’s lead panel in February 2004, Robert W. Esser, senior consultant and director on global oil resources, predicted global oil production capacity would expand by 20 million barrels/day from 2004 through 2010. (CERA doesn’t forecast production. It forecasts production capacity, which is essentially unverifiable.) That’s nearly 3 million b/d of capacity growth every year for seven straight years from 2004 onward. It didn’t happen.
Per data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, actual production of global petroleum liquids grew by 5.7 million b/d during that period. Then consider the 4 million b/d of spare OPEC capacity that the US EIA shows for 2010. But there were also at least 2 million b/d of spare OPEC capacity in January 2004, at the start of the forecast period. So net, CERA missed their forecast by well over two thirds.
Note that by CERA’s definition production capacity “…eliminates economic or political factors and temporary interruptions such as weather or labor strikes.” Note too that unused productive capacity is never intentionally present among non-OPEC nations, and unused and undamaged production capacity among OPEC nations was primarily limited to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates during 2010.
Why did CERA stumble so badly?
First and foremost, CERA underestimated decline rates from existing oil fields. About the time of its 2004 conference, an oil industry analyst who knew Daniel Yergin asked him, during an elevator discussion, what decline rate for producing fields CERA used when calculating growth in world oil supply in their major studies. Mr. Yergin replied that it would be in the 1% to 2% range.
Chalk that up as a fatal flaw. Over seven years, a decline rate of 1.5% would mean having to replace only 8+ mbd of production capacity. It’s ironic that by late 2007, in what CERA called a groundbreaking study, they calculated the actual decline rate from 811 of the world’s major oil fields at 4.5% per year. Over those same 7 years, using their 4.5% decline rate would require 23 million b/d of capacity just to keep production flat. IEA estimates for decline rates rank even higher than CERA’s.
On the production side, CERA spoke optimistically about projected gains from the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa, Brazil, the Caspian area, Canada, Venezuela, Iraq, Nigeria, Algeria, Ecuador, Sudan and Russia. Indeed, production increased in 11 of those 13 nations for a net gain of 6.7 million b/d. But on the bad news front, the rest of the world lost 1 million b/d of oil production during CERA’s forecast period, hence the 5.7 million b/d net gain. Declines badly undercut forecast gains.
On the demand side, CERA actually worried that “should this spurt in output exceed projections of a very large increase in world oil demand this decade, then persistent downward pressure on oil prices might result.” For the record, when CERA made that comment, oil prices were upward of $30. But while nearly everyone was wrong about oil prices a decade ago, CERA was also wrong about the key demand driver: China. CERA forecast that China’s demand growth for oil would slow to 5% in 2004, compared to what eventually occurred: record-breaking growth of nearly 17%. And while CERA talked about volatility in Chinese demand going forward, China’s record-setting growth rate for oil demand continued throughout CERA’s 2004-10 forecast period.
If this was a personal forecast which I had blown this badly (and I’ve blown a couple), no one would notice. But this enormously flawed vision was widely circulated. CERA gets press coverage, but the press isn’t checking CERA’s track record, and this 2004 prediction is just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2005, CERA dialed back their optimism only slightly. They projected world oil supply capacity still growing 16.4 mbd from 2004 through 2010—a reduction of 3.6 mbd from their original forecast. They projected world demand in 2010 at 94 million b/d, leaving 7.5 million b/d of idle capacity. Note this comment about related impacts on prices: “We generally expect supply to further outpace demand growth in the next few years, which could result in oil price weakness around 2007-08 or thereafter.”
In 2006, CERA projected potential world oil capacity growth of 21.3 million b/d—from 88.7 million b/d in 2006 to 110 million b/d in 2015. We’re less than two years away from year-end 2015, yet total petroleum liquids production will likely run in the 90 million b/d range. Clearly, CERA’s was an exceedingly pollyanish view, rather like a best case in a perfect world.
