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with a rare script in hand, he listed off the pabulum talking point that the invitation should not have been made, was rescinded, and security services did their jobs.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to link Atwal with “partisan pork-barrel politics,” which was a stretch, and Trudeau reiterated that the invitation was rescinded.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: 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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QP: Litigating actual litigation

While the PM flew off to Chicago to begin his US tour, the rest of the benches in the House of Commons were full and ready for another scintillating day of bad litigation drama. Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, but with the PM away, today he led off on the news story of a government fighting a sexual harassment lawsuit from a Canadian Forces member, but wedged in an Omar Khadr reference at the end, because of course he did. Harjit Sajjan said that they were committed to a harassment-free environment in the Forces, but couldn’t speak to the specifics of the case — despite the fact that earlier this morning, the PM stated that he would have the case looked into. Scheer tried again, but got the same response. Scheer amped up his dramatics for the third attempt, and tried to draw in the justice minister, but Sajjan got back up to reiterate his points, including pointing out how many people they have discharged for sexual misconduct. Lisa Raitt got up next, and repeated the question with full-on anger, but Sajjan reiterated the commitment to Operation Honour, and they went again for another round. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, demanding taxation for digital giants, and Mélanie Joly said that they wanted to ensure that there wasn’t a piecemeal approach to digital platforms over the long term. Caron tried again in English, noting that Trudeau would be meeting with Amazon on his trip. Ruth Ellen Brosseau was up next to read her condemnation of the government’s actions with that lawsuit, and Sajjan repeated his points. Brosseau read the question again in French, and got the same reply. Continue reading

QP: Attempting to litigate the Ethics Commissioner’s report

After some six weeks away, MPs were all back in Ottawa, including the four new MPs who won by-elections in December. When things got underway, Andrew Scheer, mini-lectern on desk, got up to read some disappointment about the Prime Minister’s response to the Ethics Commissioner’s report, and lamented the PM’s “illegal actions.” Trudeau noted that he took responsibility and has put in new measures to ensure that it could not happen again. Scheer tried again, got exactly the same response, and Scheer switched to French to concern troll about decisions related to the Aga Khan, and Trudeau insisted that he had no part in any decisions related to those files. Trudeau returned to his same response, and Scheer reiterated his concerns in English, and in this response, Trudeau elaborated that they need better guidelines into what constitutes a friend. Guy Caron was up next, lamenting the wages of CEOs in English, when compared to the plight of former Sears employees. Trudeau reminded him that the very first thing they did was lower taxes on the middle class and raised them on the wealthy, plus investing in cracking down on tax avoidance and tax evasion. Caron repeated the question in French, got the same response in French, and Ruth Ellen Brosseau gave a statement about believing victims before asking what actions parliamentarians can take to shift the culture. Trudeau gave his assurance that they were committed to improving the situation, and pointed to Bill C-65 as a good start. Brosseau switched to French to demand electoral reform to elect more women, and Trudeau said that he recognised that electing more women was key, and they were working on it. Continue reading

QP: All sound and fury

Caucus day, and all of the leaders were present, and just a few minutes before things got underway, Andrew Scheer went to the microphones in the Foyer to demand Bill Morneau’s resignation. So there’s that. Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and he read some condemnation about Bill Morneau’s numeracy and economic prowess. Justin Trudeau offered a correction in return — lowered taxes, economic growth, more money for the vulnerable, and so on. Scheer switched to English to repeat the accusations, wondering why Morneau was still in cabinet, while Trudeau reminded him that the point of Prime Minister’s Questions was supposed to be about backbenchers asking the PM questions. Scheer the went into the disingenuous questions about the supposed ethical lapses, including the insinuation of insider trading, and Morneau got up to say that everything has been reported in the press, and if the opposition wants to make any clear accusations, they should do so in the House, and in the Foyer. Scheer tried twice more, and Morneau reiterated his counter demand. Guy Caron was up next, repeating the same insinuations and wondering why the PM wasn’t demanding a clear answer. Trudeau said that Caron obviously wasn’t listening, as he just answered. Caron tried again in English, with an added dollop of sanctimony, and Trudeau assured him that everyone was answering questions and then praised their economic growth record. Alexandre Boulerice listed all of the supposed ethical lapses, only louder and angrier, and Trudeau invited them to make their clear allegations outside of the Chamber. Nathan Cullen said that they had repeated the questions outside, and repeated the allegations, and Trudeau mocked the response with some added jabs at how badly they lost in the last election.

