QP: No one is above the law

With the PM off in PEI to deliver a speech and then off to Newfoundland to do a bit of by-election campaigning, Andrew Scheer opted not to show up either. That meant that it was up to Lisa Raitt to lead off, raising the new headlines around Stephen Bronfman, and demanded to know what assurances the PM had received from him. In response, Diane Lebouthillier gave her usual assurances that they are investigating tax evasion and charges were upcoming. When Raitt demanded to know if Bronfman was under investigation — as though the minister could actually answer that — and Lebouthillier reminded her that the previous government, of which Raitt was a member, cut investigations. Raitt then disingenuously suggested that the PM interfered in an investigation — wholly falsely — and Lebouthillier reiterated her assurances. Gérard Deltell got up to repeat the questions in French, to which Lebouthillier reminded him that she can’t comment on any investigation under the law and that they knew that. After another round of the same, Guy Caron got up to also carry on the Bronfman questions, and Lebouthillier dutifully repeated her points about investigations. Caron repeated in English, and Lebouthillier sharply noted that no one was above the law, and nobody was interfering with any investigation. Matthew Dubé was up next to ask about SS7 vulnerabilities with Canadian mobile phones, to which Ralph Goodale said that this was a CSE responsibility, that they work with telecom companies, and if they needed more of a push, they would get it. Dubé demanded legislative updates to protect Canadians’ privacy, and Goodale assured him that a cyber-review was underway and at least three initiatives would be tabled in the coming weeks.

Round two, and Luc Berthold returned to the mendaciously framed questions about Bill Morneau’s assets (Lightbound: He worked with the Ethics Commissioner), and Pierre Poilievre took his own crack at the Bronfman issue over several questions (Lebouthillier: Investigations!). Rachel Blaney and Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet railed about Blaney’s right to housing bill being voted down (Vaughan: Yay our housing strategy). Maxime Bernier and Mark Strahl returned to the Morneau’s assets (Lightbound: He already disclosed them to the Ethics Commissioner). Ruth Ellen Brosseau and Tracey Ramsey worried about the possibility of a trade deal with China (Champagne: We want rules-based trade with rights protection).

Round three saw questions on returning ISIS fighters (Goodale: We constantly assess all data and respond with a suite of measures; there are still sixty being monitored), seasonal workers, NAFTA talks (Freeland: Capitulation is not a negotiation strategy), replenishment ships vis-à-vis Davie Shipyard (Qualtrough: We already have a national shipbuilding strategy), service in French at the border (Goodale: You have an important point, I will take this up with the president of CBSA), the PBO report on proposed tax changes (Lightbound: He confirmed that 3% of private corporations control 90% of passive investments), and continued Bloc concern trolling over Kirpans on airplanes (Garneau: Most other countries came to the same conclusion).

Overall, it was a bit of a mixed bag today – while the mendacious framing of issues rolled right along, we actually saw some decent performances, particularly in the interactions between Pierre Poilievre and Diane Lebouthillier, most of which was entirely unscripted. While Poilievre was being overly theatrical in his slow talking, which I think he was hoping lent an air of gravitas to what he was insinuating, but where it was effective was in the back-and-forth. Mind you, the back-and-forth was also based on Poilievre deliberately misinterpreting what Lebouthillier said – her frank assertion that the questions were completely ridiculous, which they are given that that they are wrapped in this insane notion that the PM is somehow directing the CRA’s investigations. Poilievre’s being aghast the Lebouthillier was trying to pre-judge the investigations (and Lisa Raitt muttering into his open mic that “the fix is in”) was just more of the disingenuous narrative that they are trying to build around this issue, and I will remind you that this is exactly why ministers tend to respond in bland pabulum talking points, because answering frankly gets these kinds of mischaracterized responses. But this having been said, good on Poilievre for doing an unscripted back-and-forth – we need a hell of a lot more of this in QP – and good on Lebouthillier for being frank in her pushing back against the narratives, and for her sharp responses, which we also need to see more of.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Maxime Bernier for a tailored light brown suit with a light pink shirt and pocket square and darker pink striped tie, and to Jane Philpott for a black dress with a grey ring pattern and a black jacket. Style citations go out to Jenny Kwan for a navy dress with a floral jacket with three-quarter sleeves, and to Stéphane Lauzon for a medium grey suit with a light pink shirt and a pink and grey striped tie.