QP: A greatest hits of disingenuous complaints

On caucus day, with the benches close to full, we had all leaders present for Question Period, and yes, Justin Trudeau ready for his proto-PMQs. Andrew Scheer led off as usual, mini-lectern on desk, and Andrew Scheer raised the non-story of MP Raj Grewal’s extracurricular business whose associate attended the now infamous reception in India. Trudeau replied that they signed a billion dollars in trade deals in India, and when Scheer raised another MP’s dealings on that trip, Trudeau took up a script to read yet more praise about the relationship between Canada and India. Scheer then returned to the demands for Daniel Jean to appear at committee and the concerns that media reported they were told details that they couldn’t print. Trudeau reminded him that a full classified briefing was offered, and Scheer has turned it down because he wants to play politics. Scheer tried again, and Trudeau reached further into the days of Stephen Harper of muzzling scientists and ignoring truths that clashed with their messaging. Scheer then moved over to the issue of gifts plural given and received between Trudeau and the Aga Khan, and Trudeau noted that this was all dealt with via the Ethics Commissioner and that Scheer was simply engaging in personal attacks. Guy Caron was up next, demanding taxes on Netflix, to which Trudeau reminded him that Netflix wouldn’t pay those taxes — ordinary Canadians would. Caron then raised the size of the budget implementation bill, and Trudeau listed all of the good things in it. Shiela Malcolmson called said bill a betrayal, and Trudeau read off more gender measures from the budget. Peter Julian then went for another round of the same, and got a similar response.

Round two, and Scheer got back up to demand that the PM order Bill Morneau to apologise to Lisa Raitt for referring to her as a Neanderthal (Trudeau: We think everyone should treat each other with respect, and hey, here’s more of our gender budget measures), demanded to know how much a $50 carbon tax will reduce GHGs (Trudeau: We have a plan), and Alain Rayes demanded action on human trafficking (Trudeau: We need to protect our youth, but the bill as drafted was not Charter compliant). Niki Ashton and François Choquette railed about the funding levels for official language minorities (Trudeau: We are making a $500 million investment for an action plan for communities). Lisa Raitt, Sylvie Boucher, and Stephanie Kusie returned to Grewal’s associate at the India event (Trudeau: We are proud business and community leaders joined us abroad). Linda Duncan and Alexandre Boulerice raised the notion that our 2020 climate commitments won’t be met (Trudeau: We welcome the report, and it said the pan-Canadian framework makes significant progress).

Round three saw questions on a the deficit and a proposed Treasury Board reserve fund (Trudeau: We have invested in Canadians and cut taxes for the middle class), supposedly raised taxes (Trudeau: Your government had the worst growth and we turned it around), the rising number of opioid deaths (Trudeau: I am profoundly saddened, and we put new measures in the budget), the Arctic surf clam fishery (Trudeau: Pitting people against Indigenous communities is disgusting), Trans Mountain protesters getting violent (Trudeau: We support peaceful protest, and we are committed to seeing the pipeline built and protesters should act within the law), David shipyard contracts (Trudeau: Negotiations are underway), yet more questions about Grewal’s invitation (Trudeau: Yay trade and investment), and Sikh refugees fleeing persecution (Trudeau: We will work with the community).

Overall, it was an utter gong show of a day, and I question yet again the utility of Justin Trudeau’s proto-PMQs, as nothing useful gets asked, and nothing useful get answered. As near as I can determine, the only political upside for anyone in this is that Trudeau can say that he answered so many more questions in the House of Commons than any of his predecessors, and isn’t that great. But seriously. Pretty much all of the questions we heard were utterly ridiculous, from the Grewal story (which, as I read and understood it, could find no actual rules broken other than it looked curious), to Scheer’s bogus demands for the exact GHG reductions that a $50 carbon tax would ensure (that’s not how carbon pricing works and he knows it, but this is playing to his base in an utterly dishonest manner), to the whinging about the allegation that Bill Morneau called Lisa Raitt a “Neanderthal” (which is not exactly what he said, but since when does the truth matter). It was all utter nonsense. But did the government point any of that out, that these were disingenuous or bogus questions, or call out that Scheer is playing fast and loose with the truth in order to pander to a particular voter base? No. Instead, Trudeau literally read off a bunch of pabulum in to the record. About the only reasonable responses he gave were to rebut the NDP questions on taxing Netflix, or to point out the lack of Charter compliance with a previous bill on combatting human trafficking. The rest? It was noise, and I’m at the point where I would rather a regular Wednesday than this PMQ exercise because at least we might get a reasonable answer from a minister instead of a platitude from Trudeau.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Kate Young for a black v-necked dress, and to Terry Beech for a tailored navy suit with a white shirt and pocket square and burgundy tie. Style citations go out to Stéphane Lauzon for a charcoal suit with a bright red shirt and a red and grey striped tie, and to Catherine McKenna for a red and orange-hued top with a taupe jacket.