Even thought it was his birthday, Stephen Harper was present and accounted for in the House, as with all other leaders — even Daniel Paillé, who was watching from the diplomatic gallery. Thomas Mulcair led off by reading a pair of questions on the changes to the temporary foreign workers programme, castigating Jason Kenney for his contradictory statements on the existence of the fifteen percent wage gap provisions. Harper insisted that Mulcair had it all wrong, and reminded him of the letters that NDP MPs had written the minister to demand more permits for their ridings. He then turned to the $3.1 billion in untracked spending on counterterrorism funding, and whether the minister of public safety would be held accountable. Harper reminded him that the AG himself said that this was not indicative of improper spending, but improper financial reporting. For his last question, Mulcair asked about the state of nation-to-nation dialogue with First Nations, and Harper insisted that the dialogue was ongoing. Justin Trudeau was up next for the Liberals, and after first mentioning the AG’s comments on search and rescue and how the Atlantic premiers were concerned, but then moved onto the issue of tariff hikes. Harper assured him that they decreased a wide range of tariffs, and that it was not appropriate to only give reductions to countries like China.
Round two started with Christine Moore and Jack Harris asking about the lack of bilingual services with search and rescue (MacKay: The AG said that the system is adequate but can be improved, and we are working on that improvement), Jean Crowder and Romeo Saganash asked about the internal fighting between departments on the Residential Schools file (Valcourt: We have delivered over 3.5 million documents, and it’s an ongoing process), Anne-Marie Day and Chris Charlton asked about the concerns of the Atlantic premiers on the impacts of EI changes (Finley: Look at our skills development and job creation plan!), before Charlton, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet and Jinny Sims moved on to demand an independent investigation into the temporary foreign workers programme (Finley: We are reforming the programme to ensure it’s in the best interest of Canadian workers; Kenney: We are taking measures but realise this is also a globalised economy). Lise St-Denis asked about tax rate changes for credit unions affecting the regions (Flaherty: These small businesses still have access to preferential business rates), Rodger Cuzner asked again about the EI changes (Finley: Our priority is to help create jobs), and Scott Brison asked the GST being imposed on certain medical expenses (Flaherty: There is a distinction between medical legal expenses and treatment). Peggy Nash asked about the “job-killing agenda” (Flaherty: I’m pleased to announce that the economy grew by 0.3 percent in February), Alexandre Boulerice asked about changes to Crown Corporations in the budget bill (Clement: Our role is to improve the financial viability of Crown Corporations), and Charlie Angus asked about privacy breaches (Clement: We have created new measures to ensure there are no breaches going forward).
Round three saw questions on the diluted chemotherapy drugs, polar bear information delivered by a Conservative MP that came from climate change deniers, the AG’s report on search and rescue, money for jobs for youth, cuts to the Air Cadet glider programme (cuts MacKay denied), the scourge of nickel dust from the Port of Quebec, jobs training programmes, and a reminder of the 1995 referendum from the Bloc.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to James Bezan for a black suit with a white shirt and pocket square with a brilliant blue striped tie, and to Anne Quach for a tailored black and grey plaid jacket over a black dress. Style citations go out to Lois Brown for a black and beaded-gold top, and to Gordon O’Connor for a grey jacket with a butterscotch shirt, brown tie and black trousers.