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.
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.
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.
Monday in the House, and most of the leaders were absent. Thomas Mulcair was present, and read off a pair of questions about the temporary foreign workers programme changes. Jason Kenney, the designated back-up PM du jour, stood up to insist him that Mulcair was wrong, and that these workers would be paid at the prevailing rate range, and only if Canadians were being paid at that same rate, and added that they need to ensure that the unemployed accept jobs in their regions. Mulcair transitioned the the lockout at US Steel, to which Kenney insisted that the question was pure demagoguery, and this was about a labour dispute. Chris Charlton stood up to ask the very same temporary foreign workers programme questions, to which Kenney gave her the same response, and brought up the many times that the NDP were begging him to allow more of said workers in their ridings. Marc Garneau led off for the Liberals, asking about the “payroll tax” of EI premiums. Kenney stood up to insist that the Liberals wanted more benefits without the increase in premiums, and that they wanted to repeal the GST cuts. For his last question, Garneau revisited last week’s theme of youth unemployment, to which Kenney insisted that no government has done more than theirs to help youth employment.
After what appeared to be a breakout of actual debate during the Orders of the Day relating to the NDP’s opposition day motion on climate change, no eruptions of MPs trying to catch the Speaker’s eye during Members’ Statements, and a moment of silence for workers killed on the job, it was time for QP. Tomas Mulcair started things off by reading a condemnation of Joe Oliver’s trip to Washington and his insulting of a climate scientist. James Moore, the designated back-up PM du jour, insisted that the NDP doesn’t understand economics, and that the government was fighting to create jobs. Mulcair then switched topics and read a question about the concerns the Conservative premier of New Brunswick has about the EI changes. Moore assured him that they were working with the premier as they were helping get people back to work. Yvon Godin then asked the same thing in French, turning puce with outrage as he read his script. Diane Finley responded with her stock assurances that they were helping Canadians get back to work. Bob Rae was up for the Liberals, and after making a reference to Harper’s admonition about “committing sociology,” he turned to the party’s topic of the week — youth unemployment. Moore assured him that they had created programmes to help youth and were addressing the problem. For his final question, Rae asked about the growing number of reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, to which Deepak Obhrai assured him that they were monitoring the situation, which they found unacceptable.
The day after a major terror bust in Canada, it was a question as to how this would play out in the Grand Inquest of the Nation. And so, when QP got underway, Thomas Mulcair began by reading off a congratulations to the RCMP and the members of the Muslim community who tipped them off. Harper got up to similarly offer his thanks and congratulations for those who helped to foil the plot. Mulcair then moved onto the testimony of the Bank of Canada at committee, where they were told that there was little else they could do to stimulate the economy, and the warnings about household debt. Harper responded by saying that they have been urging caution on debt levels and to try take what measures they can. Peggy Nash was up next, and asked a rambling question that ended up on the topic of the possible border fee the Americans are considering charging, to which Maxime Bernier assured her that they were going to vigorously oppose it. Nash was back up and returned to another rambling question that ended up on the increases in tariffs. Jim Flaherty was up to respond, and while he got sidetracked by heckles a couple of times, and pointed to the many tax hikes the NDP supported. Justin Trudeau was up next for the Liberals, and asked about the decline in youth summer employment. Harper responded that the Liberals voted against their plans to help them. And yes, Trudeau was still half-reading his questions, but could ad lib a little.