While Stephen Harper was off welcoming the pandas to Canada, the business of the nation carried on without him. Thomas Mulcair started off by reading off a question about the Nishiyuu Cree Walkers, and said that the budget was “crushing them” with paternalism — never mind that many chiefs asked for those very provisions. John Baird, the designated back-up PM du jour, assured him that they were helping First Nations to get ahead. Mulcair carried on slamming the budget, calling it a coming decade of darkness for communities because of a lack of infrastructure funds (or something to that effect), but Baird kept up the good news talking points. For his final supplemental, Mulcair asked about Kevin Page’s comments about unwinding the PBO. Baird deflected and called Mulcair out for his comments on Keystone XL in Washington. Megan Leslie was up next and asked about Keith Ashfield’s “you’re going to make a good wife someday” comment at a budget event on Friday. Ashfield said that if that was the worst that Leslie could say about the budget, then it must be a pretty good one. For the Liberals, Judy Foote, Scott Andrews and Gerry Byrne asked about Peter Penashue standing up for wasteful government advertising while other local services were cut. Baird reminded them of ALL THE THINGS that Penashue did for Labrador.
Round two started off with Peggy Nash calling the budget a “shell game” (Lebel: The Federation of Canadian Municipalities likes it), and moved on to the increase in tariffs (Menzies: These were actually part of a foreign aid programme from the 1970s), Alexandre Boulerice asked about tax credits being cut (Bernier: These credits weren’t doing what they were intended to), Guy Caron asked about the cut of the “winning formula” of training funds in Quebec in favour of the Canada Jobs Grant (Finley: Here’s a favourable quote!), before he and Murray Rankin moved onto the changes to credit unions (Menzies: They still have access to the lowest tax rate), and Fin Donnelly asked about cuts to Fisheries and Oceans (Ashfield: Efficiency! Science!). Stéphane Dion asked about French language capability in the Coast Guard’s Halifax office (Ashfield: We’re ensuring that capability exists), Marc Garneau asked about changes to EI with respect to training (Finley: Yay Canada Jobs Grant!), and Wayne Easter asked about people on EI being denied sickness benefits (Finley: The case in question arose because of old Liberal rules). Jonathan Genest-Jourdain, Niki Ashton and Romeo Saganash returned to the “paternalistic workfare” programme in the budget (Ashfield: We recognise these young walkers and I’ll be meeting with them).
Round three saw questions on the budget as it relates to Northern Ontario, government advertising budgets, why Harper wouldn’t meet with the Aboriginal youth, the end of the police officer recruitment fund, changes to cooperative businesses and credit unions, moving Canada Day celebrations under the Heritage ministry instead of the NCC, and EI sickness benefits.
Oh, and for the record, getting every MP from a particular region to ask the very same question is not actually debate. It’s stunts to make YouTube clips, and it’s not only sucking the life out of meaningful debate, it’s deadly dull.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Maxime Bernier for a chocolate brown three-piece suit with a light blue shirt and pocket square with a peach tie, and to Stella Ambler for a pink jacket with a cream top. Style citations go out to Isabelle Morin for a mustard long-sleeved top with black trousers, and to Robert Goguen for a grey suit with a yellow shirt and yellow and brown striped tie.