Xtra
3 min

All together now…

Standing outside the Commons before the day began, several MPs were out ensuring that anyone entering would have a red carnation pinned on for the current MS campaign. That’s one thing that we often forget is just how important it becomes for these MPs to be seen with the right accessory of the day. For example, on top of the carnations today, many were also wearing a pin to commemorate one hundred years of the Canadian Red Cross – and this was on top of their usual MP pin that most wear (partially as a means of identification).

EI reform was yet again the main topic of discussion in Question Period, and once again, Diane Finley trotted out her favourite talking points – that the Liberals didn’t bring forward any ideas during the budget consultation process (if you recall, they tried, but Jim Flaherty wasn’t taking their calls), and that over 80% of people who’ve paid into EI get their benefits (despite other evidence to the contrary).

Gilles Duceppe picked up on the loss of our researchers to the States – not too surprising, since the high profile case came from a Montreal researcher. Tony Clement answered that it was important to have infrastructure for researchers to do work in – though you’d think that it would be just as important to have funding to do the actual research in those labs. When Duceppe then accused the Minister of having a creationist ideology, Gary Goodyear talked about how they attracted some 900 researchers. But was that before or after the cuts in the budget, or was that 900 research proposals for their recent Canada Excellence Research Chairs and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, and not actual researchers doing their work here? That’s what I’d like to know.

Bob Rae asked about the ongoing Buy America provisions in the States, and was assured that the Minister was working on it. There were questions about the seal hunt, and Martha Hall Findlay continued to ask after John Baird’s declining to appear before the Government Operations Committee (and during the reply, while Baird’s Parliamentary Secretary trotted out the usual tired lines about Liberals raising taxes, Marlene Jennings started waving her arms like a conductor shouting “All together now”).

The NDP’s new defence critic, Jack Harris, asked about the use of private security contractors in Afghanistan, and was told by Peter MacKay that all NATO countries use them, and it allows us to train the Afghans. Um, since when is “everybody else does it” a valid excuse?

Sartorially speaking, Liberal Anita Neville redeemed herself after last week’s awful mustard jacket, this time wearing a rather fetching long white jacket with a brown sunburst-like pattern across it that worked very well for her. Lisa Raitt is turning into quite the glamazon, and today wore some absolutely killer shoes – green heels with these thin black ankle straps. I noticed some increased use of fuchsia today, with Bev Oda’s jacket and top, and also Olivia Chow’s top, under a grey jacket. The style citation, however, goes out to Martha Hall Findlay for her rather…odd choice of jacket. It was white with huge black buttons, and it was cut so as to be cropped really high – above the waist – with three-quarter length sleeves, but buttoned right to the collar. Not her best choice. And the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports…a rather sober black pantsuit and shoes, with a grey and pink floral top. Wow – that’s three days in a row now that she’s worn suitable, age-appropriate ensembles in the House. This behaviour needs to be encouraged.

The other big piece of news in the House today was day two of Ruby Dhalla’s controversy with her live-in caregiver for her mother. (Note: I refuse to use the term “nanny,” nor will I add a –gate suffix). While Dhalla has been lying low, not showing up in the House for the past two days now, and Ignatieff suddenly being camera-shy, there’s a lot of whispering going on about what it means that everyone is staying back until the dust settles. Dhalla, for her part, has asked the House Ethics Commissioner to investigate as a neutral third-party.

On the topic of the Ethics Commissioner, the government says it plans to unveil a new bill to try and put the House and Senate under a single ethics officer – something that’s been tried several times under both Liberals and Conservatives, and each time, it’s failed. Senator Serge Joyal says that this time is no different – that the bill is a non-starter, that Senate independence depends on having their own independent ethics officer, and that this is just a ploy by the Conservatives to distract from their poor economic performance.

And finally, with the new Star Trek film almost upon us, the Star’s Susan Delacourt lets us all know how big of a Trekkie Jack Layton really is – though Layton’s wife, Olivia Chow, says that they’re too busy working to go to the movie opening.