4 min

A rather deafening silence

Women were one of the main topics of discussion on the Hill. Equal Voice issued Challenge 2009, which is aimed at increasing the number of women in Parliament, and during Members Statements, all three Opposition party leaders stood up to accept the challenge and tout their accomplishments in getting more women elected. As well, nearly all opposition MPs wore big black buttons that said “Elect More Women.” It was conspicuous that the government neither pledged their support for Equal Voice’s challenge, nor did any but a mere one or two of their female MPs wear said pins.

It was also instructive that late in Question Period, a Liberal question on whether the government would support Equal Voice’s challenge went unanswered, and when reminded of the many cuts they’ve made to women’s equality in this country, the House was told by the Minister of State for the Status of Women that these were just “crazy stories.” Seriously.

Libby Davies also gave a Members’ Statement regarding her participation in a Women’s housing march in Vancouver’s downtown east side:

Mr. Speaker, this past week I had the privilege to join women for the third annual downtown eastside women's march for housing in Vancouver. Many of the women who marched live in shelters, on the street, and in dangerous and unstable housing. Still, they are strong and determined in their fight for social housing, child care and health care for all.
These women have a clear message for all levels of government and I am pleased to bring it forward here today. The women of the downtown eastside are calling for a stop to evictions and the provision of affordable safe housing, recognizing the needs of people before Olympic profits, and a stop to the criminalization of the poor.
I would like to thank the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre Power of Women Group for speaking out on these important issues. In the words of the Power of Women Group:
Although we are still suffering in shelters and on the streets, we are not yet defeated! We are making our voices heard, we are bringing empowerment into our lives, we are fighting for positive change, and we are expressing the humanity of our neighbourhood. We hope all of you will join us.

Medical isotopes remained top of the agenda during Question Period. Harper said that it was the government’s priority to get the Chalk River reactor back on-line, and Lisa Raitt said that she was showing leadership by sending out a call to action for the other isotope producing nations to coordinate their maintenance schedules during this period of shortages. But when asked if they would implement a PET-scan plan in order to deal with the shortfall, the Health Minister simply said that they were doing better with alternatives and that they were working with the provinces, prompting Liberal Carolyn Bennett to cry out “Are you joking?”

Minutes later, when Liberal Kirsty Duncan asked about how the World Health Organisation was paying special attention to Canada because of cases of H1N1 among First Nations, Aglukkaq said that there was no evidence to show that it was predominantly affecting First Nations communities. (Bennett shouted, “It’s basic arithmetic!”) But it was extremely disappointing to see the Conservatives shouting down Duncan on her supplementary, which tried to sound the alarm as the First Nations were disproportionately affected during the 1918 outbreak. Duncan, I will remind you, is a scientist who studied the causes of that outbreak. She was part of the group that won the 2007 Nobel Prize with Al Gore. She knows her shit. It’s contemptible to see the Conservatives try and dismiss her on a pandemic issue like this.

The biggest surprise during Question Period was when Liberal Irwin Cotler asked about Abfousian Abdelrazik – whom the Federal Court ordered returned to Canada some two weeks ago – and was finally told that the government will comply with the Court’s order.

Sartorial snaps go out to gay MP Rob Oliphant, because I really like his purple striped shirt and tie. Style citations go out to some usual suspects – Rona Ambrose for yet another shapeless sack-like dress – this time blue with grey patterning – under a dark-grey jacket. Also to Josée Verner for the unflattering patterned brown dress she wore under a brown sweater. It was too much brown for her fake tanned complexion. And the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports that unfortunate grey dress with the white and yellow floral pattern, paired with grey-brown shoes.

Back on the Chalk River file, it looks like Raitt is trying to pressure AECL to get it back up and running in less than the “at least three months” that they said it would take to fix. This doesn’t bode well. Also, check out this very good video report done by the CBC on what is going on with Chalk River and the MAPLE project.

Meanwhile, the Alberta finance minister told a Toronto audience that raising children “properly” requires the financial sacrifice of one parent staying home to look after them, and that it’s a lack of education that’s causing mental illness and crime. Really? I mean, I know she’s somewhat out of touch with reality, but really? She later gave a written statement of apology, but it was pretty weak and demonstrates just how much in a fantasy world that province’s government is.

Up today: It’s the last sitting day before the summer, and they’ve got votes on the Opposition motion (which is about coming back a week early in September, then taking the next week off for the G20 meeting, and then having the budget report and Liberal opposition day the week after), then the main and supplementary budget votes, which are slated to get underway by 1, after which point they all get to head home. Originally these votes weren’t supposed to happen until 10pm, but now that cooler heads have prevailed, the kids get out of school early on the last day of classes.