For Opposition MPs, their duties in the House are often determined by their roles as critics – the file they're expected to know in order to properly oppose or criticise government policy in that area of expertise. For the six openly gay and lesbian MPs in the Commons, five of them have critic portfolios within their respective caucuses, so if part of this blog's role is going to be celebrating their achievements, then we should get to know that they'll be up to in the new session.
For the NDP, both of their out MPs have fairly important critic roles:
- Libby Davies is a woman of many hats (though she's more partial to scarves) – she's the party's Deputy Leader, their House Leader (who negotiates with the other House Leaders to determine the order of business in the Commons), as well as their critic on Justice, Substance Abuse and Prostitution Issues. I'll be looking to see if her report on sex laws resurfaces in this Parliament.
- Bill Siksay is the party's critic on Ethics, Access to Information and Privacy. That was one of the more contentious committees in the last Parliament, so if he's taking that on, it could mean he'll be facing some high-profile issues. Siksay is also the party's dedicated critic on GLBTT issues.
For the Bloc, Réal Méndard has a couple of different critic roles – his files include Justice and the Attorney General, as well as issues relating to the region of Montreal.
For the Liberals, two of their three openly gay MPs have critic roles:
- Scott Brison has one of the most high-profile critic roles as the party's new Finance critic. Given the current economic crisis gripping the country and the world, Brison is going to be one of the faces the party puts forward the most to talk about the issue.
- Mario Silva is the critic for Foreign Affairs (Americas). I know that Silva has been on several foreign affairs committees in the past and has been trying to draw attention to GLBT issues abroad, so he'll likely carry through on that dedication in his new role.
- Newly elected MP Rob Oliphant is currently without a critic portfolio, but we'll be keeping an eye out for what committees he'll be a member of as an indication of areas he'll be gaining some expertise in.
- And because she's an honorary drag queen and diva in her own right, Hedy Fry is the new critic for Heritage, while Carolyn Bennett is the Health Critic – and seeing as she was once Minister of State for Public Health and was an advocate of harm reduction strategies, we'll be looking to her to keep the government in line on that file.
Brison and Davies in particular will be seeing a lot of action in Question Period when their respective leaders are away. Already on Friday, a day when Question Period is often staffed by the "b-" or even "c-" teams of the parties while leaders and big hitters head out of town for weekend engagements across the country, they were the first up for their respective parties. While Brison took aim at this government's economic policies (which the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said are the reason we're now flirting with a deficit – and not the global economic crisis), Davies took aim at auto-sector bail-outs and her party's new "kitchen table" issue of credit card rates.
Fry also was up to bat and asked about the cuts to arts and culture funding, but for as much as the Conservatives like to say that they increased the budget for the Heritage department, remember that the money was directed to sports programmes and the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver – not to actual arts or culture.