QP: Attempting to litigate the Ethics Commissioner’s report

After some six weeks away, MPs were all back in Ottawa, including the four new MPs who won by-elections in December. When things got underway, Andrew Scheer, mini-lectern on desk, got up to read some disappointment about the Prime Minister’s response to the Ethics Commissioner’s report, and lamented the PM’s “illegal actions.” Trudeau noted that he took responsibility and has put in new measures to ensure that it could not happen again. Scheer tried again, got exactly the same response, and Scheer switched to French to concern troll about decisions related to the Aga Khan, and Trudeau insisted that he had no part in any decisions related to those files. Trudeau returned to his same response, and Scheer reiterated his concerns in English, and in this response, Trudeau elaborated that they need better guidelines into what constitutes a friend. Guy Caron was up next, lamenting the wages of CEOs in English, when compared to the plight of former Sears employees. Trudeau reminded him that the very first thing they did was lower taxes on the middle class and raised them on the wealthy, plus investing in cracking down on tax avoidance and tax evasion. Caron repeated the question in French, got the same response in French, and Ruth Ellen Brosseau gave a statement about believing victims before asking what actions parliamentarians can take to shift the culture. Trudeau gave his assurance that they were committed to improving the situation, and pointed to Bill C-65 as a good start. Brosseau switched to French to demand electoral reform to elect more women, and Trudeau said that he recognised that electing more women was key, and they were working on it.

Round two, and Scheer was back up, returning to the Ethics Commissioner’s report and litigating individual points therein (Chagger: The PM took responsibility and has taken steps to ensure that all future family vacations at cleared). Scott Duvall railed about Sears Canada employees (Bains: Service Canada has had over 282 sessions to assist those employees, and the Sears Canada pension funds are held in trust), and Charlie Angus demanded that the finance minister recuse himself from those dealings because of a Morneau Shepell link with Sears bankruptcy actions (Bains: Same response). Scheer was back up and demanded the PM repay costs for that vacation (Chagger: His position demands certain supports when he travels). Tracey Ramsey demanded transparency on the TPP (Goldsmith-Jones: We engaged in two years of consultations and this is a great deal), and Karine Trudel wailed about Supply Management (MacAulay: We will defend Supply Management).

Round three saw yet more questions on the Ethics Commissioner’s report by other Conservative MPs, the EI “black hole” (Duclos: We are supporting workers, especially in seasonal situations and will implement measures in the coming months), the Port of Churchill (Bains: We have been clear about our support for Churchill), the summer jobs programme “values test” (Hajdu: Funding should never go to groups that would undermine rights), Supply Management, Phoenix pay issues, the PM’s meeting with Joshua Boyle but not a Yazidi boy (Hussein: We have resettled over 1000 Yazidis, and will expedite the remaining ones), and pot legalization transparency (Petitpas Taylor: The safety and health of Canadians is our priority).

Overall, it was a pretty terrible day. Andrew Scheer apparently decided that he was going to try to do his best to imitate Thomas Mulcair’s prosecution of Stephen Harper at the height of the ClusterDuff conflagration. To that end, he scripted a bunch of questions related to individual points in the report, but after the leader’s round, Trudeau opted not to respond directly, instead deploying Bardish Chagger to recite talking points in his stead. People have pointed out that Harper answered all of Mulcair’s questions on the ClusterDuff affair, but Mulcair, it should be pointed out, asked different questions — Scheer kept asking iterations of the same thing, less asking questions than demanding the PM debase himself with some admission of wrongdoing, or more specifically a demand he admit that he broke the law, in order to get a clip that they can use in future ad campaigns and for the election. Trudeau knows it’s a trap, so he won’t answer. It’s a terrible tactic by Scheer, and worse than that, it’s transparently terrible. Add to that, the cheap outrage over demanding that Trudeau repay the expenses for that trip smacks of being petty, but maybe that’s me. Meanwhile, the NDP kept the bulk of their questions related to the theme of “inequality” that their putative leader highlighted following their caucus retreat, rather than the issues of the day. As for the government, they were itching to talk about the summer jobs programme changes in a blatant attempt to paint the Conservatives as being against people’s Charter rights, particularly those of women or the LGBT community, and it’s as terribly transparent as the opposition strategy. In other words, QP is no longer about actual accountability, but about looking for media clips. Do better, MPs.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Seamus O’Regan for a dark grey suit with a white shirt and a dark blue tie and pocket square, and to Mélanie Joly for a neatly tailored black suit with a black top beneath. Style citations go out to Marie-Claude Bibeau for a violet jacket with a black turtleneck, and to Darshan Kang for a blue-grey shirt/slacks combination with a brownish plaid jacket and red turban.