QP: Twin moral panics in play

While Justin Trudeau was off to Toronto, Andrew Scheer was present for Question Period, and he led off with the role that Christopher Wylie, the infamous “Facebook whistleblower” had worked for the Liberals, and demanded answers. Scott a Brison pointed out that the Liberal Research Bureau had already issued a statement saying that they decided not to go ahead with his services and that he had no access to voter data. Scheer lamented that Trudeau didn’t answer — being cute because Trudeau was not present — and when he continued to rail about Wylie, Brison reiterate his response, and hit back with contracts the Conservatives tendered for their own data services. Alain Rayes took over in French to ask the same thing two more times, and Brison repeated his responses (albeit in English). Scheer got back up to rail about the “peoplekind” joke and the apparently scandalous news that Service Canada is not supposed to use the honourifics of “Mr.” of “Mrs.” The horror! Jean-Yves Duclos assured him that they can still use the honourifics, but that they were working to be more inclusive of all gender identities. Guy Caron led off for the NDP, condemning the lack of action on tax evasion despite the $1 billion investment to do so. Diane Lebouthillier got up to assure him that they were looking into tax evasion and had new agreements to get necessary data, and when Caron got up to rail that CRA was slapped with a $1 million fine for abusive behaviour, Lebouthillier reiterated that the case dated back to the Conservatives. Peter Julian got up to repeat the condemnation around tax evasion in English, and Lebouthillier reminded him that they now have the data they need. Julian tried one more time, throwing every thing else in the question, and Lebouthillier retorted that the OECD has recognised Canada’s leadership in data-driven combatting against tax evasion.

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Senate QP: Brison talks out the clock

Senate Question Period resumed this week, after a hiatus of several weeks, and the special guest star this week is Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board and temporary minister of democratic institutions. Senator Larry Smith led off, and he worried about marijuana regulations not being pre-published in the Canada Gazette. Brison said that Treasury Board’s work from a regulatory perspective was to work with Health Canada to ensure that the framework was in place by the time that the legislation comes into force. He assured them that there would be no corners cut, before launching into the worn talking points about the point of the legislation. Smith tried to puzzle out the timelines around regulations being published, and he wanted the rationale being made public in terms of why the regulations were not pre-published. Brison reiterated that they were trying to ensure that the regulatory framework was in place prior to the law effect. Continue reading

QP: Circling back to Atwal, yet again

A frigid Tuesday in Ottawa, and all of the leaders were present in Question Period, for a change. Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and he immediately returned to the Atwal issue, wondering who was telling the truth about Atwal — him or the Indian government. Justin Trudeau stood up and said that he would always believe the advice of non-partisan public servants over anyone else. Scheer pressed, and Trudeau reminded him that Randeep Sarai took responsibility for proffering the invitation, but he trusted public service. Scheer tried again in French, and Trudeau repeated that same point about believing public servants. Scheer reverted to English, reset his preamble to provide a fresh media clip, and wondered if it was Chrystia Freeland who was telling the truth this time when she said it was an honest mistake. Trudeau reiterated the same point about believing public service. Scheer demanded an answer as to whether the “conspiracy theory” was baseless, and Trudeau reminded him that for ten years, the Harper government diminished and belittled the work of public servants, and the Conservatives hadn’t moved on from those habits. Guy Caron was up next, and worried about the Facebook data used by Cambridge Analytica. Trudeau noted that they take privacy seriously, and it’s why the Minister of Democratic Institutions was looking into electoral interference, and the Privacy Commissioner also indicated he was taking a look. Caron demanded that the issue of data protection be raised at the G7 meeting in June, and Trudeau assured him that they had already had these conversations and they would continue to do so. Hélène Laverdière raised the armoured vehicle sales to Saudi Arabia, and Trudeau first pointed asked her to ask her caucus colleague from London Fanshaw if she wanted them to cancel that contract, but that they were taking the issue more seriously than the previous government did. Laverdière demanded to know if human rights were for sale, and Trudeau took up a script this time to insist that they respect human rights obligations.

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QP: Concerned about Mali

While Justin Trudeau was present after two weeks away, Andrew Scheer was not, spending the day in Winnipeg instead. Lisa Raitt led off in his stead, mini-lectern on desk, and she raised the announcement of a peacekeeping mission to Mali, and the risks that it would entail given the rate of casualties there. Trudeau led off with some words about engaging in peacekeeping and that they were responding to a direct request from the U.N., and would work with the opposition on how to hold a debate on the mission — but didn’t really answer about risks. Raitt wondered about whether our troops there would be able to engage in direct combat. Trudeau took up a script, and recited about how personnel would have appropriate equipment and training, but they couldn’t eliminate the risk. Raitt demanded information on what the risk was, and how many soldiers were projected to be lost. Trudeau insisted that they would remain open and responsible rather than wrap themselves in the flag and use Special Forces troops for photo ops, as the previous government did. Pierre Paul-Hus took over in French, accusing the PM of being unconcerned for troop safety. Trudeau took up a script to remind him that they were alive to the risks and would ensure that troops had equipment and training that were necessary. Paul-Hus demanded the operational guidelines, but Trudeau reiterated the plan to hold a debate in the near future. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, also asking about the Mali announcement, and Trudeau read off some more details about helicopters and medical assistance. Caron switched to English to concern troll about how this promise fell short of the promises. Trudeau noted it was odd how the Conservatives thought we were doing too much with the military and the NDP not enough, before he went off the cuff about the upcoming debate. Tracey Ramsey was up next, demanding the government stand up to US tariff threats. Trudeau noted that he was pleased to meet workers in those industries last week, and to hear their concerns. Ramsey raised Trump’s made-up facts, and Trudeau reiterated how much he enjoyed hearing from workers in those industries.

