With Harper still away, now in Colombia, and Justin Trudeau on an Atlantic Canada mall food court tour, and Thomas Mulcair, well, elsewhere, it was only Elizabeth May as the sole party leader in the House. That left it up to David Christopherson to kick off QP on behalf of the NDP by shouting out his script about Senator Duffy’s primary residency. James Moore, the designated back-up PM du jour, assured him that new questions had been raised which was why the report was being re-evaluated. Christopherson and then Françoise Boivin tried to then press about the knowledge in the PMO of the payment from Nigel Wright to the Senator, of any documents, but Moore repeated the PM’s long-distance assurances that he didn’t know anything about the deal until it was in the media. Ralph Goodale was up next, asking why it took so long for the PM to act about the revelation of Wright’s involvement, and offer a reminder of the Criminal Code sanctions for such a payment. Moore simply repeated the official denial of knowledge of what happened.
After Tuesday’s rather dismal performance by the opposition in trying to hold a government to account in the face of scandal, it remained to be seen if anything would be any better today. QP got underway as Thomas Mulcair stood to read a question about how asking the Senate Board of Internal Economy looking into the Duffy affair was tantamount to Paul Martin asking Jean Chrétien to investigate the sponsorship scandal. John Baird, once more the designated back-up PM du jour, said that he had indicated the audit was being referred to two independent bodies, but didn’t clarify or dispute Mulcair’s assertion that it was Internal Economy. Mulcair pressed for documents related to the affair, but Baird insisted that no documents existed to the best of his knowledge. Nathan Cullen tried once more to get answers, but got the very same carefully parsed answers. Justin Trudeau was up next and asked who gave the order for the Conservative majority on the Board of Internal Economy to whitewash the Duffy audit report — and offered to provide the original, damning audit. Baird consisted to insist that the audit found improper expenses, which were paid back, but it should be noted that the talking point that Wright did the honourable thing in writing the cheque had vanished, and there was no disputing that his resignation was accepted once the PM found out about the transaction.
With the Clusterduff explosions still ringing in the air, and Harper on his way to Peru, it was a somewhat tense mood in the House as Question Period started. Thomas Mulcair began by reading a dig about Harper jetting off to Peru before demanding that the RCMP be called in and all papers be turned over. John Baird, the designated back-up PM du jour, read a carefully prepared script about how Harper didn’t know about the payment until last week, and that he made a strong statement about it that morning. Françoise Boivin tried another kick at the same questions, bringing up his iron-fisted control and micromanagement of his office to indicate that he had to be aware, but Baird told her that he’d already given a clear answer, and that perhaps she learn how to roll with QP (as opposed to sticking to her script). Justin Trudeau decried that the government had lost its moral compass, and asked the for the documents on the deal between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy. Baird responded with the very same answer, that nobody knew anything. For his final question, Trudeau wanted an apology to Canadians over the whole affair, but Baird wasn’t about to provide one.
With the March For Life having left the lawn outside the Hill, and Mark Warawa having won his little victory by making a statement on female “gendercide” in the House, Question Period got started with Thomas Mulcair reading a question on whether the government would back the NDP’s opposition day motion on the improperly reported $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funds. Harper got up and calmly reminded him that the Auditor General himself said the money was not misspent, and they will follow through on improving their reporting on the future. Mulcair then turned to the issue of the Senate audits and made a number of scurrilous accusations about the character of the Other Place. Harper said that the external auditors found ambiguities in the rules but that the Senate expected better of its members and they would be repaying the money owed. For his final question, Mulcair asked about a woman who was denied benefits while she received treatment for breast cancer while on maternity leave. Harper said that they recently changed the rules in order to ensure that these instances wouldn’t happen again. For the Liberals, Dominic LeBlanc asked about the government’s wasteful spending on ads and media monitoring instead of youth summer jobs. Diane Finley rose to take that question, and rejected the premise, and touted the launch of the Canada Summer Jobs programme. Ralph Goodale was up next, asking the same in English — and got the very same response. For his final question, Goodale asked about the demise of the long-form census, noting that some small towns were wiped out because of insufficient data. Christian Paradis responded with the red herring about a larger sample size ignoring the actual statistical invalidity of much of the data.
Wednesday, caucus day, and the benches were mostly full. Thomas Mulcair started off by reading a pair of questions about the improperly reported $3.1 billion in anti-terror funds, and showed just how with it he is by making an Arrested Development reference, asking if the money was in the banana stand. Harper ignored it and once again assured him that the Auditor General said that the money was not misspent. Mulcair then turned to the issue of Treasury Board taking an active hand in the collective bargaining of Crown Corporations. Harper reminded him that the government backstops these Crown Corporations, and with some of them in financial difficulty, they had an obligation to ensure that taxpayer’s money was being treated responsibly. For his final question, Mulcair brought up the demise of the mandatory long-form census, as the National Household Survey data was released today. Harper responded with congratulations to Statistics Canada for the data release and praise for how high quality the data was. Justin Trudeau was then up, and after paying mention to the long-form census, he turned to the question of those Economic Action Plan™ ads, and how each spot they run during the playoffs, it costs the same as 32 student summer jobs. Harper first repeated his congratulations to Statistics Canada, before he moved onto the necessity of informing Canadians of how well the economy is doing by way of those ads.
