QP: Bell Island conspiracies

With Justin Trudeau on his way to the Microsoft conference in Washington State, and Rona Ambrose bowing out, there were only two leaders present for QP today. Candice Bergen led off, railing about the PM’s Xmas vacation — again — using the reach of a story about the island’s ownership to raise doubts. Bardish Chagger gave the usual reply. Bergen used this as a hook for a question to accuse Chagger of being the wrong person to be in charge of finding a new Ethics Commissioner, and Chagger reminded her that the process is open and anyone can apply. Bergen insisted that the government was simply looking for Liberal donors, citing Madeleine Meilleur’s nomination as Official Languages Commissioner. Diane Lebouthillier took this one, praising Meilleur’s record. Gérard Deltell was up next, worrying about the Infrastructure Bank and the search for a board despite the fact that it had not been created yet. Amarjeet Sohi reminded him of the value of the Bank, and that they wanted to gave board members ready to be appointed when the Bank’s creation was authorised by Parliament. On a second go from Deltell, François-Philippe Champagne took the opportunity to tout the Invest in Canada Agency that they were also looking for appointees for. Thomas Mulcair was up next, spinning a conspiracy about the tentacles of KPMG infiltrating everywhere, and Lebouthillier got up to note all of the measures they were taking to combat tax evasion. Mulcair asked again in French, and got the same answer. Mulcair then took a swipe at Meilleur’s appointment at Languages Commissioner, and Lebouthillier repeated her lines about Meilleur’s record. Mulcair demanded that Chagger recuse herself from the selection of the Ethics Commissioner, and Chagger reminded him of the open process.

Round two, and Chris Warkentin, Bernard Généreux, Marilyn Gladu, and John Brassard worried about the ownership of the Aga Khan’s island for some unfathomable reason (Chagger: PCO development new guidelines about PM vacations; Lebouthillier: I’m proud of our government for…going after tax evasion?). Rachel Blaney and Alexandre Boulerice was concerned about conflicts of interest in the Infrastructure Bank (Sohi: Look at how widely we consulted). Diane Watts and Luc Berthold asked about the independence of the Infrastructure Bank (Sohi: It is an arm’s length Crown Corporation accountable to Parliament), and Pierre Poilievre worried about the concept of risk as it relates to the Infrastructure Bank (Sohi: Every project will be in the public interest). Randall Garrison and Hélène Laverdière asked about transport regulations affecting the trans community (Garneau: We are examining this issue right now).

Round three saw questions on modernising the NEB, pipelines, the temporary foreign workers programme, fixing the refugee system, autism programmes, the MMIW inquiry’s growing pains, drug prices, Phoenix pay system, labelling GMO foods, the Vegreville immigration processing office, and reconsidering the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Overall, it was a loud and rowdy day, and my patience with the shenanigans was wearing thin. The questions about the ownership of Bell Island – the Aga Khan’s private island –  were hardly relevant to government business, and yet because of one CBC story which was a huge reach in terms of relevance, it becomes the new attempt to weave some kind of conspiracy theory in QP. It’s bad enough that they are tailoring QP to fit whatever headlines they find that morning, be it from the Globe or CBC, but to try and stretch it into an attack on the prime minister’s credibility is disingenuous and a touch farcical. (This goes for KPMG conspiracies too, by the way). Meanwhile, both Thomas Mulcair and the assembled Conservative backbenchers were trying to be clever about referring to Trudeau’s absence without actually saying he was absent (because that’s against the rules), given that he has started to turn Wednesday into PMQs. If one didn’t know he was absent, owing to Hansard or CPAC not showing wide shots, it looks on the record like they’re asking questions and the PM is simply refusing to answer rather than his being absent. It’s stupid, it’s petty, it’s childish, and worst of all, they think they’re being clever about it, but they’re not. I also have to ask why Diane Lebouthillier was answering all manner of questions that were outside of her portfolio today. Covering off for official languages I can kind of see (and that happens from time to time with cabinet ministers), but going to bat on the Bell Island questions? It didn’t make any sense.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Pablo Rodriguez for a black three-piece suit with a white patterned shirt and black tie with a red pattern, and to Chrystia Freeland for a black half-sleeved dress with translucent panels. Style citations go out to Pam Goldsmith-Jones for a white belted dress with shirt-like collar and cuffs and black vertical stripes, and to Robert Sopuck for that brown corduroy jacket that needs to be burned, along with a grey waistcoat and a dark blue shirt and orange tie. Dishonourable mention goes out to Filomena Tassi for a bright yellow jacket with a black top, and Diane Watts for a lemon yellow top with a black jacket and skirt.