Now square CERA’s long-standing optimism bias on future world oil supplies with the recent spate of sobering news from Wall Street on the financial travails of the large investor-owned super-majors. Mark Lewis has done a nice job highlighting the near tripling of oil and gas capacity expansion costs since 2000—from $250 vs. $700 billion; three quarters of that was spent on oil, yet oil supply rose only a modest 15% (BP data). Increasingly blunt reports from analyst shops like Sanford Bernstein add to the growing contrarian chatter. Solid coverage in the UK of Richard Miller’s recent paper “The Future of World Oil Production” opened a few eyes about limits. But those voices still have a steep hill to climb.
That’s in part because, starting in September 2011, CERA went on the offensive as chief cheerleader of an overly optimistic, US-led oil abundance storyline. It features the US’s record-breaking shale oil bonanza—an amazingly successful yet term-limited reality. Viewed at the global level, for the last few years the brouhaha about our shale oil bonanza has been the tail wagging the world oil supply dialogue.
CERA’s oil supply predictions should have earned deep skepticism from the press and policy makers. That hasn’t happened yet. It’s overdue.
But please keep the larger backdrop in mind: Without a serious revisiting of the questionable optimism that dominates any dialogue related to longer-term world oil supplies, without a harshly realistic scrub of the facts, we face unnecessarily large energy policy risks.
Polls showed a large percentage of us in this country supporting the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and even — though somewhat reduced — the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But not long after, and ever since, a majority of us have said those were mistakes.
We’ve opposed attacking Iran whenever that idea has entered the news. We opposed bombing Libya in 2011 and were ignored, as was Congress. And, by the way, advocates of that happy little war are rather quiet about the chaos it created.
But last September, the word on our televisions was that missiles must be sent to strike Syria. President Barack Obama and the leaders of both big political parties said they favored it. Wall Street believed it would happen, judging by Raytheon’s stock. When U.S. intelligence agencies declined to make the president’s case, he released a “government” assessment without them.
Remarkably, we didn’t accept that choice. A majority of us favored humanitarian aid, but no missiles, and no arming of one side in the war. We had the benefit of many people within the government and the military agreeing with us. And when Congress was pressured to demand approval power, Obama granted it.
It helped more that members of Congress were in their districts with people getting in their faces. It was with Congress indicating its refusal to support a war that Obama and Kerry accepted the pre-existing Russian offer to negotiate. In fact, the day before they made that decision, the State Department had stressed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would never ever give up his chemical weapons, and Kerry’s remarks on that solution had been “rhetorical.”
The war in Syria goes on. Washington sent guns, but refrained from air strikes. Major humanitarian aid would cost far less than missiles and guns, but hasn’t materialized. The children we were supposed to care about enough to bomb their country are still suffering, and most of us still care.
But a U.S. war was prevented.
We’re seeing the same thing play out in Washington right now on the question of whether to impose yet more sanctions on Iran, shred a negotiated agreement with Iran, and commit the United States to joining in any war between Israel and Iran.
In January, a bill to do all of that looked likely to pass through the Senate. Public pressure has been one factor in, thus far, slowing it down.
Are we moving away from war?
The ongoing war in Afghanistan, and White House efforts to extend it beyond this year, might suggest otherwise. The military budget that still eats up, across various departments, roughly half of federal discretionary spending, and which is roughly the size of all other countries’ military spending combined, might suggest otherwise. The failure to repeal the authorizations for war from 2001 and 2003, and the establishment of permanent practices of surveillance and detention and secrecy justified by a permanent state of war, might suggest otherwise. As might the ongoing missile strikes from drones over a number of nations.
But you’ll notice that they don’t ask us before launching drone strikes, and that their assurances that no innocent people are harmed have proven highly misleading.
War may be becoming acceptable only as what its advocates have long claimed it was: a last resort. Of course if we can really make that true, we’ll never have a war again.
DAVID SWANSON will be speaking at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick.
If you don’t know what it is yet – that means it’s working. The secrecy, that is. But once Pandora’s Box is opened, there’s no putting anything back. It will go down in history as one of the worst, oppressive plagues to saturate the planet.
