QP: The Trudeau/Scheer damp squib

A new week, and Justin Trudeau was back in the Commons after a morning at Niagara Falls to do a guest spot on US television, and before his meeting with the visiting president of Chile. After a moment of silence for the victims of the London Bridge attack, Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, asking for an update and reaction to the attack. Trudeau gave condolences to the family of the Canadian woman who died in the attack, and noted that an hour before, he had spoken to Theresa May about the issue an hour before, and then offered his well wishes to Scheer as new leader of the Opposition. Scheer then turned to the Infrastructure Bank, and concerns that it would assume all risks with future projects. Trudeau didn’t really answer, but talked about the need for more infrastructure investments across the country. Scheer insisted it was all about rich friends of the PM, but Trudeau reminded him that they raised taxes on the wealthy to lower taxes on the middle class. Scheer then changed topics to ask about the politicised nomination of Madeleine Meilleur as Language Commissioner and demanded that it be cancelled. Trudeau said that it was important to get the right people for the job, regardless of their political history — a new talking point. Scheer tried again in English, and Trudeau dug in a little more this time, pointing out how politicised the previous government’s appointment process was whereas the current government had created a new process. Alexandre Boulerice led for the NDP, railing that the Infrastructure Bank would necessitate user fees, and Trudeau stuck to points about the need to invest in infrastructure. Daniel Blaikie repeated the question in English, and Trudeau noted that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was applauding the decision to unlock more capital in that way. Blaikie then turned to the Meilleur nomination, and Trudeau repeated his points about merit-based appointments. Boulerice repeated Blaikie’s question in French, and Trudeau repeated his answer.

Round two, and John Nater, Sylvie Boucher and John Brassard returned to railing about the Meilleur issue (Joly: An outside firm screened the candidates and narrowed the list for interviews). Anne Quach and Alistair MacGregor railed about young people arrested for marijuana possession since plans to legalise were announced (Wilson-Raybould: Move the legislation forward because the current system isn’t working). Michael Cooper brayed about the plans around a public sex offender registry (Holland: You’re giving histrionics), and James Bezan and Pierre Paul-Hus railed about the current fight with Boeing and the Super Hornet purchase (Sajjan: The previous government was risk-managing the capability gap, but we are carrying on discussions). Brigitte Sansoucy demanded immediate restoration of the Navigable Waters Act (Garneau: We are consulting), and Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet tried another crack at the Parliamentary Protective Service labour dispute (LeBlanc: Yay guards, and this is an issue that Board of Internal Economy is dealing with).

Round three saw questions on the Infrastructure Bank, a salmon education programme, enforcing the planned Accessibility Act, supporting the energy sector, the excise tax increase on distillers and craft brewers, America tax competitiveness, a recent CRTC decision on productions, and the powers of the Infrastructure Bank.

Overall, the first exchanges between Scheer and Trudeau were not exactly fireworks. I’m not sure that the need to react to the London Bridge attack really helped matters, other than setting them off on a fairly genial tone, but the rest of Scheer’s performance was pretty underwhelming when facing off against the PM. While Trudeau blatantly evaded some of Scheer’s questions around the Infrastructure Bank (even though there were actual answers to be had – I know because I’ve talked to Minister Sohi’s staff about those very questions), Trudeau stuck to generalities. I did note that he deployed a new talking point with regard to the Madeleine Meilleur nomination which was that people should be able to serve in sprite of political pasts, but that contradicts his edicts for Senate nominations (which Meilleur had been interested in), and it feels like three weeks too late for that particular point to be raised. Meanwhile, the amount of torque being heaped upon the nomination and the process behind it has already surpassed the ridiculous and is into the ludicrous. This appointment is nothing like the the Sponsorship Scandal and trying to equate the two is eye-rollingly risible. The whole string of accusations, from her party donations (when she was a provincial partisan) to the donations to Trudeau’s leadership campaign (she didn’t even donate the maximum amount), to the staff in Joly’s office who once worked for Meilleur (but didn’t actually work on the nomination process) has all the hallmarks of conspiracy theorizing by trying to take a bunch of loose threads and trying to force a narrative out of them. While yes the government was probably not wise to put her name forward, trying to give undue significance to these other issues only serves to distract from the actual issues at play.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Jean-Yves Duclos for a tailored dark grey-blue suit with a crisp white shirt and a skinny maroon tie, and to Kim Rudd for a black top with a white skirt and white leather jacket. Style citations go out to Diane Finley for a loud multi-coloured floral jacket with three-quarter sleeves, and to Mark Holland for a maroon suit with a white shirt and a teal blue tie. It was like a more modern cut of a Ron Burgundy suit with a tie that clashed entirely.

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