With Harper off in India, and a number of other MPs back in their riding for Veterans’ Week activities, the Commons was a pretty sparse place, albeit not quite Friday sparse. Undeterred, Thomas Mulcair read off his first question about the extension of the deadline for the Nexen decision, to which John Baird, in his capacity as back-up PM du jour, mentioned that there were consultations going on as part of the complex decision making. Mulcair was up next, and asked quite simply who Baird would be consulting – but the cadence of the question was off, like he was still reading it off of a script he hadn’t previously read (though it was one of the rare moments when he spoke off-the-cuff in QP while not red-faced in anger). Baird, however, returned to his usual talking points about the “net benefit” test, and so on. Peggy Nash was up next and asked a pair of questions, in English and in French, about how in this time of fiscal austerity, Harper could have deigned to fly his own armoured limousines over to India. Toews responded that this was a judgement call by the RCMP, and he respected their decision. Bob Rae was then up for the Liberals, and in a rather impassioned display, wondered just what exactly changed on Friday that the government, which had been sitting on those Ashley Smith videos for five years, decided they now wanted to allow the investigation to proceed. Three times he tried to get the government to say something, to admit that they had been publicly embarrassed by those videos and had no choice but to let the investigation proceed unimpeded – but Baird simply resorted to the talking points about how they needed to do a better job of keeping people with mental illness out of prisons.
Round two kicked off with a pair of questions from Alexandre Boulerice and Charlie Angus about Peter Penashue’s election financing – not that campaigns are questions about government operations and therefore shouldn’t have been allowed (Poilievre: Look at all of the separatists in your Quebec wing). Incidentally, the NDP once again misunderstood the term “ministerial accountability,” which is reflective of the minister taking responsibility for the actions of his or her department, not the conduct of a candidate during a campaign, even if that candidate is one day appointed to cabinet. Peter Julian brought up the strange tale of James Bezan apparently getting a reporter at his local paper fired, in relation to his opinion on the Nexen decision – again, not a question in the domain of QP, which deals with the conduct of the government and not of backbenchers (Goodyear: We’re getting lots of feedback on this decision). Chris Charlton and Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, asked about job cuts at Service Canada amid delays in processing EI claims (Leitch: We’re helping people get jobs!), Sylvain Chicoine and Peter Stoffer asked about poor veterans not getting assistance for their own funerals (Blaney: We’re helping veterans!), and Randall Garrison asked about Corrections Canada ignoring the recommendations around the treatment of mentally ill prisoners (Toews: We’re giving better treatment, faster assessments and have better trained staff). Sean Casey returned to the question of the veterans’ funeral costs and wanted an independent review panel to review the Last Post Fund (Blaney: You cut benefits), Scott Andrews asked another Penashue question that didn’t belong in QP (Poilievre: Your party is “guilty” of illegal robo-calls and leadership debts), and Carolyn Bennett asked about moving a Manitoba First Nation to higher ground after persistent flooding (John Duncan: We’re working with the leadership and provinces, but there is reluctance in the community to be moved to higher ground). Megan Leslie asked about environmental monitoring after contaminated snow was found near oil sands operations (Kent: We took advice and set up peer-reviewed monitoring), and Robert Chisholm and Fin Donnelly asked about the Cohen Report recommendations (Shea: We’re studying them, but hey, we have top research statistics).
Round three saw questions on EI eligibility figures, an attempt to parse the talking points around the changes to Navigable Waters protection, and then this happened: Kirsty Duncan asked about a two-and-a-half line response to an Order Paper question she asked about disaster preparedness in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Vic Toews said that it would have cost $1300 just to determine if they could answer the lengthy question, and “tens of thousands of dollars” to answer all of it. Well then, that settles it – democracy, asking questions, and holding the government to account costs money, and we couldn’t possibly have that. Time to shut the place down then, since THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF PARLIAMENT. The rest of the questions were around credit card fees, cancer patients, a refugee case, a blunder around child tax benefits, and the long-gun registry records.
Sartorially speaking, it was a fairly bland day in the House, but snaps go to dependable good dressers Greg Rickford for a tailored black suit with a white shirt and pocket square, with a light blue tie, and to Rona Ambrose for her fitted black dress and jacket. Style citations go out to Djaouida Sellah for her black jacket with grey, brown and orange circles across it, and to Charlie Angus for his fluorescent blue shirt with a decidedly not tailored dark grey suit, and a shiny dark grey tie.