Like Spider Man trying to stop a train from going over with nothing but his strength and shooting threads; we are going to need all the Web we can get to stop the fast-tracking Trans-Pacific Partnership from running over us. Perhaps more aptly, it is a tangled web we’ll be left trapped in as prey if we do nothing.
Here’s a crash-course and the easiest approach – all guesswork removed. But first, here’s a sampling of what you can kiss goodbye if this mammoth piece of legislation goes through…
What’s left of our jobs, food safety, Internet freedom, natural medicine, small farming, choice in medicine, financial regulation, privacy and more. Basically, all your rights. It permeates every area of your life, it’s been ramrodded through the Senate, and the media is not saying anything. It grants the likes of Monsanto, Wall Street and other huge entities full reign with immunity.
Kiss any last American sovereignty goodbye and say hello to your new global crypto-corpocracy complete with international tribunals and the end of domestic law – from your newly refurbished prison cell, of course. After all, you clicked on the wrong Internet link! And your ISP was watching and reported you. In the near future, this article could be enough to jail me, ban my whole family from the Internet, have computers seized and delete the website. No more videos that piece other clips together, or anything that hints at “infringement,” no more fair use, so no more non-corporate news.
It’s been shrouded in secrecy, especially from the People and Congress, planned behind closed doors for years, and proponents are searching for sponsors to have the President push it through now that Congress is back from recess.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership n. 1. A “free trade” agreement that would set rules on non-trade matters such as food safety, internet freedom, medicine costs, financial regulation, and the environment. 2. A binding international governance system that would require the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and any other country that signs on to conform their domestic policies to its rules. 3. A secret trade negotiation that has included over 600 official corporate “trade advisors” while hiding the text from Members of Congress, governors, state legislators, the press, civil society, and the public.
Here’s your crash course link on the TPP. You’ll be ready for take-off in no time. They’ve made it that simple:
After being mind-blown and catching your breath, you can do the absolute easiest thing there is to do by using Twitter with the hashtag #NOFastTrackTPP (but wait, there’s more).
Don’t use social media? No problem, scroll down. For social media users, here are the easiest things you can do, besides sharing memes and links on Facebook. Share things to Reddit andStumbleUpon. Everyone should call their reps (below).
See the Twitter storm event – still going. Pull any memes – share. Only use this hashtag for social media: #NOFastTrackTPP. Using other hashtags and adding more will split the trends.
Next, Tweet your little heart out to your reps and others. Easily find them by clicking the “Discover” button and typing “congressman” in the search. All their Twitter names appear. Find celebrities, they often re-tweet. Example: @repfitzpatrick or @RepBera
@RepBera NO to Fast Track Authority and TPP, or we will not re-elect!! #NoFastTrackTPP
Here’s another: “Do NOT sponsor FastTrack! Vote NO on TPP! #NoFastTrackTPP”
Some reps have stood against the TPP, so first you might want to see this:
– OR –
Use a general message for everyone: “I will NEVER support the Trans-Pacific Partnership#NOFastTrackTPP”
Want to jump into the Twitter storm? Easy. Sign up at Twitter, it runs you through a few-second tour and you can figure out the rest, see Help, or ask friends. Use the hashtag #NOFastTrackTPP on Facebook statuses.
Non-Social Media Users:
Find all your representatives’ info/forms in one-click. Just click on your state:
Contacting the Congress
Or use this:
Call President Obama: 202-456-6213
Call your Representative: 202-225-3121
or Toll Free (877) 762-8762
(Breathe and talk slowly. You will do just fine. Be polite and confident.)
“Hi, this is (your full name). I am a constituent of Rep/Senator (name). I live in (name of city). I am calling to request that Rep/Sen (name) vote NO on Fast Track Authority. It is important to me that Congress follows the Constitutional directive to negotiate international trade and that all trade agreements are given full consideration, debate and amendments as needed.
