QP: Attempting a defence pivot

After the introduction of the five new MPs who won the recent by-elections — who were introduced into the Commons in the proper fashion (which doesn’t always happen), and QP got off to a very delayed start. Rona Ambrose led off, worrying that Harjit Sajjan didn’t attend a veterans dinner to apologise to them personally. Justin Trudeau noted that Sajjan unveiled the new defence policy today, and slammed the previous government for not spending enough on the military, to many cries of outrage by the Conservative. Ambrose railed about how the Liberals don’t respect the troops, but Trudeau insisted that his government was going to fix the problems of the previous government. Ambrose concerned trolled about Sajjan’s reputation with the troops, and Trudeau accused them of talking a good game with supporting the troops but not following through. Ambrose tried again, and Trudeau insisted that they were leading the way with restoring the Forces. Ambrose tried another helping of concern trolling, and got the same answer. Thomas Mulcair was up next, concerned about our dropping World Press Freedom index ranking and wanted protection for sources. Trudeau said that they believed in that protection, and Mulcair dropped mention of the VICE journalist fighting the RCMP in court, before barrelling along to his prepared question about the old Bill C-51. Trudeau noted the report released and that they would change the legislation in the coming months. Mulcair then called on Trudeau to personally call Putin about gay men being persecuted in Chechnya, but Trudeau did not commit to doing so, just to better sponsorship for LGBT refugees fleeing persecution. Mulcair accused the government of not doing enough, particularly with emergency visas, and Trudeau spoke about the need for permanent solutions to help refugees, not temporary ones.

Round two, and Denis Lebel raised the Decade of Darkness (Trudeau: Under your government, there was under-investment in the Forces), and James Bezan and Pierre Paul-Hus demanded Sajjan’s resignation (Trudeau: You nickel-and-dimed the Forces and veterans for ten years). Hélène Laverdière and Randall Garrison demanded the Afghan detainees issue be reopened (Trudeau: The Ethics Commissioner said that the matter was closed). Cheryl Gallant, Sylvie Boucher, and Ed Fast reiterated calls for Sajjan’s resignation (Trudeau: So proud of the minister). Matthew Dubé worried about changes to the Standing Orders (Trudeau: I hope future prime ministers will answer questions and not abuse omnibus bills), and Thomas Mulcair railed that Trudeau wasn’t answering (Trudeau: [Drowned out by yelling]).

Round three saw questions on military spending (Trudeau: We will invest following the policy review), how many times the PM met with the Ethics Commissioner (Trudeau: I am happy to answer her questions), the appointment of a new Ethics Commissioner (Trudeau: We put an independent process into place), Indigenous reconciliation as part of Canada 150 (Trudeau: That is one of the themes), saving a local food bank (Trudeau: We are helping families get out of food insecurity but we need to do more), Stéphane Dion’s role in the EU (Trudeau: Dion’s expertise will be able to do more than be a simple bilateral ambassador), Saudi Arabia heading on the UN Women’s council (Trudeau: We have no voice on that council but we condemn human rights abuses), closing the “loophole” in the Safe Third Country Agreement (Trudeau: We are ensuring the integrity of our borders by giving RCMP and CBSA more resources), jobs in Calgary (Trudeau: We are working to grow the economy), the stalled RCMP unionisation bill (Trudeau: It will return to the House soon), the deficit (Trudeau: We are working to deliver growth), and Arctic impacts regarding climate change (Trudeau: We are working internationally to protect the Arctic).

Overall, it has become clear that there are no substantive changes to what we can expect out of a PMQ-day, where Trudeau’s responses are largely platitudes and prepared points (which he doesn’t read, to be fair), but there is little substance. And in response, the opposition benches are increasingly louder and rowdier on these days than any other one. Trudeau tried to go on the attack today, countering the Sajjan issue with his speech today on the underfunding of the military by the Conservatives and how they were all talk (which is not a wholly unfair point, but boy did that rile up the Conservative ranks). It was also expected that all of the new MPs each got a question today, and lo and behold, they did, including the three new Liberals, who all got the designated backbench suck-up questions. (Seriously, Liberals – knock this off).

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Michelle Rempel for a black dress with a grey mail-patterned front panel, and to Marco Mendicino for a dark grey suit with a crisp white shirt and purple tie. Style citations go out to Michael MacLeod for a dark grey suit with a faded mustard shirt and brown mottled tie, and to Rachel Blaney for a black short-sleeved wrap dress with what appeared to be a candy print across it. Dishonourable mention goes out to Frank Baylis for a black three-piece suit with a lemon yellow shirt and dark yellow striped tie.