QP: Catching the Speaker’s eye

The press gallery was full at the very start of Members’ Statements, hoping that MPs would take the Speaker’s advice yesterday and start standing up to catch his eye, in order to bypass the dreaded Whip’s list. And no, nobody tried to catch the Speaker’s eye, and the list carried on unabated, with Warawa on said list to talk about a local talent show. Breathless anticipation, all for naught. When QP got underway, Thomas Mulcair read off a gimme question about meeting with Rehteah Parsons’ parents, and the need for cyberbullying legislation. (Funnily enough, the NDP voted against a bill to do just that by Liberal MP Hedy Fry, ostensibly because it was poorly drafted, yet not offering amendments). Harper agreed that there was a problem that needs to be addressed, and that they need to make it clear that the Internet was not a free pass for criminal behaviour. Mulcair moved onto the topic of the Federal Court decision regarding the Parliamentary Budget Officer, to which Harper replied with the implication that the previous PBO, Kevin Page, was partisan. Mulcair changed topics again, and moved onto the issue of privacy breaches, to which Harper assured him that they take those issues seriously and have developed action plans when breaches happen. Charmaine Borg asked the very same again, to which Tony Clement gave her the same reassurances, but with an added gratuitous shot at the former Liberal government. For the Liberals, Joyce Murray asked about the topic of the week — youth unemployment. Harper assured her that they had all kinds of programmes in place to help youth find jobs. For the final questions the round, Bob Rae asked whether Canada would try to get the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting moved here, and to take over the chair from Sri Lanka given their human rights abuses. Harper agreed that they were concerned about the Sri Lankan situation, and would be monitoring the situation. Elizabeth May and Bruce Hyer stood up for pretty much every question in this round, trying to catch the Speaker’s eye, to no avail.

Starting off Round Two, Megan Leslie asked about the financial assistance that the government would offer the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario as they take over the Experimental Lakes Area (Ashfield: We are working on freshwater research, and are working out these details), Élaine Michaud and Jack Harris asked about the responsibility for changes to soldiers’ danger pay (MacKay: There is an army’s length committee that examines these issues, and we’ve asked them to reexamine this — and it got feisty between them), Jinny Sims, Sadia Groguhé, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet and Chris Charlton raised the issue of temporary foreign workers (Finley: We are examining the problems in the system, and your MPs keep asking us for approvals). Lise St-Denis, Wayne Easter and Rodger Cuzner asked yet more questions about youth unemployment (Finley: Look at all of the programmes we have to help youth find jobs!) Isabelle Morin, Rathika Sitsabaiesan, and Matthew Dubé asked the same question with a temporary foreign workers slant (Finley: We introduced a number of programmes to help young people).

Round three saw questions on potential cutbacks to Canada Post, the withdrawal from the UN convention on desertification and Qatar trying to relocate an agency headquarters currently located in Montreal, the sale of the Canadian Tree Farm in Saskatchewan, Peter MacKay’s voting record on the military (MacKay: Listen to you guys defending the Liberal decade of darkness), GMO alfalfa, artefact storage at Parks Canada, the ferry to Manitoulan, and the allegations of Supreme Court interference in the patriation.

As for Elizabeth May and Denis Corderre standing up throughout QP hoping to be recognised, it makes little sense for the Speaker to recognise them out of their party’s question allocation — the whole point of which is to ensure an equitable distribution of questions between parties. If they were trying to get an extra question in during the day, then that kind of motivation needs to be questioned. Coderre got his question during a Liberal round, and it can be assumed that he was on the list but was trying to get bumped up, while May was testing the ruling, despite the fact that the Independents get the final question of the day, and she would have competed with the Bloc for it (as it was their turn today, apparently). Right now there is a delicate balance in place, in order to keep the Speaker from being accused of favouring certain parties (witness these complaints pre-list back when Jeanne Sauvé was Speaker). Until MPs are ready for a system where they all actively participate, throw out the list — and their scripts — entirely and everyone hoping to simply catch the Speaker’s eye, then I can’t imagine that Scheer would want to do anything to upset that balance and open himself up to further complaints.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to James Bezan for a medium grey suit with a lilac shirt and purple tie, and to Rona Ambrose for her snow leopard print dress and black jacket. Style citations go out to Niki Ashton for a black jacket and white top with a yellow skirt, and to François Lapointe for a black suit with a moss green shirt and a navy-and-red striped tie. Dishonourable mention goes out to Joan Crockatt for a navy suit and light blue shirt with a belt over the jacket.