Do you know Rep/Sen (name) position on Fast Track Authority? Will he/she vote Yes or No? (wait for an answer)
Do you know Rep/Sen (name) position on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement? Will he/she vote Yes or No? (wait for an answer)
(regardless of their response, just continue)
Once again, I am requesting that Rep/Sen (name) vote NO on Fast Track Authority and NO on the TPP! Please be sure he/she gets my message. Thank you.”
Go to the Crash-Course site and print off PDFs to share. Actually, that whole website is designed to help you take action, online and off. You can still share the hashtag in any way you choose – it gets the point across fast.
If you can target these two reps, you could stop the fast-track today:
1) MIKE QUIGLY (IL-05)
District: (773) 267-5926
2) GREG MEEKS (NY-05)
D.C. (202) 225-3461
District: 347-230-4032 & 718-725-6000
Twitter: Gregory Meeks
Lastly, if you have done something, no matter how small to derail the TPP fast track – THANK YOU!!
Special thanks also to Andrew Pontbriand, Emily Laincz and Nick Bernabe for their tireless organizing, efforts and information – and to all those who joined them. Without them, this article wouldn’t be – nor will it with the TPP!
Recent posts by Heather Callaghan:
Mark Udall Demands CIA Report Amid Dispute Over Torture Study.
WASHINGTON, Dec 17 (Reuters) – A member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday disclosed the existence of a secret Central Intelligence Agency document that committee members believe supports their conclusions in a study highly critical of “waterboarding” and other harsh counterterrorism practices.
Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, demanded the document – a CIA study of the interrogation techniques – at a confirmation hearing for Caroline Krass, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the CIA’s general counsel.
Udall said he would not support Krass’ nomination until the previously undisclosed document was provided, raising the possibility that he might use a “hold” to stop the nomination.
The intelligence panel’s disagreement with the CIA over its 6,300-page report and the need for cooperation with Congress were a major focus of Tuesday’s hearing, which also covered the nomination of Daniel Smith to be assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research.
The dispute over the report – and revelations by former contractor Edward Snowden about sweeping electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency – have sparked debate over whether congressional oversight of U.S. spy agencies is effective enough.
The Senate panel approved a draft of its report a year ago. But the CIA disputes many of its findings and has not met lawmakers’ requests that parts of it be made public, leaving some senators frustrated at what they see as a lack of cooperation.
During the hearing, Krass told Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the committee, that she did not believe members of the Senate panel had the right to see documents that provide the legal basis for CIA actions, such as waterboarding.
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins said she was “troubled” by Krass’ answer.
Udall asked Krass to ensure that the CIA provide the committee a copy of the internal review initiated under former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the agency’s detention and interrogation program.
“It appears that this review … is consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report, but, amazingly, it conflicts with the official CIA response to the committee’s report,” Udall said.
“If this is true, it raises fundamental questions about why a review the CIA conducted internally years ago and never provided to the committee is so different from the CIA’s formal written response to the committee’s study,” he added.
The report’s existence was not public knowledge until Udall questioned Krass during the hearing.
Committee Democrats have concluded that the CIA obtained little or no critical intelligence from its use of secret prisons and harsh interrogation. Several panel members offered tough criticism and closely questioned Krass over her view of such techniques.
“It (the use of such techniques) was a tragic mistake of great significance in the history of this country,” West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller said.
Krass said she considered waterboarding to be torture.
Udall said he also wanted the White House to make a public statement committing to “the fullest possible declassification” of the committee’s study, and the CIA’s response, before he could support Krass’ nomination.
Asked if Udall would use a hold, his spokesman Mike Saccone said the senator was committed to working with the committee and the CIA on the nomination and to get the information he requested.
