QP: A near-outbreak of spontaneous debate

It was a strange kind of place in the Commons this morning – the Chamber was on a Friday schedule so that MPs could head back to their ridings early for Remembrance Day activities, and it was a mostly Friday-vibe in the House, with most front-benchers gone – either mentally or physically – and time distorted into what felt like the longest 45 minutes in history. Despite there being other NDP deputy leaders present, it was Nycole Turmel who was chosen to haltingly read off the lead questions about proposals to privatise certain social services in order to run them like Goldman Sachs – or something like that. (In reality, Diane Finley wants charities and private enterprise to explore “social finance instruments,” not that you could tell from the question Turmel asked.) Kellie Leitch responded with an equally coherent accusation that the NDP want to raise taxes and won’t support the Economic Action Plan™ to create jobs. So really, an edifying start to the day. For her last question, Turmel switched to English and lamented the Service Canada wait times, to which James Moore – apparently the part-time back-up PM du jour – responded that just because they were doing things differently it didn’t mean it was worse, or something that effect. Megan Leslie was up next and denounced this call for ideas as a PR stunt to cover cuts. Leitch responded that they were trying to let local communities tackle local problems. Leslie then switched to ski trails being on the receive end of cuts, but Peter Kent assured her that they were protecting natural spaces, and that they were working with volunteer groups. Bob Rae was then up for the Liberals, demanding to know what caused the government to settle with Ashley Smith’s family in their lawsuit, and what other videos or evidence they had in possession, not only with this case, but with other prison deaths concerning the mentally ill. James Moore repeatedly stood up – despite Toews being in the Chamber – and said that all kinds of information was being provided to the inquiry, but Toews remained in his seat, no matter Rae’s efforts.

Round two started with Randall Garrison picking up the Ashley Smith torch and wondering which of the recommendations from the Correctional Investigator’s report were being followed (Toews: We’re working with the provinces to help people with mental health issues), Françoise Boivin said that Alberta needs more judges to deal with capacity issues (Nicholson: Support our tough on crime bills – because that will do a lot for capacity, apparently), Robert Chisholm accused the PM of alienating premiers (Nicholson: I just had a productive meeting with my provincial counterparts), while Charlie Angus first asked about Peter Penashue travelling mostly to his own province (Penashue actually got up to read a bland statement from  a cue card about his “strong relationships” with the provinces) before he went on a tear about voter suppression (Van Loan: We’ll be bring forward new legislation), to be followed up on the same again in French by Alexandre Boulerice (Poilievre gave his usual abuse), and Craig Scott wondered if the government would adopt his Private Members’ bill on robo-calling – which wasn’t a proper question for QP (Van Loan: We’re looking into comprehensive changes to the Act). Bob Rae, however, was not finished, and he got back up to ask the very same question as before of Toews, and this time Toews did get up, but repeated the same lines that Moore did. It was almost like an outbreak of spontaneous debate in the Chamber! Almost. Scott Andrews accused Peter Penashue of not doing his job by not meeting with his provincial counterparts and demanded his resignation (Penashue: You’re rude, and hey, I’m sharing success stories around the country), and Carolyn Bennett wondered why the government was spending half a billion dollars in legal fees when they could spend the money elsewhere (Nicholson: We have some fifty thousand litigation files, including supporting victims of residential schools and fighting Big Tobacco). Closing off the round, Hélène LeBlanc accused CNOOC of trying to intimidate us (Paradis: That’s fabulation), and that we might have to treat them the same as a domestic company under the new FIPA (Keddy: The point of the agreement is that we treat each other’s investments equally), while Linda Duncan and Denis Blanchette asked about the government rejecting reforms to the Estimates process (Clement: We adopted the vast majority of those recommendations).

Round three saw questions on Navigable Waters changes, earthquake warnings, veterans funeral benefits, seasonal EI in parts of the country where there is no work in the winter, forestry cuts, service delivery, a Senate bill on MS, Public-Private Partnerships, immigration processing for adoptions, and organised crime.

Sartorially speaking, well, it was a pretty blah day in the House, with not a lot to choose from owing to the quasi-Friday status. Sartorial snaps go out to Michelle Rempel for her eggplant dress with an interesting embroidered panel across the front, and to Blake Richards for a nicely tailored dark grey suit with a light blue shirt and navy tie. Style citations go out to Stephen Fletcher for a fluorescent blue shirt-black suit violation, and to Megan Leslie for a snot-green belted dress. Dishonourable mentions to Anne Minh-Thu Quach for a mustard jacket with a black top and trousers, and to Jean Crowder who accented an otherwise fine black suit and top with a full-on bumblebee black-and-yellow striped scarf.