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QP: Trying to start a different conspiracy theory

Thursday post-budget, and most of the leaders were away, off to sell their own version of what it contained. That led Lisa Raitt to lead off, asking about the tariffs on steel and aluminium that President Trump levied earlier today. François-Philippe Champagne said that they were sorting out the situation and any tariffs were unacceptable. Raitt moved onto the Jaspel Atwal issue and the spectre of a diplomatic rift with India, to which Kirsty Duncan stood up and recited the well-worn talking points about the invitation being rescinded and defending the integrity of public servants. Raitt worried that Canada was becoming a laughing stock, and Duncan recited about their respect for the work of public servants and national security agencies. Alain Rayes took over in French, and Duncan repeated the former talking points. Rayes demanded an explanation, but Duncan re-read the praise for the public service. Ruth Ellen Brosseau led for the NDP, concern trolling around the details around the pharmacare announcement. Bill Morneau said they were looking for expert advice to figure out how best to get pharmaceutical drugs to Canadians who need them. Brosseau switched to French to raise the concerns by groups that Morneau was somehow in a conflict of interest around those discussions because his former company administers benefit plans, but Morneau reiterated his previous response in French. Peter Julian took over to ask the very same thing, and this time Morneau got in a zinger about the NDP and Pierre Poilievre’s lack of expertise on this policy. Julian railed about Morneau Shepell, and this time Ginette Petitpas Taylor praised the work done on the file to date and that this would carry it forward.

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QP: Atwal evasions

With all of the leaders present for the proto-PMQ day, it was no doubt going to be wall-to-wall Jaspel Atwal questions instead of questions about yesterday’s budget, given the way that the news cycle is moving. Jim Eglinski led off, strangely enough, and he recounted being on the scene as an RCMP officer after Atwal’s attempted assassination in the 1980s, and wondered why the PM would associate with Atwal. Justin Trudeau reminded him that the invitation never should have been made and it was rescinded. Andrew Scheer got up next, and asked about the Indian government rejecting the notion that elements of the Indian government put Atwal up to it. Trudeau grabbed a script, and read about their respect for public servants and the advice they give. Scheer railed about Trudeau’s “incompetence,” and this time Trudeau went off the cuff about the Harper Conservatives going negative and torquing the public service for partisan advantage. Scheer tried again, louder, and Trudeau assured him that his government would never use public servants in such a manner. Scheer gave it one last shot, demanding answers on the media briefing that was organised, but Trudeau noted that governments organise media briefings all the time. Guy Caron was up next, expressing his dislike of the budget, and Trudeau got a script to read of all the great things in the budget. Caron railed about the plan to means-test pharmacare, and Trudeau read about how these measures built on actions over the last two years to make prescription drugs more affordable. Hélène Laverdière was up next to worry about the possible diplomatic harm caused with the India trip, and Trudeau, off the cuff, reiterated his previous points about trusting national security agencies. Laverdière wondered what the point of the trip was, and Trudeau read off the good news talking points related to the investments that resulted from the trip.

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QP: It’s true if they say it is

While MPs waited for the budget to be released, all of the leaders were present for the first time in a while, and we all awaited the performative outrage. Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and in French, he immediately read the demand to know whether not names submitted to the events in India were vetted by security services. Justin Trudeau got up, and with a rare script in hand, he listed off the pabulum talking point that the invitation should not have been made, was rescinded, and security services did their jobs. Scheer switched to English and lit into Trudeau about how “disastrous” the trip was and the media briefing that put forward the theory that the Indian government was involved in Jaspel Atwal’s presence, but Trudeau picked up a different script to praise the Canada-India relationship. Scheer demanded to know if a public servant was put forward to run interference with the media, and Trudeau picked up another sheet to points out that they respect the non-partisan public service, unlike the previous government, and if one of them says something to Canadians, it’s because they know it to be true. Scheer tried again, and this time Trudeau put down the script to nor vigorously reiterate that the previous government used public servants for partisan ends and they did not. Scheer closed off by asking if they knew of other extremists who attended these events, but Trudeau demurred. Guy Caron was up next, and he immediately railed about cost-benefit analyses related to whether or not CRA went after large violators. Trudeau picked up a new script and listed off the measures they are taking to combat tax evasion, which includes exchanging data with partner countries. Caron switched topics to worry about web giants getting benefits over Canadian companies when it comes to taxation. Trudeau, sans script, reminded Caron that they would not increase taxes even if the NDP demanded it. Charlie Angus was up next and returned to the Atwal issue, and Trudeau picked up his script to read the praise for the trusted non-partisan security services. Angus tried to link Atwal with “partisan pork-barrel politics,” which was a stretch, and Trudeau reiterated that the invitation was rescinded.

