With Thomas Mulcair off to Alberta, it was up to Nathan Cullen to lead the charge in Question Period today, which he began by asking about the Environment Commissioner’s comments about changes to environmental assessments, to which Prime Minister Harper replied that they were simply doing away with duplicative processes. Cullen brought up how the EI changes would just force people onto provincial welfare rolls, but Harper again deflected and assured him that people who needed EI would still get it. Nycole Turmel then got up to decry the impact of EI changes on seasonal industries, but Diane Finley basically repeated Harper’s response. Bob Rae got up and asked what the expected cost savings of the EI changes were going to add up to. Harper insisted that this wasn’t about savings, but about getting Canadians back to work. When Rae tried to press about the issue, and the government’s belief that there are people receiving EI that shouldn’t be, Harper turned it around and attacked Rae’s record as Ontario premier instead.
Round two started off with Ryan Cleary, Niki Ashton and François Lapointe keeping up the EI changes attack, not that Diane Finely deviated from her approved talking points, while Robert Chisholm asked about DFO closures in Atlantic Canada (Ashfield: We’ve got a new regional advisory group!), and Anne Minh-Thu Quach asked again about those remarks by the Environment Commissioner (Kent: He’s wrong, and those environmental screenings were all minor, which is actually a valid point about that level of assessment). Wayne Easter asked about the effect of the EI changes on migrant workers versus failed “workfare” programmes (Finley: We have a skills and labour shortage), Scott Brison asked about youth unemployment (Finley: We’re expanding the Canada Summer Jobs programme), and Mauril Bélanger asked the need for more cooperatives (Paradis: We have a strong mandate, and yeah, cooperatives are good too). Jean Crowder and Jonathan Genest-Jourdain asked about the increase of cabinet powers over approving pipelines and how that would affect First Nations (Oliver: Yay Northern Gateway; Duncan: We’ve consulted and added resources), and Fin Donnelley asked about search-and-rescue cuts (Ashfield: There are no reductions to services).
Round three saw comments on contamination at the community of Shannon, why the government always insists its critics are wrong (Kent laid out some examples), the Minister’s poor response to the childhood activity report, objections to the fisheries changes, coastal protection from contaminants, a contract for an Edmonton plant for LAV parts, coast guard resources, RADARSAT, customs screening at regional airports, and slaughterhouse rules in Quebec.
At the end of QP, Calgary MP Lee Richardson rose to announce his retirement, as he’s taken a job as the new principal secretary to Alberta premier Alison Redford. The House was utterly silent as he read his farewell speech, and Cullen, Rae, Louis Plamondon and Elizabeth May each stood up to pay tribute to him on behalf of their parties.
Sartorially speaking, it was a pretty grim day in the House, so I’m not giving out any snaps. Style citations – and there were an awful lot of them today – but they go out especially to Roxanne James for a, well, jungle-themed jacket which was part leopard-print, part zebra-print in leopard colours, with splashes of teal throughout, and to Raymond Côté for a black suit with a fluorescent blue shirt and a light blue tie. Dishonourable mentions to Joyce Bateman for a black top and trousers with a lemon yellow jacket, and to both Mark Adler and Bob Dechert for black jackets with white shirts and yellow ties.