QP: Proto-PMQs, take two

Question Period was late today, due to Malala Yousafzai’s address to parliament, and was the only item on the Order Paper for the day. Meanwhile, not all leaders bothered to show up either. Rona Ambrose led off, mini-lectern on desk, lamenting new taxes and the plan to increase user fees in the budget bill. Justin Trudeau insisted that they were proud of their choices and the ways they are helping the middle class. Ambrose spun the question as taxing time-off, and Trudeau responded by praising their decision to offer free passes to national parks this year. Ambrose spun it about camping — as those fees are going up — but Trudeau reiterated his response. Ambrose then asked whether the government planned to pass her bill on sexual assault training for judges, and Trudeau noted his support for survivors, but he also respects Parliament and the work of committees, and he looked forward to those discussions. Ambrose pressed, and Trudeau noted that it was important that they appointed more women to the bench, which they were doing. Alexandre Boulerice led off for the Liberals, railing about the omnibus nature of the budget implementation bill. Trudeau insisted that it was not an abuse of omnibus legislation, all items were included in the budget. Nathan Cullen repeated the question in English, got much the same response, then Cullen railed about the provisions around the PBO. Trudeau noted that it would make him a full Officer of Parliament with greater independence. Boulerice repeated it in French, and got much the same answer.

Round two started with Denis Lebel concern trolled about the PM’s Christmas vacation (Trudeau: This was a person family vacation and I am happy to answer any questions from the Ethics Commissioner) and asked about Malala’s honorary citizenship (Trudeau: This was a vote by Parliament), and Michelle Rempel and Candice Bergen continued to rail about the vacation (Trudeau: Same response). Karine Trudel and Daniel Blaikie carried on the vacation questions (Trudeau: I follow the advice of the RCMP). Tony Clement took another kick at the vacation question (Trudeau: ibid), and asked about the lack of information on new security measures for airlines (Trudeau: We work with our national security partners to ensure Canadians are safe while protecting their Charter rights), and Kelly Block and Luc Berthold worried about employees at airports who had their clearances revoked continue to work there (Trudeau: Same answer). Alistair MacGregor wondered if Trudeau felt he deserved a criminal record for having smoked marijuana (Trudeau: The current regime isn’t working so we are putting in a new one), and Tracey Ramsey railed about steel dumping by China (Trudeau: I brought this up directly with their leadership when I was over there).

Round three saw questions about his vacation (Trudeau: Same answer), omnibus bills (Trudeau: This isn’t like the abuse of process from the previous government), the Standing Orders (Trudeau: I am looking for your feedback on modernizing this place), negotiating lower drug prices (Trudeau: We already signed an agreement to do just that), abandoned and derelict vessels (Trudeau: We are rolling out our oceans management plan), supporting a Senate bill on sanctions for Russians officials (Trudeau: The Russian government has a serious choice to make), UNRWA funding (Trudeau: This is about ensuring we have tighter control over those aid dollars), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Trudeau: This makes good sense for Canadian expertise and investment), denying justice to residential school survivors (Trudeau: We are working with Indigenous communities and have made major investments), judicial advisory committee vacancies (Trudeau: New process!), making girls education a priority at the upcoming G7 presidency per Malala’s request (Trudeau: There will be a strong emphasis on gender equality and opportunity for women and girls around the world).

Overall, it was another day where Trudeau took all questions, for what little good it did as I think I heard a mere two or three actual answers to questions rather than his standard happy-clappy talking points, which goes to show why the promise of instituting a PMQ-style day without actually addressing the cultural problem of how we debate in this country is an empty gesture. It’s not solving a problem, it’s not giving greater transparency or accountability, it’s not adding anything – it’s just giving Trudeau the chance to be the face of more talking points. And that, meanwhile, is enraging the opposition parties to even louder protests than usual, and their questions get increasingly huffy and sanctimonious because they know they’re addressing him directly rather than one of his proxies (usually Bardish Chagger), which makes watching the whole thing even more intolerable than usual. So yeah, you can mark me down as not being a fan of this PMQ-style change.

Sartorially speaking, it was Day of Pink, so there was plenty to be found around the chamber. Snaps go out to Bill Morneau for a neatly tailored dark grey suit with a pale pink shirt and darker pink striped tie, and to Chrystia Freeland for a sleeveless fuchsia dress. Style citations go out to Cheryl Gallant for a puffy silver lamé jacket with a fuchsia dress, and to Larry Maguire for a dark brown jacket, tan slacks, a blueberry shirt and maroon paisley tie.