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rift with India, to which Kirsty Duncan stood up and recited the well-worn talking points about the invitation being rescinded and defending the integrity of public servants.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: 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with a rare script in hand, he listed off the pabulum talking point that the invitation should not have been made, was rescinded, and security services did their jobs.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: 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: Trudeau has a ready response

While the Commons was already preoccupied with the Supply Day motion demanding that the prime minister repay the costs associated with his vacation two Christmases ago, you would think that maybe, just maybe, that the opposition would lead off with something else. But no. Andrew Scheer, predictably, led off with the vacation issue and demands for repayment yet again, for the eleventieth day, and Justin Trudeau repeated his well-worn points that he accepted responsibility and would follow the advice of the Commissioner going forward. Scheer tried again, with some added snark, and Trudeau reiterated his response. Scheer then demanded to know what part of the opposition day motion the PM disagreed with, and Trudeau turned to his high road talking point about how the Commissioner ensures that the issues go above partisan talking points and mud-slinging. Scheer called out Trudeau’s attempt to break the fourth wall, and they went another round of the same. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, concern trolling as to why Netflix is exempt from sales tax. Trudeau picked up on Caron’s points and said that he was right — web giants should pay more, but sales tax would simply mean that Canadians pay more. Caron switched to French to ask the same, and Trudeau reiterated that the NDP were simply demanding that taxpayers pay more. Charlie Angus was up next, and tried to spin a conspiracy theory that the Liberals were letting KPMG off the hook because they were apparently getting payoffs of some variety. Trudeau reminded him that they put a billion dollars into the CRA to go after tax evasion. Angus raised the case of Stephen Bronfman, asserting that he somehow “got off” (from some unspecified charges) and then pivoted to wounded veterans, and Trudeau gave a rousing defence of their treatment of veterans and blasting the Conservatives.

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QP: Letting the veteran issue slip by

A frigid Monday in the nation’s capital, and all of the various party leaders were in attendance. Andrew Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and in French, he demanded that the PM repay his expenses for his Bahamas vacation. Justin Trudeau reminded him that he took responsibility and would ensure going forward would clear future trips and clarify his relationship with the Aga Khan. Scheer tried again, and Trudeau reiterated recommendations from the Commissioner and that he would adhere to them. Scheer switched to English to try and bring the high dudgeon for the very same demand. Trudeau went to the high road, and reminded the viewers at home that the Ethics Commissioner is above partisanship and he was happy to all of her recommendations. Scheer repeated his demand, and got the same response, tut-tutting about mudslinging. Scheer insisted that only a Liberal would consider an “objective finding” by the Commissioner to be mudslinging, but it didn’t change Trudeau’s response. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, and in French, he railed about a mining company that got government loans and then avoided taxes. Trudeau, taking to prepared notes for a change, indicated that the loan came from an arm’s-length Crown Corporation, which was not under their control, and if there was tax-shifting, they condemned those actions. Peter Julian repeated it in English, and Trudeau reiterated the tax-shifting portion of his answer more forcefully in English. Julian then railed about web giants not paying Canadian taxes, and Trudeau said they promised not to raise taxes on the middle class. Caron took a stab at the same question in French, noting that these companies control online advertising and media, but Trudeau noted that they recognise that the online world is changing which is why they went to Netflix to get more help for content creators. Continue reading

QP: Emerging from the fog of repayment demands

Thursday, and with the PM off to Edmonton, and Andrew Scheer giving his first major economic policy plank in a nearby hotel, it was a bit odd that Scheer didn’t bother to show up since he was in town. Alain Rayes led off, reading some heroic praise about how the Conservatives insisted the prime minister be investigated for his vacation, and demanded repayment for it. Once again. Bardish Chagger dutifully stood up to read the approved talking points about the PM taking responsibility and making changes going forward. Rayes tried again, got the same answer, and on his third attempt, Rayes tried in vain to link it to previous repayments, and Chagger reiterated her points a third time. Candice Bergen got up to try the same again in English, and with added indignation, and Chagger added praise for the PM’s town hall in her talking points. Bergen tried another tortured analogy with Trudeau saying that harassment codes apply to him so why not repayment, and while Chagger reiterated her previous points. Guy Caron led off for the NDP, noting how much other countries have recovered from the Panama Papers, while Diane Lebouthillier responded that they were investigating. Caron raised the bonuses that CRA executives were getting, but Lebouthillier stuck with stats on how combatting evasion. Ruth Ellen Brosseau stood up to sound the alarm about investment funds being involved with the Infrastructure Bank. Marc Garneau praised the fact that the Bank was now in operation and had a diverse board, and after another round of the same in French, Garneau responded in English about what a great optional tool the Bank could be for communities. Continue reading