But Saccone added: “He will have a full range of procedural tools to pick from to accomplish this objective.” (Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
“The attitudes toward cannabis are shifting rapidly,” says a former DEA-agent-turned-pot-growing-company-lawyer, adding that “the potential social and financial returns are enormous.” As ironic as that maybe, perhaps it is why Uruguay has just become the first nation in the world to allow its citizens to grow, buy and smoke marijuana. As Reuters reports, the pioneering government-sponsored bill establishes state regulation of the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana and is aimed at wresting the business from criminals. “Our country can’t wait for international consensus on this issue,” said one politician as demand is rising globally as the following chart shows…
DEA Agent becomes Pot-growing-firm lawyer… (via The Atlantic):
Patrick Moen is a 36-year-old former supervisor at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, where, until recently, he led a team based in Portland that fought methamphetamine and heroin traffickers.
Now, he is embarking on a career change. A rather dramatic one. The Wall Street Journal reports today in a delightful article that Moen has become the in-house lawyer at Privateer Holdings Inc., “a private-equity firm that invests solely in businesses tied to the budding legal marijuana industry.”
In other words, the revolving door between business and government just made an unexpected, and very druggy, turn.
“The potential social and financial returns are enormous,” Moen told the Journal said of his new business. “The attitudes toward cannabis are shifting rapidly.”
Indeed they are.
As Uruguay appears to show (via Reuters):
Uruguay’s Senate is expected to pass a law on Tuesday making the small South American nation the world’s first to allow its citizens to grow, buy and smoke marijuana.
The pioneering government-sponsored bill establishes state regulation of the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana and is aimed at wresting the business from criminals.
Cannabis consumers would be allowed to buy a maximum of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) each month from state-regulated pharmacies as long as they are over the age of 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their monthly purchases.
Uruguayans would also be allowed to grow up to six plants of marijuana in their homes a year, or as much as 480 grams (about 17 ounces). They could also set up smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that could grow up to 99 plants per year.
The bill, which opinion polls show is unpopular, passed the lower chamber of Congress in July and is expected to easily pass the Senate on the strength of the ruling coalition’s majority.
“Our country can’t wait for international consensus on this issue,” Senator Roberto Conde of the governing Broad Front left-wing coalition
Rich countries debating legalization of pot are also watching the bill, which philanthropist George Soros has supported as an “experiment” that could provide an alternative to the failed U.S.-led policies of the long “war on drugs.”
“This development in Uruguay is of historic significance,” said Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, a leading sponsor of drug policy reform partially funded by Soros through his Open Society Foundation.
“Uruguay is presenting an innovative model for cannabis that will better protect public health and public safety than does the prohibitionist approach,” Nadelmann said.
But who is “using” the most…
So USA is #1 in something!!
OTTAWA – Conservative Sen. Hugh Segal says it’s “deeply problematic” that Canada lacks a full-fledged national security committee of parliamentarians to keep an eye on spy agencies.
At a national intelligence conference Wednesday, Segal described current oversight of the spy world as a “non-system of zero legislative accountability.”
It features parliamentary committees — including one on which Segal sits — that aren’t allowed to see secret documents and watchdogs that conduct after-the-fact reviews, the senator told a symposium of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies.
He pointed to countries such as the United States and Britain where parliamentarians are able to tackle current crises head-on, eliciting candid testimony from spy chiefs.
In Canada, no one — least of all the responsible cabinet minister — steps forward to address the issues when an intelligence crisis erupts, Segal acknowledged.
“Any minister who says, ‘Actually, we have a big problem, I’m going to look into it’ these days is not part of the operative political culture,” he said.
“And I think that is deeply, deeply problematic.”
Segal said there has been a “lack of political will” to address the question with a measure of discretion, balance and focus.
Segal’s comments follow highly publicized allegations about Communications Security Establishment Canada, the national eavesdropping agency known as CSEC.
Documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden suggest CSEC initiated a spy operation against Brazil’s ministry of mines and energy and helped allies monitor leaders at a G20 summit.
Last month, the NDP unsuccessfully sought support in the House of Commons to study stronger oversight for the intelligence community.
More recently, Liberal public safety critic Wayne Easter tabled a private member’s bill to create a national security committee of parliamentarians that would have access to top-secret information.