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QP: Who ordered a conspiracy theory?

While Justin Trudeau was back in the country following his week in India, he was not, however, present for QP today, nor was Andrew Scheer. That left Candice Bergen to lead off, asking if it was the PMO’s contention that the government of India conspired to ensure Jasper Atwal’s attendance at the PM’s visit. Ralph Goodale said that while he can’t comment on individual security arrangements, the system works well. Bergen asked if the PMO arranged the for the national security advisor to brief media about the supposed plot around Atwal, but Goodale said that the invitation never should have been given and it was rescinded. Bergen tried a third time, but Goodale did not vary his response. Pierre Paul-Hus tried again in French, adding a level of insinuation about the PM loving terrorists, but Goodale stuck to his points, and again once more on Paul-Hus’s second attempt. Guy Caron was up next, levelling new accusations about KPMG around the Isle of Man, but Diane Lebouthillier responded that she was at meetings last week around tax evasion and had set up a meeting in Canada for further steps. Caron demanded to know if any tax-fighting measures were in the budget, and Lebouthillier responded that access to data is essential in the fight against tax evasion, which they have now that they didn’t years ago. Hélène Laverdière wondered what the point of the India trip was, and Kirsty Duncan assured her that they came back with renewed ties and $1 billion in investment. Laverdière lit into the list of irritants with India that went unresolved, but Duncan’s response was the same.

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QP: Gathering angry media clips

Two competing dynamics played out in the Commons today — because Parliament is not sitting tomorrow out of courtesy for the NDP’s policy convention, it was Friday on a Thursday, only slightly better attended, but there weren’t any leaders (save Elizabeth May) present. It was also a Conservative Supply Day, where the motion demanded an apology to veterans for the alleged “insult” by the prime minister during that Edmonton town hall regarding his response to why the court action against the Equitas group was still ongoing. Candice Bergen led off, reading concerns about veterans and demanding action from the prime minister. Dominic LeBlanc got up to answer, saying that they do support veterans and have put in place a pension-for-life option as well as other investments. Bergen concern trolled that the government voted down a veterans-themed private member’s bill yesterday, and LeBlanc listed the sins of the previous government when it came to respecting veterans. Alain Rayes took over in French, quoting the prime minister’s election promise, not that LeBlanc was having any of it. Rayes tried again, and LeBlanc raised the spectre of Julian Fantino when it came to how the Conservatives had respect. Rayes listed examples of the government’s profligacy except for veterans, but LeBlanc called out his contradiction before reiterating their respect. Ruth Ellen Brosseau led off for the NDP, reading questions on the same topic in English, and LeBlanc gave a less punchy response about how much they have done to date. Brosseau switched to French to read about the documents provided to the PBO around the tax gap, and Marie-Claude Bibeau got up to insist that they would study the tax gap, unlike the previous government. Pierre-Luc Dusseault heaped some condemnation on new tax treaties, and Bibeau read points about international information exchanges to fighting tax evasion. Peter Julian got up to rail about tax havens that are funding cannabis operations, but Bibeau reiterated the points about combatting tax evasion. Continue reading

QP: A smarmier version of Matlock

The first proto-Prime Minister’s Questions of the New Year, with Justin Trudeau finally in town on a Wednesday, and Andrew Scheer was once again no longer present. That left Lisa Raitt to leave off, who was worried that offshore investment into marijuana companies was not the front companies for organised crime. Trudeau stumbled off the block, and gave his worn points about why they are legalising marijuana. Raitt called out the talking points, but along the way, equated former Liberal fundraisers with organised crime, but Trudeau didn’t vary his response. Alain Rayes was up next, and in French, accused Liberal fundraisers of trying to line their pockets though cannabis and accused the government of interfering with debate in the Senate,  it Trudeau stuck to his points in French. Rayes tried again, and this time, Trudeau said that they could assure people that they were not letting organised crime into the system. Rayes went one last round, asserting that legalised marijuana was somehow the new Sponsorship Scandal, but Trudeau reminded him that the previous prohibition model failed. Guy Caron was up next, and kept on the same line of attack, highlighting tax havens, and this time, Trudeau picked up some notes to say that they have been coming to agreements with provinces to provide transparency on corporations and that they were doing background checks on any significant investment in cannabis companies. Caron went again in French, railing about Liberals and tax havens, but Trudeau repeated the assurances in French. Pierre-Luc Dusseault asked the same question again, to which Trudeau assured him that they had an information network to combat tax avoidance and evasion, and when Peter Julian asked one more time, Trudeau picked up his notes again to assure him that there would be mandatory security checks with companies.

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