QP: Trade, jets and jeers

The final Tuesday QP of the year, and all of the leaders were present — even past leader Thomas Mulcair was present, for a change. After each side offered statements of congratulations for their by-election wins, Andrew Scheer led off, mimi-lectern on desk, and he read some condemnation of the PM going to China and his willingness to allow foreign takeovers without security reviews. Trudeau chose instead to offer congratulations to the by-election winners, as well as everyone who put their names forward. Scheer offered his own breathy congratulations, then accused the PM of erratic behaviour and incompetence on the trade file. Trudeau insisted that they worked hard to get deal that “work good” for Canadians, and that things like environmental and labour rights be respected. Scheer sniped that the PM comes home empty handed, and then raised another instance of someone complaining about Kent Hehr’s comments. Trudeau said that the minister took the allegations seriously and apologized. Scheer then moved onto the fighter jet question, and the decision to purchase used interim jets. Trudeau said that the reality was that the military needed new jets years ago but the previous government didn’t deliver, but his government had launched an open process with interim jets to fill capacity gaps. Scheer noted the problems with those jets identified by the Australian Auditor General, and offered Trudeau an old minivan. Trudeau reiterated that the previous government botched their processes. Guy Caron was up next, and was concern trolling about the problems with getting new officers of parliament. Trudeau noted the open, transparent process, and that he had confidence in the nominees put forward. Caron insisted that the process was not transparent, and demanded the names on the selection committees and short lists. Trudeau said that the appointment processes take time, and have put in place processes that people could trust. Nathan Cullen repeated the same question with added sanctimony in English, and Trudeau reiterated that they would continue to consult with the opposition on appointments, and then after another round of the same, and Trudeau said that if they didn’t have confidence in the nominee they should just say so.

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QP: Concern trolling about the Commissioner

After a week away, Justin Trudeau was back in the Commons after a week away, and Andrew Scheer was also back, as the final sitting days of 2017 ticked down. Scheer led off, mini-lectern on desk, and he raised the current investigations by the Ethics Commissioner, and concern trolled that they wouldn’t be completed before her term was up. Trudeau noted that he had recused himself from any discussions around the Commissioner, but he was confident that the House Leader would do a good job. Scheer, breathily racing through his script, worried that MPs would not be consulted or have a chance to vet the new appointee, but Trudeau reiterated that he had confidence in the House Leader. Scheer moved onto the backlog of veterans awaiting disability benefits, to which Trudeau noted that while the previous government closed veterans officers, they were reopened under the current government along with new investments. Scheer insisted that this was solely the problem of the current government, to which Trudeau said that veterans had abandoned hope of getting help under the previous government while they were coming forward now that the current government was reaching out and reinvesting. Scheer tried to then wedge this into a “mean-spiritedness” onto the disability tax credits, and Trudeau assured him that they were looking at the issue carefully to ensure that Canadians were getting the benefits they deserved. Guy Caron was up next for the NDP, and he too returned to the issue of the backlog of veterans benefits, and Trudeau reiterated that these were applications by those who had previously given up hope. Irene Mathyssen and demanded to know if the new veterans disability plan would be released before the House rises, and Trudeau offered assurances that they were taking the issue seriously. Caron turned to demand a Netflix tax and defend the press, and Trudeau insisted that they would not raise taxes on Canadians. Pierre Nantel was up next to demand the same Netflix tax in French, and Trudeau assured him that no Quebec demanded that he raise their taxes.

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Roundup: A couple of reality checks

As we head into the final week of the Commons’ sitting for 2017, there have been a couple of recurring themes in the past few weeks that could each use some good dose of Stephanie Carvin. The first issue remains that of returning foreign fighters, and the way in which the Conservatives keep repeating in Question Period that the Liberal strategy is apparently “poetry and podcasts,” which a) nobody has seriously suggested, and b) deliberately confuses preventative deradicalization programmes with those geared toward rehabilitating those who have returned from foreign warzones who may not have been active combatants (most of whom are dead by this point).

And then there is the Prime Minister’s trip to China, where a free trade deal wasn’t secured, which Carvin is an acknowledged China sceptic about from a national security standpoint, particularly because China doesn’t like to play fair, and will use tactics that include imprisonment and de facto hostage-taking in order to try and get their way in trade disputes.

Let’s hope that the opposition has a chance to listen to some of what Carvin has to say before they ask some more…dubious questions this week.

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Roundup: Space to socialize

Amidst the growing buzz of MPs’ bad behaviour, whether it’s ejections from the House of Commons during QP, or the allegations of inappropriate comments at events as with James Bezan and Sherry Romanado, Kady O’Malley says that the presence of cameras hasn’t been a guarantor of good behaviour. And that’s fair enough. So what does she propose? Not to do away with the cameras, particularly in the Chamber itself, but rather creating the conditions by which MPs can spend more time together outside of the strictly partisan work situations.

More to the point, O’Malley suggests that MPs start sharing meal breaks, whether it’s in the cafeteria, or has been proposed earlier this session with a common space behind the Commons chamber where they can eat together rather than having the usual food services delivered to their respective lobbies on either side of the Chamber. It’s not a novel idea, given the fact that it was shared meals used to be a feature of how our parliament operated. Evening sittings happened three nights a week, and at the appointed hour, they would suspend debate, head upstairs to the Parliamentary Restaurant for a couple of hours and there was cross-pollination of socializing between the different parties. And lo and behold, when evening sittings were abolished in the name of being “family friendly,” collegiality between MPs took a hit.

The problem with simply creating a space behind the Commons for MPs to have that meal together is that it’s pretty much restricted to those who are stuck with House Duty, so the numbers at any given time would be pretty small, and I’m not sure that it’s enough to get a big the requisite sea change happening. Maybe the answer is to bring back evening sittings – it’s not like there’s a lack of legislation that could use the added time – but even there, part of what kept MPs at the parliamentary restaurant is that there was a dearth of other options in the area, which isn’t the case any longer. So while I don’t dispute that more opportunities for MPs to socialize is a good and necessary thing, I’m not sure that the conditions to make this a broader issue are really there any longer.

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