Segal said he hopes there’s a constructive discussion about Easter’s proposal, which effectively revives an idea broached by the former Liberal government of Paul Martin shortly before the Conservatives took power.
University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach told the symposium Wednesday that a national security committee of MPs and senators would not be a panacea for intelligence oversight.
Easter’s bill worries Roach because the government would have “unfettered and unreviewable discretion” to decide what information the parliamentary committee would see.
“So I’m not terribly optimistic about that,” said Roach, who served as part of the research advisory group on the O’Connor commission of inquiry that looked into the Maher Arar torture affair.
Justice Dennis O’Connor recommended changes to allow national security watchdogs to exchange information and conduct joint investigations. He also advocated a co-ordinating committee that would include various security watchdog chairs to ensure seamless handling of complaints and probes.
Roach noted both the watchdog that monitors CSEC and the one that keeps tabs on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have spoken of difficulty in following the intelligence trail through government because each has authority to peek into just one agency.
It’s time to adopt the “one big committee” approach to spy oversight instead of the current roster of watchdogs working in isolation, Roach said.
“We can be creative with the diverse composition. It can include present or past parliamentarians, judges, experts, civil society — I think that’s totally open, but we need to have a debate about it.”
The Conservative government has said it is studying the notion of an inter-agency review system that would modernize the current approach, but no details have emerged.
Growing visibly more angry with every allegation coming from a senator that he appointed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said during question period on Tuesday that Mike Duffy has shown no remorse for claiming ineligible expenses and should be removed from the Senate.
Harper’s remarks came a day after the former Conservative dropped a second bombshell, saying there was not one but two cheques cut to him by Harper’s former chief of staff.
Duffy told the Senate on Monday that Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff, arranged to have his legal fees paid by the Conservative Party — in addition to the $90,000 cheque Wright gave Duffy to repay his ineligible expenses.
“The reality is,” Harper said on Tuesday, “that Mr. Duffy still has not paid a cent back to the taxpayers of Canada. He should be paying that money back.”
‘On our side, there is one person responsible for this deception. That person is Mr. Wright.’— Prime Minister Stephen Harper
“The fact that he hasn’t, the fact that he shows absolutely no regret for his actions, and the fact that he has told untruths about his actions means that he should be removed from the public payroll,” Harper said.
The prime minister has maintained all along that he knew nothing about the $90,000 cheque that his right-hand man gave to Duffy.
On Tuesday, the prime minister took direct aim at his former chief of staff, telling the Commons, “On our side, there is one person responsible for this deception. That person is Mr. Wright.”
“It is Mr. Wright by his own admission. For that reason, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright no longer works for us. Mr. Duffy shouldn’t either,” Harper said.
The prime minister did not, however, deny on Tuesday that the party cut Duffy a second cheque to cover his legal fees.
“That is a regular practice. The party regularly reimburses members of its caucus for valid legal expenses — as do other parties,” Harper said.
Duffy’s claim that he had paid back his ineligible expenses using his own funds was “the story of Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright,” Harper said.
“Mr. Duffy should be removed from the Senate.”
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair continued to pepper the prime minister with sharp questions on Tuesday.
If Duffy’s expenses were “inappropriate,” as Harper said again Tuesday, why did the Conservative Party pay for the senator’s legal fees? Mulcair asked.
Harper did not directly answer the question, saying only that he has said “it was inappropriate all along.”
- Canadians believe Mike Duffy over Stephen Harper on Senate scandal: poll (globalnews.ca)
- Harper defends payment for Duffy’s legal bill, says senator should get the boot (sunnewsnetwork.ca)
- Harper to face tough questions in wake of Duffy revelations (globalnews.ca)
- Harper says chief of staff Wright ‘dismissed’ over $90,000 cheque, not resigned (calgaryherald.com)
- The Senate Circus Continues (emkaydeeblogs.wordpress.com)
- Senate scandal not on Canadian public’s radar (beaconnews.ca)
The NDP made Prime Minister Stephen Harper their first target as Parliament resumed today, questioning what he knew about a deal between Senator Mike Duffy and his former chief of staff.
NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen and whip Nycole Turmel also set out a proposal to stop government MPs from pushing committees in-camera.
In question period, New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair set his sights on Harper, who left Thursday morning for Brussels to sign a tentative trade deal with the European Union.
Mulcair listed a number of people close to Harper who are now under scrutiny over corruption or other allegations of wrongdoing, including senators, Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, and his former parliamentary secretary, MP Dean Del Mastro, who faces charges over his election spending.
“These are chosen members of the prime minister’s own inner circle implicated in scandal,” Mulcair said.
“The prime minister needs to take responsibility for the climate of corruption that he created. Instead the prime minister flies off to Brussels … When will the prime minister stand up in this House and tell the truth to Canadians?”
Pierre Poilievre, minister of state for democratic reform, accused the NDP of being anti-trade.
“Once again the leader of the Opposition attacks our prime minister for travelling abroad to conclude the biggest trade agreement since NAFTA,” he said.
“The NDP would simply like to build a big brick wall around Canada. A brick wall that would keep out 80,000 jobs, that would keep away 500 million customers, that would keep away $1,000 in increased income for the average family.”
Limiting secret committee meetings
Earlier Thursday, Cullen and Turmel announced New Democrat MPs would push for committees to be more open.
Committees can go behind closed doors for planning purposes or when preparing a report, but Conservative MPs have been pushing them in-camera more and more than previous governments. They often use the tactic to kill opposition motions in secret. Conservative MPs form the majority on all parliamentary committees.
MPs are also forbidden from discussing what goes on behind closed doors afterward.
“The minute Conservatives don’t like a discussion that’s taking place in any of our committees, they go in-camera and shut the door on Canadians,” Cullen said.
“The abuse of this in-camera tool is undermining the work of all members of Parliament and increasing the skepticism of the Canadian public.”
New Democrat MPs will present motions in all committees next week, Cullen and Turmel said, laying out specific instances in which they can go in-camera:
- To discuss wages, salaries and other employee benefits, contracts or other labour or personal matters.
- For briefings concerning national security.
- To discuss draft reports.
The motion also mandates that minutes be taken, including how each member votes when votes are taken.
NDP on offensive
“As parliamentarians, we must be accountable to those who elected us,” Cullen said, adding that towns and school boards use the same rules the NDP want to see in Parliament.
“In a healthy democracy, shutting the doors on debate should be limited to only the most exceptional circumstances.”
The Official Opposition hit the Hill on the offensive this morning.
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus raised a question of privilege, which the party announced Wednesday. Angus is asking House Speaker Andrew Scheer to find Prime Minister Stephen Harper misled the House, when he said nobody in the Prime Minister’s Office knew about a deal between Wright and Senator Mike Duffy.
Wright paid back Duffy’s wrongly claimed Senate expenses. An ongoing RCMP investigation into the payment, and into Duffy’s expense claims, alleges Wright told them three other PMO staffers, plus Senator Irving Gerstein, about the agreement.
The Senate committee in charge of financial and administrative matters, the board of internal economy, met Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.
The Senate as a whole will resume at 2 p.m. with a new government leader, Claude Carignan, and deputy leader, Yonah Martin. But unlike his predcessor, Carignan will not sit in cabinet.
Harper has removed the Senate leader from cabinet for the first time in 50 years.
One of the Senate’s first acts was to move to suspend without pay Duffy and Pamela Wallin, who is also under investigation by the RCMP.
- NDP ploy ensures no reprieve from Senate expenses scandal for PM Harper (macleans.ca)
- They’re Baaaack (theepochtimes.com)
- NDP says PM in contempt of Parliament for misleading answers on Senate scandal (macleans.ca)
- Opposition renew calls for details of Mike Duffy visit as Senate expense affair heated up (o.canada.com)