QP: Fabrications and absences

While the PM was away in Scarborough to announce the government’s housing strategy — and to campaign for his candidate in the by-election there — Andrew Scheer introduced his party’s newest MP to the Chamber before things got underway, and fortunately Dane Lloyd didn’t try to struggle as he came in. Scheer led off, demanding that the PM condemn the “egregious crackdown on free speech” at Laurier University. With the PM away, Kirsty Duncan offered assurances that they want to assure freedom of speech and the protection of Charter rights. Scheer lamented that the PM just couldn’t denounce it — being cute because he knows he can’t refer to the PM being absent — and then he launched into a tired question about Bill Morneau’s asssets. Morneau got up and first wished the Speaker a Happy Birthday — and after the Chamber stood up for a quick rendition of the appropriate song, Morneau reminded the chamber that he worked with the Ethics Commissioner. Scheer then turned to worry about tax changes and the supposed “attacks” on local businesses, and Morneau gave him assurances that they had listened to Canadians. Alain Rayes got up next to make a pair of demands in French for all of Morneau’s assets, and he deflected by noting that the opposition didn’t want to recognize the good work of the government in strengthening the economy. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP and started off with mentioning the Auditor General’s concerns about CRA’s call centre, but started throwing all manner of accusations at the wall, so Diane Lebouthillier assured him that working for Canadians was highlighted in her mandate letter. Alexandre Boulerice gave much the same in French, and Lebouthillier again got up to assure him that they were going after tax havens, and they didn’t circulate misinformation, unlike the other side. Boulerice railed at the laundry list of apparent sins, and Lebouthillier reminded him that the previous government cut CRA but they were reinvesting. Caron went for one more round of the same, not that the response changed.

Round two, and Lisa Raitt, Gérard Deltell, and Candice Bergen returned to the Morneau Shepell and Bill C-27 mendacity (Morneau: We are taking a historic role in housing that the federal government hasn’t for fifty years). Brigitte Sansoucy demanded more action on fighting poverty (Morneau: We started with the Canada Child Benefit, we improved the GIS, and now we are announcing a housing strategy), and Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet demanded that the housing strategy be adapted to local realities (Morneau: We will work with them). John Brassard and Mark Strahl returned to the Morneau Shepell mendacity (Morneau: This is a fabricated issue). Pierre-Luc Dusseault called the minister of revenue incompetent (Lebouthillier: We already have an action plan to address these issues which includes a new platform and better training), and Nathan Cullen went for the same in English (Lebouthillier: Ibid.)

Round three saw questions on returning foreign fighters (Goodale: Our security agencies do their job better than anyone else in the world), soldiers losing benefits (Sajjan: The only cuts were under your watch), resignations and firings at the MMIW inquiry, disability tax credits, NAFTA talks (Freeland: We made progress on technical chapters but significant challenges remain), the Rohingya situation, an aquaculture spill, parole reform, and Davie Shipyard.

Overall, this is not the first time that Andrew Scheer has played cute with Trudeau not being present, which is childish and just as unparliamentary as pointing out his absence, but it’s an artefact of the cameras not making wide shots (and not having reporters in the Chamber who can call bullshit on this), and that makes it part of the problem. Meanwhile, I was glad to see that Bill Morneau was actually calling out the fabrications in the questions he was being asked, but he also spent a lot of time delivering the daily approved good news talking points about the housing strategy and some other pabulum in there, but it was good to see a bit of pushback. Also pushing back were Ralph Goodale and Harjit Sajjan, and Goodale in particular was getting very scrappy around the questions on returning foreign fighters, but the scrappiest of all today was Diane Lebouthillier. When faced with questions about the Auditor General’s report on CRA’s call centre, she came armed with facts, laid out the action plan for how to address the problems, and reminded the House of what cuts the previous government had made in order to get them to that position. That was the kind of answer I would love to see far more often, but I may be dreaming.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Kellie Leitch for a black dress with a long greenish jacket with gold detailing, and to Michael Chong for a black suit with a pale pink shirt and dark pink tie. Style citations go out to Glen Motz for a black blazer, tan slacks, white shirt and grey tie, and to Alice Wong for a dark blue jacket, pink top, black slacks and floral scarf.