QP: Of Poilievre and pabulum

With the PM off to Toronto for the day, and Andrew Scheer at the funeral of Senator Enverga, it meant no major leaders present. That left Alain Rayes to lead off for the Official Opposition, concern trolling that some Liberal backbencher have anonymously groused to the media about Bill Morneau’s apparent ethical issues, to which Morneau stood up to deliver his well-rehearsed lines about working with the Ethics Commissioner and he has since gone above and beyond. Rayes gave a usual disingenuous list of “apparent” conflicts of interest, and Morneau gave the line about the opposition going after him because they couldn’t fault his economic performance. Rayes raised their previous Supply Day motion around demanding Morneau disclose all of his assets (never mind that he has), and wanted a free vote on it. Morneau responded with some well-worn pabulum. Candice Bergen took over in English, demanding disclosure, and Morneau reminded her that he already has. Bergen disingenuously worried about the lack of a blind trust (which the Commissioner didn’t recommend) and that he “forgot” about his Villa in France (incorrect: he disclosed the villa but forgot to disclose the ownership structure), and Morneau gently pushed back. Guy Caron led off for the NDP, concern trolling that Morneau Shepell has a number of government contracts, to which Carla Qualtrough reminded him that all procurement processes are open and transparent. Caron also raised those anonymous Liberals crying to the media, and Morneau responded with some usual pabulum. Hélène Laverdière was up next, and raised former NDP MP Craig Scott’s brief to the International Criminal Court to demand that Canada also be investigated for war crimes in Afghanistan, to which Chrystia Freeland responded that Canada respects the Court, and our Forces respected the codes of conduct. Laverdière asked again in French, and got the same answer.

Round two, and Pierre Poilievre obliquely intimated that there was insider trading going on with a $10 million Morneau Shepell share sale a week before tax changes were announced and the stock market and stock price dropped — which the Speaker warned was not a question for the administrative responsibility of the government (Morneau: This gives me an opportunity to praise our decision to raise taxes), but there were several attempts, and more warnings; Deltell tried again in French (Morneau: Mmmm, pabulum). Pierre-Luc Dusseault railed about the AG report on the CRA, and cast aspersions about Lebouthillier’s competence (Lebouthillier: We agree with the report, and we are rolling out a new system and new training), and Murray Rankin demanded they support his bill on closing tax loopholes — as though it were that easy (Lebouthillier: We are taking action, and have many investigations). Poilievre was back to his intimations of insider trading (Morneau: MOAR PABULUM!) Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet and asked about the planned LGBT apology and any plans for remedial actions (Joly: When the apology is presented, it will be complete and have remedial actions), and Randall Garrison demanded an end to the gay blood ban (Joly: Same answer in English).

Round three saw yet more questions on allegations of insider trading, EI sick leave benefits (Duclos: We have implemented measures, and this work is just beginning), demanding another Supply ship from Davie Shipyard (Qualtrough: There will be opportunities for Davie Shipyard), a diesel barge on the West Coast vis-à-vis a coastal protection plan (Garneau: We will look at the plan presented by local First Nations), and the funding formula for Nunavut (Morneau: We work with the provinces and territories, and announced $300 million over ten years for housing in Nunavut).

Overall, it was a pretty boring day when it was pretty much the Pierre Poilievre show, followed by incessant pabulum from Bill Morneau in response, and before anyone says “He could have just answered the question,” the reality is that these questions are a trap, and ministers know it. That’s why they respond with pabulum, and non sequitur good news talking points. But what was very interesting was the way in which the Conservatives treated these allegations of insider trading – and make no mistake, that’s exactly what they were suggesting – but they wouldn’t really repeat them outside in the Foyer, where they don’t have the protection of parliamentary privilege to keep them from a defamation lawsuit. And when Poilievre did show up in the Foyer, it was after virtually every reporter left, and he made vague allegations, insisted that he “didn’t want to speculate,” but lamented that he didn’t answer the questions (because of course, they were a trap). And let’s be clear – it speaks volumes that Poilievre didn’t actually repeat his allegations in the Foyer, because they are almost certainly without merit and he doesn’t want to be sued for them. (Morneau, incidentally, put out a statement later calling the allegations false and inviting Poilievre to make them outside of the Chamber, where of course he would be open to legal action). But this whole sad affair is just one more instance where the tactics are to use disingenuous questions and mendacious frames to those questions in order to paint a narrative for the sole purpose of sharing it over social media channels. There is pretty much no accountability to be had in this exercise anymore, and parliament is suffering as a result.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Mélanie Joly for a long black jacket with a black top, and to Matt DeCourcey for a navy suit with a black waistcoat, white shirt (that didn’t have a huge spread collar like he normally wears), and black tie. Style citations go out to Jamie Schmale for a black suit with a pale orange shirt and a multi-coloured diamond patterned tie, and to Maryam Monsef for a black smock-like dress with large florals.

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