Before QP could get underway, the Governor General dropped by the Senate to give royal assent to a number of bills. Not only did the government bills on pooled registered pension plans and the refugee reform bill receive assent, but so did the private members bills on citizen arrests, the flag, an epilepsy awareness day, human trafficking and bring wine over provincial borders. In addition supply bills also got the nod, leaving just two government bills left on the docket for the Senate to pass before they rise, possibly by midnight tonight, likely tomorrow.
When QP finally did happen, Senator Chaput was first up with questions on the cuts to Parks Canada and how that was affecting Riel house in Manitoba, and in particular, interpretation at the site in both official languages. Senator LeBreton indicated that the plan for self-guided tours was actually better than before, because people could see the sites at their own pace rather than be rushed along by guides. When Chaput asked if she could be provided with a list of criteria for the decision to remove the guides, and LeBreton said that she would take it as notice. There was a bit more back-and-forth at this point about the importance of French for the Franco-Manitoban minority in the province, but unlike many a back-and-forth in the Commons, this one was pleasant and civil.
Next up was Senator Callbeck, who is concerned that Question 8 on the Order Paper, which she placed there on June 7, 2011, has still gone unanswered. That’s right – a full year later. Senator LeBreton indicated that she would have her office look into the matter.
Senator Dallaire then rose to asked about cuts to the Canadian Forces – by his calculation, with the strategic operating review and frozen budgets and salaries, the Forces were facing some 13 to 14 percent cuts, and in the face of that, how could the much-vaunted Canada First Defence Strategy go ahead? LeBreton went on about the investments they were making and that employees would be notified before any changes were made, but remained somewhat vague. Dallaire noted that they were “doing less with less, but not sure what to do,” given the lack of a strategic direction. The Royal Military College was facing up to one third staff cuts, which didn’t make sense considering how much the Forces relies on RMC for the professionalization of its officer class. LeBreton insisted that everyone should trust in the Chief of Defence Staff and the Deputy Minister of Defence, as they know what they’re doing. There was a bit more back-and-forth at this point, but Dallaire made the point that Canadian Forces heavy equipment was still getting a lot of use, and yet the operations and maintenance budgets were where they were expecting to absorb a lot of the cuts, which again didn’t make sense given how much the equipment is being used. LeBreton said that she would take it as notice.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Senator Mahovlich for his linen suit jacket with a light blue shirt, and a white and blue striped tie, and to Senator Verner, for her blue top with a white scale pattern across it, and white cropped trousers. Style citations go out to Senator Eaton for her short-sleeved collared top with black and white colour blocks, and to Senator White for his black suit with a lemon yellow shirt with a blue patterned tie.