Monday, August 30, 2010

Adventures in disfunction

I went to a press conference this morning to hear Peter van Loan, who had just come back from a visit to Central and South America, talk about extending free trade into that region. It's an important topic that Canadians should talk about. First, is it a good idea? What's in it for Canada? Will we lose jobs or gain them? What do we get from them and what do they want from us? Will it open the door to more immigration from the region, which is a source of a large migration of unskilled workers from farm regions to cities in Latin America and the US. People's jobs are on the line, and jobs are not that easy to get these days.
So the minister walks up to a podium set up in front of the House of Commons. He reads a rather long statement in French. Then he does the same in English. This has eaten up about 15 minutes. His flacks say there's time for two questions in French, two in English. (This, of course, is not enough for a serious session on trade.)
The first question, in English, is about the trade stuff. Julie van Dusen of the CBC asks the second question. It's about the gun registry. I decide the "two questions" rule really should relate to the subject of trade. I ask how many deals we are going after, and whether NAFTA could be extended deeper into Central America and into South America.
The rest of the questions are about the gun registry, which is obviously the story du jour. Van Loan, who used to be Public Safety minister, doesn't have the good sense to say that's not his department anymore, and if people want to talk to the public safety minister, they should find Vic Toews.
So we have some trade deals cooking with some pleasant and unpleasant states in South and Central America, and with some Caribbean states. Details of the deals? Forget it. No time. Are there going to be human rights links? Wish I could say. Security links? Dunno.
But we do know that Peter van Loan, who is no longer public safety minister, is like the rest of the Harper cabinet and doesn't like the long gun registry. And in Ottawa, today, that's important. That's news. In fact, it's more important than trade and the economy, or your job.

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