Tory Tantrum

By walking out on Gordon Laxer’s testimony about the SPP’s potential impact on Canadian energy security, the Conservatives have given him far more media coverage than he otherwise might have received. Today, the following story appeared in The Montreal Gazette, The Ottawa Citizen and The Edmonton Journal:

Tory chair storms out of SPP hearing
Freezing in the dark ‘not relevant’ to talks on integrating with U.S.

Kelly Patterson
The Ottawa Citizen
Friday, May 11, 2007

Amid heated charges of a coverup, Tory MPs yesterday abruptly shut down parliamentary hearings on a controversial plan to further integrate Canada and the U.S.

The firestorm erupted within minutes of testimony by University of Alberta professor Gordon Laxer that Canadians will be left “to freeze in the dark” if the government forges ahead with plans to integrate energy supplies across North America.

He was testifying on behalf of the Alberta-based Parkland Institute about concerns about the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a 2005 accord by the U.S., Canada and Mexico to streamline economic and security rules across the continent.

The deal, which calls North American “energy security” a priority, will commit Canada to ensuring American energy supplies even though Canada itself — unlike most industrialized nations — has no national plan or reserves to protect its own supplies, he argued.

At that point, Tory MP Leon Benoit, chair of the Commons Standing Committee on International Trade, which was holding the SPP hearings, ordered Mr. Laxer to halt his testimony, saying it was not relevant.

Opposition MPs called for, and won, a vote to overrule Mr. Benoit’s ruling.

Mr. Benoit then threw down his pen, declaring, “This meeting is adjourned,” and stormed out, followed by three of the panel’s four Conservative members.

The remaining members voted to continue, with the Liberal vice-chair presiding.

Mr. Benoit’s actions are virtually unprecedented, observers say; at press time, procedure experts still hadn’t figured out whether he had the right to adjourn the meeting unilaterally.

Mr. Benoit did not respond to calls for comment.

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For the rest of the story, click on the links above.

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