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QP: Of Poilievre and pabulum

With the PM off to Toronto for the day, and Andrew Scheer at the funeral of Senator Enverga, it meant no major leaders present. That left Alain Rayes to lead off for the Official Opposition, concern trolling that some Liberal backbencher have anonymously groused to the media about Bill Morneau’s apparent ethical issues, to which Morneau stood up to deliver his well-rehearsed lines about working with the Ethics Commissioner and he has since gone above and beyond. Rayes gave a usual disingenuous list of “apparent” conflicts of interest, and Morneau gave the line about the opposition going after him because they couldn’t fault his economic performance. Rayes raised their previous Supply Day motion around demanding Morneau disclose all of his assets (never mind that he has), and wanted a free vote on it. Morneau responded with some well-worn pabulum. Candice Bergen took over in English, demanding disclosure, and Morneau reminded her that he already has. Bergen disingenuously worried about the lack of a blind trust (which the Commissioner didn’t recommend) and that he “forgot” about his Villa in France (incorrect: he disclosed the villa but forgot to disclose the ownership structure), and Morneau gently pushed back. Guy Caron led off for the NDP, concern trolling that Morneau Shepell has a number of government contracts, to which Carla Qualtrough reminded him that all procurement processes are open and transparent. Caron also raised those anonymous Liberals crying to the media, and Morneau responded with some usual pabulum. Hélène Laverdière was up next, and raised former NDP MP Craig Scott’s brief to the International Criminal Court to demand that Canada also be investigated for war crimes in Afghanistan, to which Chrystia Freeland responded that Canada respects the Court, and our Forces respected the codes of conduct. Laverdière asked again in French, and got the same answer.

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QP: Morneau’s five new themes

While the prime minister was off meeting with the premiers and Indigenous leaders, it was also a Supply Day where the Conservatives were demanding an extension of the consultation period for the proposed tax changes. Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and read his concerns about “local businesses” in French, and how tax changes would doom them. Bill Morneau reminded him that they were listening to Canadians and would ensure that their concerns were being heard. Scheer switched to English to demand that the government vote for their opposition motion on extending the consultation period. Morneau instead listed the five things they’ve heard that they plan to address. After another round of the same from Scheer and Morneau, Gérard Deltell got up to ask in French about the verification of the plans, and Morneau reminded him that they were looking for a fairer system that would encourage investment. Deltell railed that the measures would kill small businesses, but Morneau repeated that they were listening to the consultations. Alexandre Boulerice led for the NDP, railing about Netflix and tax avoidance by big corporations and tax havens, and Diane Lebouthillier reminded him that they were indeed going after tax evaders. Boulerice asked again in English, and Morneau deployed his worn tax fairness talking points. Linda Duncan was up next and raised the concerns laid out in the Environment Commissioner’s reports, and Catherine McKenna listed a number of measures that they were taking. Robert Aubin repeated the question in French, and McKenna reiterated her response in French.

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QP: Statements for Edmonton and Vegas

