University of Toronto
3 min

A heckle-free day in the House

It being Persons Day, Equal Voice decided to put out the challenge to all of the parties in the House not to heckle or catcall during Question Period, so that they could show all the girls they were bringing to watch that it wasn’t such a hostile place after all. I – and most of my compatriots – rolled my eyes in that cynical Press Gallery journalist way and said “Yeah – that’ll happen.” But they wound up surprising us. This was probably the quietest Question Period I’ve ever seen. The odd outburst was quickly shushed, and honestly, it was a bit disconcerting. But also, because the questions, and especially the government responses, were still laden with partisan jibes rather than a lot of substance, it just made the whole thing that much more… stilted. It also demonstrated that we really lack a substantial debating culture in this country.

Just before QP got started, Libby Davies gave a statement about Equal Voice’s challenge, which was then echoed by Bloc MP Christiane Gagnon, Liberal Raymonde Folco and Conservative Kelly Block.

Michael Ignatieff began QP by relaying a question from his “open mic” tour from Derek, who wanted to know about government spending priorities. Stephen Harper responded with a bunch of nonsense about Liberals raising taxes, grounding the Air Force and turning prisoners out onto the streets. Ignatieff took the full first round, using the last two questions to ask about why Harper was insinuating that Canada was the only country at the UN with any principles? Harper responded that secret votes made it difficult to predict how they would go.

Gilles Duceppe and Diane Bourgeois asked about the latest Christian Paradis/Parliament Hill renovation revelations, which are that the consultant the government hired to smooth over the contract disputes donated to the Conservatives and attended their fundraisers. But mention that Christian Paradis is starting to look a lot like Alfonso Gagliano and John Baird gets very upset and lectures you about decorum. (No, seriously.) Jack Layton asked about the audit of national emergency response plans, to which Leona Aglukkaq said that things were good, we can respond to emergencies, just like we did with H1N1. Err, is that really our best example?

Alexandra Mendes went on to ask about deficit spending, Navdeep Bains about the lack of government care for small businesses – especially when women make up 47 percent of small business owners and there is nothing for them in terms of childcare or homecare. (Flaherty responded by talking about lowering taxes.) Jean-Yves Laforest wanted to know about guarantees for cultural sectors in a potential Canada-EU trade agreement, and Michel Guimond asked about stimulus deadlines. Ruby Dhalla asked about delays to spousal support payments, and Hedy Fry and Bernard Patry tag-teamed questions about health transfer fees to the provinces.

From there questions moved back to Paradis and on to the new Public Science website, international protocols on bio-safety, pension reform, the RCMP “whistleblowers” being fired, the lengthy wait (up to four months) for people who need criminal background checks, using CMHC surpluses to let provinces use the money for housing, and workplace health and safety violation charges being levelled on the Hill. Wrapping it all up was Libby Davies asking about people being delayed in getting their medical marijuana.

Sartorially speaking, it was a bit of a blah day, but I should give snaps to the superb tailoring demonstrated by Carolyn Bennett, with her very smart grey suit and crisp white shirt, as well as Judy Foote’s light grey dress and jacket. Style citations, however, go out to LaVar Payne for his unfortunate choice of a grey suit with a black shirt with a white collar – and a white tie. Also, I had some trouble with Lisa Raitt’s pink leather jacket with the pink striped shirt, which I could almost live with, until she decided to wear a huge pink/red/blue scarf on top of that, only I’m less sure that it was a scarf and not a whole Navajo blanket wrapped around her neck – it was a bit much. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a perfectly nice purple sweater with a grey top, but they were accessorized by grey shoes and a thin purple belt – an obvious mismatch. So close!

Oh, look – Vic Toews is snubbing the Public Safety committee over questions about the whole CSIS director and potential foreign influence issue. But I thought this was the era of enhanced ministerial accountability? Right?

The Privacy Commissioner is spanking Google over its privacy invasions. Too bad our privacy laws are so out of date that we can’t impose fines, unlike the laws of other countries (and yet, this bit of modernization is languishing on the committee’s agenda).

I’m unsure about the Conservatives’ messages about women – they’re all victims when it comes to sex work, but we shouldn’t focus on women who suffer from pay inequity; instead, we should just celebrate those who make it in the business world? Can you please explain that one for us, Candice Hoeppner?

And finally, more revelations about the lack of a competition process for the F-35 fighters. Imagine that.
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