While the PM headed for San Francisco on the next stop of his US tour, the benches in the Commons were starting to thin out. Andrew Scheer was present and led off, mini-lectern on desk, accusing the PM of being missing in action on the Trans Mountain pipeline issue in favour of collecting photos of his American heroes. Catherine McKenna stood up and said that they approved the pipeline, it was in the national interest, her officials were in contact with the provincial counterparts, and then added that they unveiled a new environmental assessment process this morning. Scheer laid on a litany of torqued and disingenuous accusations of project failures and accused the PM of treating his job as ceremonial, but McKenna responded by taking jabs at the Harper government’s environmental record and lack of ability to get projects through. Scheer wondered qualified as an unnecessary delay, as Trans Mountain was supposed to begin construction in November, but McKenna continued to list ways in which they are improving project approvals. Gérard Deltell got up to deliver his opprobrium on the PM’s absence in French, got McKenna to repeat her points in French, and again on the follow-up. Guy Caron was up next to give another kick at the mining company that got EDC loans but avoided taxes, first in French and again in English, to which François-Philippe Champagne reminded him that this government has invested in fighting tax evasion and avoidance, in both official languages. Peter Julian demanded support for their Supply Day motion on taxing stock options, and Champagne repeated his answer, amping up his points about believing in tax fairness. Julian switched in French to demand action on tax havens, and this time Diane Lebouthillier got up to reiterate that they were combatting tax evasion and tax avoidance, including four different tax havens every year, and that they had laid 42 criminal charges to date.
Gérard Deltell worries that we don’t have a real head of state in Trudeau.
Our head of state is the Queen, and she’s real. #QP
— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) February 8, 2018
Round two, and Candice Bergen, Alain Rayes, and Mark Strahl bayed at the moon that the government defeated their motion on repaying the PM’s vacation (Chagger: A greatest hits medley of talking points). Linda Duncan and Alexandre Boulerice were unimpressed with the tabled environmental assessment bill (McKenna: This bill contains better rules). Peter Kent, Jacques Gourde, and John Brassard returned to the tired demands to repay the vacation (Brison: We look forward to working with the Commissioner and Parliament to continue to raise the bar on transparency and accountability; Chagger: Yet more iterations of the same points). Brigitte Sansoucy and Niki Ashton railed about problems with the Social Security Tribunal (Duclos: The EI system needs to be fair, and the Tribunal does not work, so we will correct the system).
Chagger: “Instead of raising an issue of importance to Canadians, they chose to raise an issue of importance to Conservatives.” #QP
— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) February 8, 2018
Round three saw questions on the lawsuit from the Canadian Forces on sexual harassment (Wilson-Raybould: We are reviewing the case and the pleadings; Sajjan: We want an environment free from harassment and we have more work to do), the veterans lawsuit (Romanado: We have provided a new pension-for-life option), the helicopter sales to the Philippines (Freeland: We have received no request for an export permit, and we have been clear about our concerns with the regime there), Kinder Morgan protests (Rudd: We took this decision with the support of science and in the national interest), the proposed Aecon takeover (Bains: We take security seriously and we will take the appropriate steps and advice), CRA executive bonuses (Lebouthillier: We used measures that reflected priorities rather than how much they cut), restrictions on the drinking water infrastructure fund (Sohi: We work with municipalities and have extended the deadlines), regulating energy products as an encroachment on provincial jurisdiction (McKenna: When we examine projects in the federal jurisdictions, we will have our own process).
Overall, it was largely a better day than it has been for much of the week, and I was overjoyed that Catherine McKenna gave answers that were not prefaced by “Our government believes that the economy and the environment go together” like she does every other time she stands up to answer. It was an immense relief to be sure. This having been said, Andrew Scheer’s questions once again relied on false constructions, and disingenuous and mendacious framing to try and prove a point about the state of pipeline approvals in this country (such as ignoring that a big part of why TransCanada backed out of Energy East was because the Keystone XL pipeline had been granted approvals and it made more sense for them to shift their resources and purchase agreements to that project than Energy East, which had not even begun the approvals process). But hey, why do facts matter when you can try to paint the government in the most uncharitable light and condemn them for things that they haven’t actually done than the questionable things that they have. Also, this is two days in a row that Quebec MPs have referred to Trudeau as the Head of State, when he is head of government, which is different. Perhaps someone in Scheer’s office needs to have a word with them, especially since they are disrespecting the Queen by referring to Trudeau in her place.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Frank Baylis for a dark grey suit with a light pink shirt and a dark pink tie and pocket square, and to Chrystia Freeland for a black short-sleeved dress. Style citations go out to Candice Bergen for a grey dress with burgundy and cream florals that looked like it started life as a set of drapes, and to Darrell Samson for a charcoal suit with a bright red shirt and black bow tie.