Thomas Mulcair opened up QP today taking all five slots in the leader’s round, asking whether Harper planned to keep troops in Afghanistan past 2014, despite the House having voted to end the mission. Well no, Harper said – we haven’t had any request to extend the mission (amidst speculation that the Americans would be asking us to extend our Special Operations forces there), and of course he’d ask the House for permission to extend. Err, except this is a big problem. You see constitutionally, deploying the armed forces is a Crown Prerogative, and that’s a means of accountability. Yes, it sounds nice on paper when you have the House agree to put our troops into harm’s way, but when things go wrong, you need that clear line of accountability. Because deployments are a Crown Prerogative, it means that the executive remains responsible when things to wrong. If it’s the House in charge, not only do we find that we have watered down missions full of caveats (like all of those European countries in Afghanistan), but then Harper can turn around and say “Well, the House agreed to the mission, not me, so not my problem.” You see why this is a problem, right? And now that Harper has a majority in the House, he can hold a vote and then say “The House has spoken, we’ll extend,” thus being able to both absolve himself of responsibility while appearing to have it be a “democratic” choice. Not that Mulcair seems to have considered this constitutional reality.
Bob Rae then got his trio of questions, and he asked a range of them, starting with recalling Harper’s words in the House on a certain date, whereby Harper stated that Canada would have to “tear up” its F-35 contract if we were to run a new competition, and think of all the lost jobs. But Harper, who is now apparently trying to retcon Hansard, insisted that he said no such thing. Rae moved on to financial abuses in the Port of Montreal, but Harper demurred that it was an arm’s length body. Rae then asked about Oda not repaying the treasury for her limo rides, Harper insisted that Rae must be confused as she apologised and repaid everything.
Round two kicked off with Jack Harris, Christine Moore and Matthew Kellway asking about F-35 costs (Ambrose: We welcome the PBO’s renewed costing), Alexandre Boulerice asked about Christian Paradis’ latest ethical investigation (Van Loan: Nothing to see here), Charlie Angus asked about Bev Oda’s limo rides (Van Loan: She repaid “all inappropriate expenses” and hey, our cabinet costs are 15 percent lower than those of the Liberals), and Romeo Saganash asked about the cuts at CIDA (Van Loan: She repaind all inappropriate expenses). When Judy Sgro gave an Oda-related preamble on a question about pension cuts, Van Loan said she had no room to talk considering her own expense issues with her residence and problems when she was a minister – problems she was cleared of, for the record, but not that it mattered to Van Loan. Kirsty Duncan asked about gutted environmental protection legislation (Oliver: Look at all the great things we’re doing to protect the environment), and Marc Garneau asked about the PBO taking another crack at the F-35 costs (Ambrose: We’ve met with him for advice, and look forward to working with him). Round two closed with a pair of questions from Pierre Nantel and Andrew Cash on cuts to artist funding (James Moore: iPod tax!), and Malcolm Allen and Ruth Ellen Brosseau on cuts to food inspections (Lemieux: We increased the food safety budget by $50 million).
Round three saw questions on Fisheries Act changes, that Private Member’s Motion on defining human life (and apparently betraying that the NDP apparently doesn’t understand what private members’ business means), and rail service legislation. Sean Casey got up to question whether Van Loan’s answer on Oda’s behalf meant that the limousine costs were appropriate (Van Loan: She paid back all “inappropriate” costs), and Charlie Angus and later Bob Rae picked up on that very same point – not that they got a different answer. There were further question on regional economic announcements, whether Harper would meet the Dalai Lama while he’s in town (Harper: I do meet with him), cuts to housing, and that a magazine which said sexist things gets government funding.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes Bev Oda was in the Chamber, but she dutifully sat at her desk, hard at work scrawling something while questions about her spending were being asked. She didn’t once look up or appear to even be paying attention whenever her name came up, for what it’s worth.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Greg Rickford for a tailored charcoal suit with a crisp white shirt and pocket square with a navy tie, and to Rona Ambrose for her black leather jacket with a grey top and skirt. Style citations go out to Laurie Hawn for a light grey shirt and suit with a dark grey and orange tie, and to Isabelle Morin for an overly busy white-flecked top with red and black panels, and sheer black three-quarter sleeves.