The time came once again for Senate QP, and this week the special guest star was Jean-Yves Duclos, minister for families, children and social development. Senator Larry Smith led off, asking about CMHC providing the government with a special dividend while raising insurance fees for young families trying to buy their first home. After the Speaker gave Duclos the option not to respond as it wasn’t really within his ministry’s responsibility, Duclos said that he would let the finance minister know and try to get him an answer.
Senator Maltais asked a double-header around the potential job losses at the Davie Shipyard, and also wondered about that Quebec City bridge in a dispute with CN. Duclos noted that these really weren’t questions for him, but that his counterparts were engaged in discussions on both files.
Senator Eggleton noted the newly announced National Housing Strategy and its associated portable benefit, but worried that the $2500/year was not going to be enough, especially in a city like Toronto. Duclos said that housing is cornerstone of community and family wellness, and listed the different aspects of the strategy, noted that the $2500 was an average that would vary based on local conditions.
Senator Gagné asked about the national daycare learning strategy and the linguistic clauses in the various provincial agreements. Duclos noted the work done with the provinces before the agreements were signed, and that he hoped to have other signatures soon, and that it was their hope that the provinces would have supports for official language minority communities as part of it.
Senator McPhedran asked about the expired action plan on sex trafficking of children in and out of care, and wanted his leadership on a new plan. Duclos said that she would have his support in working with his colleagues — particularly the ministers of Crown-Indigenous Affairs and of Indigenous Services — and that they needed better outcomes for Indigenous children and families.
Senator Ngo asked about legal marijuana with regards to minors, apparently confusing the decriminalization of possession for minors with encouraging use. Duclos noted that it was largely a question for other ministers, but with respect to children, they were working to keep it out of their hands. Senator McIntyre picked up on this and wanted tougher restrictions for cannabis use for those under 25, to which Duclos reiterated the need to regulate and restrict cannabis from minors.
Senator Tardif returned to the issue of early childcare for official language minority communities, and Duclos said that provinces and territories needed to file action plans with the federal government on official language minority communities so that they could commit to investing part of the funds in those communities. He also noted that they were collecting data to ensure that they could maximize impacts and getting benefits on the ground.
Senator Omidvar asked about the social impact financing working group and what they were looking at, along with timelines. Duclos said he met with the committee that morning, and that they would work to June 2018, and that they have been working hard for the past few months and would work even harder to get a strategy by June.
Senator Oh asked about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the lack of public reporting on the forthcoming review. Duclos responded that he was working with the minister of justice, and that they have done work to reduce child poverty with measures like the Canada Child Benefit, along with other benefits, all of which was compatible with the UN agenda.
Senator Dagenais wondered if Duclos would recuse himself from the CN Bridge saga because of an apparent conflict of interest there, and Duclos had no patience for it, shutting it down.
Duclos got a bit pointed there on a question on the CN Bridge and an accusation of an apparent conflict. Duclos called it nonsense, like the Morneau accusations. #SenQP
— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) December 5, 2017
Senator Munson wanted a Commissioner on the rights of the child. Duclos said that there was an ambition to do more, but listed the measures that have been taken to date to reduce child poverty, and invited input and ideas to go further, including the possibility of a Commissioner.
Senator Greene Raine asked if CMHC had conducted an analysis on costs to home owners for the new building codes regarding energy efficiency for existing houses. Duclos said that the national housing strategy had as part of its mandate a reduction in energy consumption.
Senator Carignan asked about the fight against homelessness, to which Duclos said that funds were being made available to groups who do this work, and that there was still a debate between preventative objectives and reduction objectives going on.
Overall, this was a bit of a frustrating experience to watch because many of the questions asked of him were not really related to his portfolio, meaning that it was a lot of wasted time. Whether this is because they had particular partisan points that they wanted to try to score, or because they have a hard time grasping what is under his purview, is an open question. As for partisan point-scoring, Duclos was brokering none of it, in particular shutting down that question from Senator Dagenais that tried to paint yet another “appearance of conflict,” which was a welcome change from the usual responses to such questions we get in the Commons. We could use more of his particular disinclination to indulge this kind of nonsense.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Senator David Wells for a tailored light grey suit with a white shirt and a dark yellow spotted tie, and to Senator Judith Seidman for a dark grey suit with a black v-neck top. Style citations go out to Senator Lynn Beyak for a black sweater with a pink and black mottled top, and to Senator Paul McIntyre for a dark grey suit with a faded cranberry shirt and black tie.