The private comments of not one, but two cabinet ministers were the blood in the water, and the sharks were circling. Now that Lisa Raitt’s taped comments about how medical isotopes were a “sexy” issue were out in the open, added to the fact that John Baird told Toronto that “they should fuck off” with respect to an infrastructure funding application – within earshot of reporters – it was going to be another day of baying for blood.
Both Harper and Ignatieff were in the House, and they squared off – Ignatieff painting an image of a woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and in need of the kinds of tests requiring medical isotopes, and thus began the daily meme of “just what is so sexy about cancer?” Harper only gave Ignatieff the usual non-answers about how hard his ministers were working on the file, and how dare the Opposition play “cheap politics” over it. Err, that sounds a lot like pots calling kettles black, because I can offhand name a dozen ways in which the Conservatives are playing cheap politics on all kinds of issues. And when either of the other two leaders got up to ask their own questions of Raitt’s conduct, Harper left it up to Raitt and Aglukkaq to answer. Aglukkaq kept reiterating that this was a serious issue – and Raitt, giving credit where credit is due, was thinking on her feet rather than just reading the same pre-prepared notes that her colleague was, even going for the empathy note as she gave an impassioned speech about just how much the government did indeed care.
It wasn’t until the second round of questions that Liberal MP Rob Oliphant stood up to ask about Baird’s comments. Baird, unlike Raitt, apologised for his comments, which he says were spoken “out of frustration,” and things moved along. But I have to wonder if Oliphant was given the question simply as a Toronto MP who wasn’t seized with either the isotope crisis or economic portfolios – or if, as a former man of the cloth, that he commands greater gravitas when it comes to moral indignation?
Immediately after, the Bloc’s Christiane Gagnon asked about the various slips and gaffes the government has been making, making mention of the loss of those precious metals including gold at the Mint. Well, we now learned that the Mint’s audit couldn’t account for the losses, so they have now called in the RCMP. A possible gold heist? Does that too qualify as sexy?
As more isotope questions, Raitt tried to defend her work in bringing alongside our international partners, as the Dutch were set to increase their production by 50 percent and the South Africans by 30 percent – but this little release came out over email, and the Liberals have found some pretty damning statistics that Raitt seems eager to gloss over. And that I think is the real story – that she’s so busy trying to spin the “good news” of this sexy crisis (that she felt would be good for her career advancement as early as the end of January) that she’s conveniently leaving out the facts and not planning for the worst case scenarios, like the fact that the Americans will start a bidding war on existing isotope supplies, and that despite all of the alternatives they keep trotting out (which are more expensive and less effective), apparently paediatric cancers need these specific isotopes to be detected. We need Raitt to level with us, and she’s not. (Incidentally, it looks like Raitt’s whole taped conversation – five hours’ worth – is going to keep producing goodies for days to come. Next up on the slagging-off list is apparently going to be Jim Prentice, for whom she accuses of pandering to the oil sector. I wonder who will be next).
Sartorially speaking, there was nothing really deserving of snaps, but there were a few bad choices. Gérard Asselin’s red shirt-with-khaki jacket was certainly eye-catching, but not necessarily in a good way. Josée Verner’s black top under white sweater was accessorised by a scarf tied around her neck, and rather porn-starlet-ish JBF hair. But rocking it eighties style was Ève-Marie Thaï Thi Lac, with a jean jacket complete with big shoulders and decorative zippers, paired with a black skirt. Thi Lac is usually one of the style mavens of the House, so I’m really not sure what to make of this rather retro trip.
Elsewhere, there was a vote earlier in the day in the Commons, during which the Opposition rejected the government’s motion to extend the sitting into the summer. I haven’t yet seen the Hansard from those debates (they don’t get posted until later in the morning), but I have a feeling the government was arguing that they just have so many law and order bills to put through that they need these extra days or weeks to pass them all. Which is of course a lot of nonsense, and they’re just manufacturing a bunch of moral panic to try and pass ineffective laws that they say will combat crime but really won’t.
George Stroumboulopoulos interviewed Don Newman on The Hour on Monday night, and last night it was Her Excellency. There was some great discussion about diplomacy “ on a human scale,” and the way she works as Governor General. Most illuminating, however, was this was the first time she spoke out about The Madness, and her decision to prorogue Parliament. Her Excellency said that she consulted, and made the decision based on what she felt would be in the best interest of the country – and there certainly has been much commentary on the fact a that a coalition government could have been a provocation for a national unity crisis that the Conservatives would have provoked – but that she has no regrets about her decision. Both interviews are certainly worth checking out.