At the start of the day, new NDP house leader Nathan Cullen gathered the media together to tell us about how the dynamic in Ottawa has changed, that the NDP are a unified and focused team, and that they were going to keep Harper on his toes. Fast forward until Question Period when word hit the wires that NDP MP Bruce Hyer decided to leave caucus, largely because of Mulcair’s heavy hand on the whip when it comes to the party’s position on the long-gun registry. Yes, that’s apparently what united looks like. As for focused, well, I predicted on Friday that everyone’s attempt to get a spot to shine was going to result in a shambolic, scattershot QP. I was not wrong.
Mulcair started off QP by asking about cuts to services, repeating the line that the Conservatives were “slashing” healthcare transfers, and Baird, in his capacity as back-up PM for the day, insisted that they were protecting key programmes. Mulcair moved onto the ecological costs of projects the government was approving, but Baird reminded him of just how many millions of dollars Mulcair slashed from the Quebec environment budget when he was minister. Megan Leslie then got up, her first time as newly minted deputy leader, and asked about the cuts to environmental assessments, the veto cabinet is giving itself on energy projects, and Fisheries and Oceans’ disappearance from the environmental file. Peter Kent touted the government’s streamlining of the process, and when Leslie asked about how Canadian scientists were being sent to an important climate conference with government babysitters to ensure that they didn’t say too much to the media, Kent insisted that this was established practice, and that those awful journalists keep trying to get scientists to comment about policy rather than about science. And yes, Kent is a former journalist himself. Ralph Goodale was up for the Liberals, and asked about the two sets of figures being used for the F-35s – the internal one and the public one – but Baird dutifully repeated his talking points about how no money was spent, and that they had a Seven Step Plan™ to deal with the procurement going forward. For the last question of the round, Marc Garneau wondered about the broader problems of military procurement under this government, but Baird simply reminded him of the dreaded Decade of Darkness.
Round two kicked off with Jack Harris following up on the F-35 question (Chris Alexander” Seven Step Plan™!), Christine Moore an Matthew Kellway asking about other military procurement issues (Ambrose: We have fairness monitors doing their jobs and alerting us to problems), Randal Garrison and Rosanne Doré Lefebvre asked about prison closures at the same time as new cells were being constructed (Toews: Get your storylines straight), Charlie Angus asked about the Elections Canada’s investigating Conservative headquarters (Del Mastro: Don’t jump to conclusions), before he, Ève Péclet, Scott Andrews and Lise St. Denis asked about Bev Oda and her hotel bill in London (Van Loan: She paid back the costs, and hey, Bruce Hyer defected). Wayne Easter asked about the Robocon investigation (Del Mastro: Hey Liberals, pay back the missing $43 million – err, except it was $39 million), Yvon Godin and Annick Papillon asked about bilingual search and rescue operators (Ashfield: There’s no reduction in service), and Malcolm Allen and Ruth Ellen Brosseau asked about cuts to CFIA (Ritz: There is no effect on food safety).
Round three saw questions on the EI Board versus benefits, changing the age of eligibility for OAS, environmental assessments and cabinet vetos, cuts to aboriginal health programmes (Aglukkaq: As an aboriginal woman, that’s an unacceptable question), the plan to wipe out the immigration backlog, Katimavik, port authority patronage appointments, local infrastructure programmes for Northern Ontario, and the Earth Day march in Montreal.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Maxime Bernier for his tailored grey suit with a white shirt and pocket square and red tie, and to Rosane Doré Lefebvre for a white top with a draped neckline and a grey skirt, with a cream short-sleeved sweater. Style citations go out to Leona Aglukkaq for a snot-green ruffled top and black sweater, and to the Honourable Member from Warhammer for a grey jacket with a lemon yellow shirt and black tie and trousers.