QP: Concern trolling about the Commissioner

After a week away, Justin Trudeau was back in the Commons after a week away, and Andrew Scheer was also back, as the final sitting days of 2017 ticked down. Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and he raised the current investigations by the Ethics Commissioner, and concern trolled that they wouldn’t be completed before her term was up. Trudeau noted that he had recused himself from any discussions around the Commissioner, but he was confident that the House Leader would do a good job. Scheer, breathily racing through his script, worried that MPs would not be consulted or have a chance to vet the new appointee, but Trudeau reiterated that he had confidence in the House Leader. Scheer moved onto the backlog of veterans awaiting disability benefits, to which Trudeau noted that while the previous government closed veterans officers, they were reopened under the current government along with new investments. Scheer insisted that this was solely the problem of the current government, to which Trudeau said that veterans had abandoned hope of getting help under the previous government while they were coming forward now that the current government was reaching out and reinvesting. Scheer tried to then wedge this into a “mean-spiritedness” onto the disability tax credits, and Trudeau assured him that they were looking at the issue carefully to ensure that Canadians were getting the benefits they deserved. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, and he too returned to the issue of the backlog of veterans benefits, and Trudeau reiterated that these were applications by those who had previously given up hope. Irene Mathyssen and demanded to know if the new veterans disability plan would be released before the House rises, and Trudeau offered assurances that they were taking the issue seriously. Caron turned to demand a Netflix tax and defend the press, and Trudeau insisted that they would not raise taxes on Canadians. Pierre Nantel was up next to demand the same Netflix tax in French, and Trudeau assured him that no Quebec demanded that he raise their taxes.

Round two, and Alain Rayes, Candice Bergen and Pierre Poilievre worried about the impending tax changes and demanded that Bill Morneau be dismissed (Lightbound: The Income sprinkling rules will be released imminently). Pierre-Luc Dusseault and Erin Weir demanded assistance for independent media by way of government advertising (Casey: We are supporting Canadian media; Murray: We have ensured that we are not doing any more partisan advertising). Gérard Deltell and Pat Kelly worried about those disability tax credits (Khera: We have restored the committee to give these people back their voices in the process). Brigitte Sansoucy and Tracey Ramsey wanted help for local newspapers (Casey: We intend to continue to support them in both digital and print form).


Round three saw questions on a new Ethics Commissioner, CPP drop-out provisions (Duclos: We are working hard to ensure our improvements help as many Canadians as possible), female genital mutilation listed as an intolerable practice in the citizenship guide (Hussen: The text of the guide has not been finalized), support for Thalidomide survivors who were not captured by previous programs (Blair: We are reviewing the committee report and will report back in due course), market access for pulse producers to India (MacAulay: We have raised this issue as will continue to do so), an Indigenous fishing issue, naval supply ships with regards to the Davie Shipyard (Sajjan: We thank them for the tremendous work with the Astérix), marijuana tax revenue distribution (Blair: We are having respectful discussions), and the sale of a construction company to a Chinese state-owned enterprise (Trudeau: Every sale on this scale is done in consultation with national security agencies, and we are we expect all companies in Canada follow health and safety regulations).

Overall, it became obvious immediately after Question Period that the opposition knew that the nomination of a new Ethics Commissioner would be announced (given that they were consulted beforehand), because their questions related to what would happen once that happened, and whether they could be assured that current investigations not be set aside or forgotten. The problem of course is that it was a stupid question because the government doesn’t direct the actions of the Commissioner, so the fact that they were asking the government for the assurance, knowing that they couldn’t provide it, was strictly for the optics of having Trudeau not give them the assurance they were seeking, and if he had, they would have immediately turned around and said “See! He’s interfering in the affairs of an independent watchdog!” It’s a stupid, childish game that hurts the practice of accountability, and yet it keeps happening, and not enough journalists call out the games for what they are. I will also add that the Conservative questions around the changes to income sprinkling were deliberately obscuring just what was being discussed, because it’s pretty hard to defend the ways in which income sprinkling gets used in those situations that the new rules are intended to crack down on (such as doctors who list their partners and adult children as shareholders in their private corporation and they distribute dividends to them in order to lower their tax burden despite the fact that they don’t contribute to their business). Disingenuous questions remain the order of the day, which helps nobody.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Justin Trudeau for a tailored dark grey suit with a light blue shirt and purple tie, and to Michelle Rempel for an olive green short-sleeved overcoat-style dress with a black top beneath. Style citations go out to Ruby Sahota for a black long-sleeved dress with small scattered florals, and to Robert-Falcon Ouellette for a red plaid jacket with a matching tie and white shirt.