In the wake of the installation ceremony for Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Justin Trudeau was not in the Commons for QP, leaving only Andrew Scheer as the leader of note present. Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, reading about shock and sadness for the terrorist act in Edmonton over the weekend, and asked for a minister to update the House on the situation. Ralph Goodale read a statement of condemnation for the action and congratulations to the Edmonton Police Service for their actions, and updated on the injured. Scheer then read similar sentiments for the shooting in Las Vegas — minus the part about condemning global terror — and Chrystia Freeland responded with condolences and notes that one Canadian was confirmed killed and consular services were working to help victims and their families. (A second Canadian was later confirmed as having been killed). Scheer then moved onto the proposed tax changes, and Bill Morneau assured him that they were listening and would make changes to the proposals. Maxime Bernier was up next, saying that Morneau was not listening, and then raised the Morneau-Shepell conspiracy theory, and Morneau insisted that they were listening, which was why they engaged in consultations. After another round of the same in French, Alexandre Boulerice railed about the situation in Catalonia, but rather than answer, Bardish Chagger got up to read a statement of congratulations about Jagmeet Singh’s leadership victory. Boulerice asked again, and this time Chrystia Freeland said that Canada was hoping that Spain would act in a democratic manner. Pierre Nantel was up next, railing about the Netflix deal as selling out Canadian culture amidst a rate hike, and Mélanie Joly insisted that it was a good deal and was the first stage in modernising our cultural policies. Nantel and Joly went another round in English, not that the question or answer changed.

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Roundup: The fount of Canadian honours

A particular thread that I forgot to talk about last week was about the new GG, and one of the important things that the office does, which is to be the conduit by which the country’s honours system works. It’s a pretty important function of the office which has been encroached upon my MPs and in particular the Prime Minister in recent years, and yes, that is a problem.

The Queen is the fount of honours in Canada, but politicians have been trying to get in on the game. Stephen Harper created a “teaching award,” and Trudeau has been talking about creating some kind of medal on his own as well, while there have been partisan spats about the Thérèse Casgraine award, or the John Diefenbaker award, and whichever party in power “forgetting” to award it, and on it goes. But part of leaving those kinds of decisions up to Rideau Hall is that it keeps the awards from taking on a partisan taint. With the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence, there was a lot of difficulty getting nominees under Harper because many people didn’t want to be associated with him, which is a fair point – the award should be politics-neutral, but associating it with the head of government as opposed to the Queen means not only that there’s a whiff of partisanship, but that the PM would use the awards as a bit of reflected glory. That’s generally something we try to avoid in our system, which is also why we ensure that it’s not the prime minister’s face on postage stamps or first in line in our embassies, but rather the Queen. It’s why the civil service swears their oaths to the Crown and not the government of the day as well – because we keep them above the partisanship of the day, and it keeps them from developing cults of personality (as much as is possible, but the age of celebrity politics is certainly challenging this notion). Suffice to say, we should be aware that the duties of honours rests with the Crown and with the GG for a reason, and we should frown on more attempts by politicians to horn in on them.

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QP: A furious rewrite of the scripts

With the news that Madeleine Meilleur had withdrawn her name from consideration for Language Commissioner just before QP, you could almost hear the furious rewriting of question scripts. In fact, I saw pages deliver new scripts to MPs just before everything got underway. Andrew Scheer led off, raising her withdrawal, and wanted an assurance that future appointments would have cross-party support. Justin Trudeau responded with praise for his new open and transparent process. Scheer shifted topics to the risk profile of the Infrastructure Bank, and Trudeau praised the commitment to $180 billion in new Infrastructure that the Bank would leverage private sector dollars to help with. Scheer repeated the question in French, insinuating that this was about Liberal millionaire friends, and Trudeau reiterated his points on the need for the Bank. Scheer then moved to the issue of a public sex offender registry, and Trudeau insisted that they took the protection of families seriously, and it was up to police to advise the public. Scheer demanded that Trudeau reject the advice of bureaucrats to not make a registry public, but Trudeau stuck to his points. Thomas Mulcair was up next, noting the presence of a Hiroshima survivor and demanded the government join nuclear disarmament talks in New York. Trudeau said that they were taking meaningful steps which included rallying states for the support of a fissile material cut-off treaty and getting tangible results. Mulcair pressed, and Trudeau noted that the treaty Mulcair demanded we sign onto didn’t include nuclear states, so it was somewhat useless. Mulcair moved onto criminal records for simple possession while marijuana legalisation in the pipeline, and Trudeau returned to his well-worn talking points about decriminalisation not protecting children or taking profits away from the black market. Mulcair asked again, louder, and Trudeau held firm.

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