Senate QP: Potato packaging and linguistic concerns

With the vote-a-thon proceeding apace in the Commons, I decided to head down the hall to the Other Place – otherwise known as the Senate – to observe the proceedings, and Question Period, there. Note that Nathan Cullen tried to get them the Commons to suspend the votes to still hold Question Period there, but he could not seek unanimous consent. But seriously – the point of marathon votes is to make it uncomfortable to be forced to stay in their seats through the votes, why give them a 45-minute reprieve so that the House can empty out to a skeleton crew?

After some senators’ statements, and reports having been tabled from committees, Senate Question Period got underway. Senator Hubley rose for the Liberals, and asked about changes in CFIA regulations when it comes to food labelling and packaging, especially for the effect that it was going to have on the potato industry on PEI, and could the government indicate who they consulted with before making these changes? Senator LeBreton, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, gets to answer all of the questions put to the government. She mentioned that Senator Nolin had previously raised the question with her, and that the changes had to deal with harmonising cross-border standards. That said, she has already submitted a request for a written response from the minister, and would pass along the Senator’s concerns. Hubley rose again and delivered a few facts about the industry, and asked again for information on who the government consulted with. LeBreton responded that she would ask.

Senator Tardif was up next, and asked about the funding envelope for periodicals, and how it was being restricted and how that was negatively affecting minority francophone newspapers in places like the prairie provinces. (Tardif, for the record, is Franco-Albertan). LeBreton replied that she had already responded to this in the past, and that the Canada Periodical Fund – which her government set up – had exemptions built in for minority language communities. When Tardif pressed on the pressure facing these franophone newspapers, LeBreton said that she didn’t know the exact funding envelope, but she could find out.

Senator De Bané was then up, and asked about how in the Official Languages Commissioner’s report, there was condemnation of the closure of a minority English library on a military base in Quebec, which was in violation of the Act. LeBreton responded that she had only just heard of this incident and hadn’t read the report yet, and seeing as DND had only just received the report themselves, she would take the question as notice and get back to him at a future date. Senator De Bané asked if LeBreton would personally appeal to the Defence Minister about the issue, but LeBreton would make no promises.

And that was it for Senate QP. As it’s not televised, most people never get to see it, and how much it differs from the Commons. For one, there is no 35-second clock, so it’s not rushed full of people trying to make jabs and jokes. (The lack of clock was also a godsend for Senator De Bané, who speaks in a very slow and deliberate manner). Senators can typically have as many supplemental questions that they need, and other Senators can add their own follow-ups if need be, though we didn’t see any of that today.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Senator Tardif for her short-sleeved fuchsia jacket over a short black dress, and to Senator Dawson, whose sense of style I’m a bit awed by – a white jacket with black pinstripes, a light blue shirt with a red striped bowtie and coral pink trousers. And he made it work. Style citations go out to Senator Mitchell for his navy jacket with khaki trousers, a white shirt and a yellow-and-blue striped tie, and to Senator LeBreton for her red jacket with three-quarter sleeves and matching skirt, and a plain white shirt with an odd neckline (unless those were a collection of pearls that didn’t quite sit right).