QP: Bill Morneau faces the conspiracy theories

Minutes before QP was about to start, Bill Morneau announced that he was immediately moving his shares into a blind trust and would sell them off as soon as feasible, and admitted that he may have been a bit naive around the issue. As Conservative MPs filed into the Chamber, party comms staffers pulled them aside to feed them the required lines about how they would react to this news, and there was likely some hasty rewriting of scripts to ensure that they continued to maximize their outrage. Meanwhile, neither the PM nor Andrew Scheer were present, but Bill Morneau was, meaning he would be the target of all of that maximized outrage. Pierre Poilievre led off, intimating a vast conspiracy of numbered accounts that Morneau controlled, and Bill Morneau stood up to give his contrite admission that he could do more, and that he has divested himself of those shares and would keep his Ethics screens in place. Poilievre accused Morneau of being a hypocrite attacking small businesses. Morneau stated that they were working to ensure tax fairness, and that he planned to go beyond the Ethics Commissioner’s recommendations. Poilievre wondered how many times he had to recuse himself (at the press conference, Morneau said twice), and I’m not sure that he reiterated this answer when he repeated his pledge to do better. Alain Rayes was up next to demand in French when he told the PM of his conflicts, and Morneau reminded him that our system has these questions go through the Ethics Commissioner, whom he worked with to ensure there were no conflicts. Rayes asked again, with additional concern trolling about the mandate letters, and Morneau repeated in English this time the same response. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, accusing Morneau of misleading everyone on his shares. Morneau reminded him that he followed the Commissioner’s guidelines, and when both Caron and Nathan Cullen raised the Morneau Shepell/C-27 conspiracy theory, got much the same answer, and Cullen sanctimoniously repeated Caron’s first question, but Morneau let the message track drop, and accused Cullen of sowing distrust by misrepresenting facts.

Round two, and Maxime Bernier, Candice Bergen, and John Brassard asked yet again about the various Morneau Shepell conspiracy theories (Morneau: I followed the Commissioner’s advice; I didn’t discuss C-27 with Morneau Shepell). Wayne Stetski and Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet tried to tie Morneau Shepell to the Sears bankruptcy concerns (Bains: We are trying to help those employees where we can and Service Canada is working with them). Jacques Gourde, Sylvie Boucher, and Shannon Stubbs returned to the Morneau Shepell conspiracy theories, Barbados edition (Morneau: I followed the recommendations of the Commissioner; Lebouthillier: We are going after tax evaders). Sheila Malcolmson and Anne Quach demanded coordination for campus sexual assault programmes (Monsef: We are investing in this work).

Round three saw questions on Morneau’s assets (Morneau: Are you attacking the Ethics Commissioner?), a First Nation near Sarnia with health problems (McKenna: We are working with the Ontario government), GMO salmon, softwood lumber (Freeland: This is a priority issue for us and me personally), the Heritage Committee report on helping the media (Casey: We need to respect the independence of the media), and Supply Management.

Overall, the tiresome and repetitive questions continued apace, and my Morneau Shepell QP drinking game has pretty much been proving the point of why I’m doing it – to show just how cartoonishly repetitive QP is these days, where twenty-plus questions on the outrage du jour just become numbing (like all of the drinks one would be having if we played this game for real) rather than actually getting somewhere on an actual questions of substance rather than a bunch of manufactured outrage over what amounts to conspiracy theories that don’t pass the simple tests of Occam’s Razor. Simply declaring that something “appears” to be a conflict, or screaming “smell test” doesn’t actually make it so, and seems far more intent on attacking personalities rather than policies, and this keeps happening, over and over again. It’s exhausting, and absolutely none of this is the slightest bit edifying.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Shannon Stubbs for a blue, black and white striped dress with a white jacket, and to Frank Baylis for a dark grey suit with a light pink shirt and darker pink tie and pocket square. Style citations go out to Mark Holland for a maroon suit with a white shirt and blue patterned bow tie, and to Maryam Monsef for an otherwise great navy dress with huge red florals across it. Dishonourable mention goes out to Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet for a bright yellow jacket with a black top and slacks.