Dear readers, you know that I normally have a pretty high tolerance for the shenanigans of Question Period on a daily basis. But today, that tolerance was sorely tested. This was nothing to do with decorum, but rather with the complete absence of substance in today’s debate. And as ugly of a day as it was, I nevertheless will give you the recap (and hope that my rage doesn’t boil over yet again while recounting the tale).
It began during Members’ Statements, when the Conservatives, one after another, stood up to denounce the Liberals because David McGuinty, in his frustration after a Natural Resources committee hearing, said that if the Conservatives were going to act provincially when it comes to resource development then they should run for municipal council or the provincial legislature. Apparently this was what the Conservatives needed to re-open the psychic wounds of the National Energy Programme (which they already conflate with other global market forces, but that’s another story) and woe be to the Liberal arrogance that has kept them from getting a seat in Western Canada lo these many years. They would all crowd around whichever Alberta MP was speaking, and fill the frame – even Blake Richards, who sits in the nosebleeds, they nevertheless got more Alberta MPs to crowd around behind him to fill the frame. Solidarity, and all of that. And the NDP? Well, Dan Harris declared that he was going to put “facts” on the table in the face of Conservative distortions about his party’s policies – and then proceeded to lay out the same talking points about corporate taxes that completely distort the way they work. Apparently one distortion deserves another.
When Question Period did finally get underway, Thomas Mulcair read out a fairly pro-forma question about the Parliamentary Budget Officer not getting needed information, for which Harper delivered a fairly pro form answer, before he moved onto a question about the difference between his deficit numbers and Flaherty’s. Harper told him that their objective was to balance the budget in the life of the current parliament. For his final question, Mulcair wondered why Harper wouldn’t meet with the premiers in this era where the States was starting to outpace us in growth (ignoring that this is a “catch up “effect after their economy has been more stagnant than ours). Harper assured him that Canada has the best economic record in the G7, and so on. Robert Chisholm was up next, and still referencing the upcoming First Ministers’ Meeting, wondered if the Intergovernmental Affairs minister would be in attendance. Answering for Peter Penashue once again was Jim Flaherty, who assured him that the PM regularly meets with the premiers. Bob Rae was up for the Liberals, and asked a trio of questions about OxyContin soon being available in generic form, and how this was a problem in remote communities where addictions issues were rampant. While Harper did give some fairly sober answers about how they were working with the provinces, and how they couldn’t stop the licensing because of the legal uses of the drug, he nevertheless waited until the end of his third answer to deliver the daily talking points about how David McGuinty and the Liberals were evil, so that Rae couldn’t respond.
Round two started off with Peter Julian and Hélène LeBlanc wondering what conditions that CNOOC was agreeing to – ignoring such a thing as corporate confidentiality (Paradis: We make decisions in the best interests of Canada), Guy Caron and Peggy Nash asked about Jim Flaherty’s renewed plans for a national securities regulator post-Supreme Court decision, making such a proposition sound positively apocalyptic (Flaherty: We have shared jurisdiction, so we’re working with the provinces on this), Linda Duncan asked about Public Works admitting guilt in a workplace explosion that caused a death, and demanded an apology from the government (Ambrose: This was a terrible tragedy and we’ve enhanced our training), and Denis Blanchette followed that up with more concerns about health and safety to ensure that it couldn’t happen again (Raitt: While we don’t have jurisdiction over a large workforce, we lead the way with health and safety measures). Mark Eyking asked about the closure of Veterans Affairs offices (Adams: Veterans can get services from more locations – presumably Service Canada outlets – and there is no reduction in service), but when Joyce Murray tried to ask about cuts to national parks affecting the tourism industry, or Stéphane Dion asked about delays with immigration files, Jason Kenney answered both with a ridiculous non-sequitur about how awful David McGuinty and the Liberals were. Alexandre Boulerice started off by preambling about Senator Brazeau’s housing allowance – a question that should never be asked in the Commons – before shoehorning in a question about electoral fraud (Van Loan: The Board of Internal Economy will look into this I’m sure), and then he complained that his question wasn’t answered (Poilievre: You donated to the separatists). Note that just yesterday, Sadia Groguhé complained that the government didn’t answer her preamble the day before, but now Boulerice complains that they answered his preamble. (Seriously guys – it’s not that hard to ask clear questions. It starts by not trying to tack on the scandal of the day). Charlie Angus then took a crack at Shelly Glover’s liberties on Power & Politics on Monday, which were later proved untrue (Poilievre: We ran a clean and ethical campaign unlike you guys).
Round three saw questions about fees being charged for EI forms by employers, park closures, infrastructure funding, the Liberal private member’s bill on robo-calling – again, not a topic for QP (Poilievre: You have the temerity to ask us about ethics when a former Liberal, Joe Fontana, was just charged with fraud?), the Moscow embassy’s security, Peter Penashue’s campaign (Seriously guys – campaign conduct is not QP fodder. Party business is NOT government business), cuts to the tourism commission, lost forestry jobs, and holding a vote on the Canada-China FIPA (despite the fact that treaties are a Crown prerogative for good reason, one of those reasons being accountability).
So yeah – apparently we can no longer talk about government operations or get an answer that is remotely relevant to the topic any longer. Good job, guys. Ace work.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Kirsty Duncan for her tailored blue dress with a cowl neckline, and to James Bezan for a grey suit with a pink shirt and a light blue tie and pocket square. Style citations go out to Pierre Lemieux for a black suit with a dusky rose shirt and grey striped tie, and to Isabelle Morin for a curious…collared shirt/jacket that was shiny and possibly had a snakeskin pattern, but it was hard to tell under the lights (aside from being mesmerizingly terrible). Dishonourable mention goes to Rosane Doré Lefebvre for her mustard dress with a black jacket.