QP: Tax change melodrama

The first day back in the House of Commons, and all of the leaders were present — Trudeau’s only appearance for the week before he heads to the UN General Assembly, and in between appearances with U.K. prime minister Theresa May. Of note was the bouquet of flowers sitting on Arnold Chan’s desk, to mark his recent passing. Andrew Scheer led off, railing about the proposed changes to private corporations, and insisted that small businesses were being called “tax cheats.” (Note: Only the Conservatives have used that phraseology). Trudeau stood up to remind him that nobody accused anyone of breaking the law, but that these rules were being used by the very wealthy to pay less taxes, which wasn’t fair. Scheer tried again, got the same answer, and Scheer gave increasingly hysterical hypothetical situations (which were not reflected in reality), but Trudeau was unflappable in sticking to his points. Scheer tried then turn this into a dig at Bombardier, and Trudeau reminded him that they were investing in Canadian jobs. Thomas Mulcair was up next, asking about UN talks on nuclear disarmament in light of North Korea, and Trudeau reminded him that they were working on a fissile materials treaty that would include nuclear states, which would have more effect than a symbolic treaty. Mulcair asked again in French, got the same answer in French, before Mulcair turned to the issue of Saudi Arabia and arms sales (Trudeau: We will ensure that our partners follow the rules, and you promised to respect that contract), and then another round of the same in English.

Round two, and Scheer got back up to concern troll about Liberal backbenchers who were opposed to the proposed tax changes (Trudeau: We have a diversity of views, but we ran on tax fairness), and back and forth they went. Tracey Ramsey asked about NAFTA talks around labour rights (Freeland: We are glad to be renegotiating with labour rights in mind), and Alexandre Boulerice asked about the Boeing-Bombardier dispute (Freeland: We are raising this at the highest level). Pierre Poilievre raised the spectre of the tax changes turning farmers into tenants of foreign companies (Morneau: We are ensuring the wealthy can’t pay less taxes than the middle class), Maxime Bernier gave a nonsensical choice between supporting Bombardier and the tax changes (Morneau: Same answer), and Gérard Deltell worried they were raising taxes on job creators (Morneau: Yay our high rate of economic growth). Scott Duvall asked about insolvency laws around pensions (Bains: We are trying to strike the right balance), and Karine Trudel worried about Sears pensions (Bains: We are monitoring the situation closely).

Round three saw yet more questions on the proposed tax changes, BC wildfires, the MMIW Inquiry, the death of the family farm, expanding the Ambassador bridge without consultation, the Spanish government’s actions in Catalonia, arts and culture funding, and why US streaming services get a GST exemption (note: it’s not a real exemption, but a failure to collect in Canada).

Following QP, MPs stood up go give tributes to Arnold Chan’s passing, led off by Trudeau, while Chan’s widow and three sons were watching from the Gallery.

Overall, it was a bit of a painful day to watch, as much as it pains to admit it. Why? Because Andrew Scheer isn’t very good at this. Also, because pretty much every question posed by the Conservatives was based on a false premise, using numerous examples of the supposed doom that these proposed changes would make, all of which had been debunked over the past several weeks by credible economists and experts, including the notion that these changes would disproportionately affect women entrepreneurs (and doctors) who use these mechanisms to fund maternity leaves. The modelling indicates, however, that at most, the changes might affect them in the realm of the hundreds of dollars (thread here). And above all, Trudeau was quite pleased that Scheer was trying to take this line of attack, reminding him that they never called anyone “tax cheats,” and that this was about preventing the wealthiest individuals from using these legitimate tools to avoid paying taxes. While that message really wasn’t well deployed over the summer, one suspects it will be more so now that Parliament is sitting again, and that Trudeau can use his “soak the rich” points as part of his “middle class” push. And the more hysterical Scheer got with his pleading questions, the more Trudeau remained unflappable, which I think is going to be a very interesting contrast in the coming weeks.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Sukh Dhaliwal for a dark grey suit with a crisp white shirt with a mint green tie and pocket square, and to Shannon Stubbs for a black top, pink patterned skirt and white jacket with three-quarter sleeves. Style citations go out to Maryam Monsef for a black dress with yellow and brown florals with mesh sleeves, and to David Lametti for a light grey suit with a bright teal blue shirt with an orange tie. Dishonourable mention goes out to Cheryl Gallant for a faded yellow jacket with a ruffled collar and a black dress with multi-coloured stripes.