Another hot day in the Nation’s Capital, but unlike yesterday, all party leaders were in the House. Thomas Mulcair once again began by reading questions about the improperly tracked $3.1 billion in anti-terror funds, but he was restraining himself from the kinds of wild gesticulations of yesterday. Harper stood up to assure him that the AG has indicated there was no sign that the funds were misspent, but that there were discrepancies in reporting between departments. Mulcair then turned to the topic of temporary foreign workers, and the warning that there were approvals being given in places with high unemployment. Harper assured him that while they were making changes to ensure that Canadians got first crack at those jobs, the NDP were voting against the changes and writing to ask for more approvals being granted. For the Liberals, Justin Trudeau boasted of his travels to Winnipeg, Edmonton and the Ottawa Valley over the past week, and decried the money spent on advertising as opposed to helping the struggling middle class. Harper assured him that they were moving forward on economic measures, which Harper insisted that the Liberals opposed — while Trudeau shook his head.
It was a gorgeous — and hot — Monday in Ottawa, but there were few leaders present in the House. Thomas Mulcair was present, however, and started off by reading off questions about the AG’s report on the improperly tracked $3.1 billion, gesticulating a little more wildly than usual today. Jason Kenney, the designated back-up PM du jour, reminded him that the Auditor General said there was no evidence that any money was misspent, and that Treasury Board had accepted his recommendations. Mulcair carried on, taking the entire leader’s round, and asked about the changes to the collective bargaining for the CBC, wondering if they were going to ensure that Peter Mansbridge wasn’t paid any more than Ezra Levant. Kenney hit back by reminding him that when he was in the Quebec government, they had control over collective bargaining for their Crown Corporations there too. For the Liberals, Ralph Goodale asked about the tax changes in the budget, and how it was affecting the hard done-by middle class. Jason Kenney insisted that the total share of the federal tax burden was at its lowest level since 1965, thanks to the Conservatives. Marc Garneau closed out the round, asking about the tariff changes, but Jason Kenney gave the very same talking point as before.
Despite it being only a Thursday, Elizabeth May was the only leader in the House. Harper wasn’t even present for the many self-congratulatory Members’ Statements about the second anniversary of the “strong, stable, national majority Conservative government.” In the absence of Thomas Mulcair, it was up to Libby Davies to read off a pair of questions about the improperly tracked $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funds, to which James Moore, the designated back-up PM du jour, read off the Auditor General’s assurances that the money was not actually misspent. Davies moved onto the topic of search and rescue and threw in a mention for the need to reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. Moore insisted that they were making investments and changes to the system as evidenced by this morning’s announcement. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe repeated the same in French — without a script — the twist being about the Quebec City substation (MacKay: We are making these necessary investments; Clement: The AG stated that there was no evidence of misspending). For the Liberals, Bob Rae led off — and got a round of applause from the Conservative benches for it — and asked about the “stealth campaign” of raising taxes, be they payroll or tariffs. Moore insisted that it was a ridiculous question, and lauded the many ways in which the government has lowered taxes. For his final question, Rae asked about withdrawals from the Interparliamentary Union, to which Moore replied that there was no withdrawal on the world stage.
Wednesday, caucus day, and the benches were mostly full, except for Thomas Mulcair’s seat. Well, that’s not entirely true — one of the backbenchers from the nosebleeds was filling the seat while Mulcair was on a plane to Labrador, headed there directly after the morning’s caucus meeting. That left it up to deputy leader David Christopherson to get things off to a shouty start, yelling about cuts to Elections Canada amidst the report that showed the magnitude of problems during the past election. Harper assured him that Elections Canada recommended their own cuts and their legislation to strengthen their powers was forthcoming, based on their own recent report. Nycole Turmel was up next, asking about the improperly tracked $3.1 billion identified in the Auditor General’s report. Harper reminded her that the Auditor General himself pointed out that nothing pointed to any misspending, and that Treasury Board had already accepted his recommendations. For the Liberals, Justin Trudeau was up to decry Harper’s lack of understanding of the plight of the middle class. Harper assured him of all the great programmes they had for everyday Canadians, and look at how great the country is doing compared to other OECD countries.
Even thought it was his birthday, Stephen Harper was present and accounted for in the House, as with all other leaders — even Daniel Paillé, who was watching from the diplomatic gallery. Thomas Mulcair led off by reading a pair of questions on the changes to the temporary foreign workers programme, castigating Jason Kenney for his contradictory statements on the existence of the fifteen percent wage gap provisions. Harper insisted that Mulcair had it all wrong, and reminded him of the letters that NDP MPs had written the minister to demand more permits for their ridings. He then turned to the $3.1 billion in untracked spending on counterterrorism funding, and whether the minister of public safety would be held accountable. Harper reminded him that the AG himself said that this was not indicative of improper spending, but improper financial reporting. For his last question, Mulcair asked about the state of nation-to-nation dialogue with First Nations, and Harper insisted that the dialogue was ongoing. Justin Trudeau was up next for the Liberals, and after first mentioning the AG’s comments on search and rescue and how the Atlantic premiers were concerned, but then moved onto the issue of tariff hikes. Harper assured him that they decreased a wide range of tariffs, and that it was not appropriate to only give reductions to countries like China.