Despite the absence of Michael Ignatieff from the front bench, the Liberals were in a feisty mood, and Ralph Goodale gave the House quite a show as lead questioner for the day. He used his three questions to bring up the dismal unemployment figures, but then to suggest that an economic statement was necessary by September, and that it should fix the EI system.
Harper gave a mumbling response about the fact that there would be a statement come autumn but that it was too soon to talk about specific measures, and on it went.
There is a certain amount of significance to this question-and-answer, but it’s all related to certain things brewing behind the scenes, and those things boil down to the next election. After whisperings that have been going on for the better part of a couple of weeks now, there was a report out yesterday that the Conservatives are going to be reaching out more to the Bloc and the NDP in order to prolong their hold on power until after the Olympics in 2010 – confirmed by their announcing their plans to delay next year’s budget until mid-to-late March, when a defeat on it would still leave them in the hopeful afterglow of the games.
And why not? The Olympics are a perfect venue for them to basically spend the whole time campaigning, pointing out to Canadians how much they’ve invested in the venues and the athletes (where do you think all those missing arts funding dollars have gone?) and there will be endless photo ops of the Prime Minister cheering on our athletes, and maybe looking statesmanlike with other world leaders in attendance. Bear in mind I said looking statesmanlike, rather than acting the part, since Harper governs by photo op and not by actual substantive policy. Plus, if the economy has started to rebound by then, they can totally try to take credit for it.
So what does that mean in terms of Conservative policy? Just days after Diane Finely declared that now was not the time to overhaul EI, it looks like they may be preparing to do just that in order to placate the NDP and the Bloc. They’ve also put legislation in the budget that will allow the government to regulate the credit card industry, which they may also pull out for the NDP (as credit card fees have been a hobby horse of theirs for a while now). The NDP also lists pension protection for issues they want addressed, so who knows – that too may come up.
As for the dealings with the Bloc, it already started. After Question Period, the Conservatives voted for the Bloc’s opposition day motion regarding the harmonisation of the GST & QST, despite their condescending answers about the topic in Question Period daily. (That motion passed unanimously in a standing vote, which is almost unheard of). Granted, loan guarantees for the forestry sector is the Bloc’s other big hobbyhorse right now, and that seems to be an issue under scrutiny in a London trade tribunal, so we’ll see if that happens.
The rest of Question Period, while entertaining to observe, wasn’t terribly profound. The swine flu outbreak got some additional mention. Stéphane Dion briefly stepped out from obscurity to ask about Omar Khadr, the NDP’s Charlie Angus made it day four of the great Flag Pin Fiasco (to which the Heritage Minister accused him of breaking his word on the long-gun registry).
Of the three votes after Question Period, there was another oddity aside from the unanimous vote on the Bloc Motion. Second Reading on Bill C-241, about eliminating the two-week waiting period for EI, resulted in a 138-138 tie vote, meaning that the Speaker had to break the tie. As has become precedent, the Speaker voted for the bill, thus sending it to committee.
Sartorially speaking, I was again impressed with Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan, who has been stepping up her game of late. This time, it was a beige silk jacket with Asian-esque prints across it, and while it was a good fit for her, I wasn’t crazy about the belt over it. Also Conservative backbencher Rob Clarke wore a rather bold red shirt with white cuffs and collar, along with a pink tie, so he deserves snaps for taking such a chance. On the citation side, I really wasn’t crazy about Judy Wasylycia-Leis’ salmon-coloured jacket, and that goes double for Chris Charleton’s fluorescent green one. Megan Leslie outfit watch reports an acceptable floral-embroidered grey dress, which was unfortunately covered by the same hideous mustard sweater she wore on Monday. That sweater should be burned for the good of mankind.
Elsewhere, that very interesting interview with Jason Kenney is now up on the Maclean’s site, and former Prime Minister Kim Campbell was on the witness stand at the Oliphant Inquiry, looking into the business dealings between Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber.