After Obama appeared on an American news program and said that he didn’t want to start any trade wars, the drums warning of protectionist threats slackened off a little in the Commons yesterday. And so Michael Ignatieff began by asking about the auto sector. But that was by no means the dominant theme during Question Period.
In fact, childcare was one of the biggest hot-button issues, first brought up by Liberal Judy Sgro, then later Jack Layton, and Ken Dryden. This after reports came out today that fifteen thousand childcare spaces in Ontario are threatened because their federal funding has expired. And each time the question came up, Minister of Human Resources Diane Finley would say that there were not cuts to funding, but that it was going up by three percent, and since they came to office, some sixty thousand new childcare spaces across the country were created. Huh? Really? Because last I checked, not one single space had been created as a result of their efforts. And when Ken Dryden asked his question, as full of the kind of gravitas that only he can manage, Finley only talked about their “universal child care benefit” programme. What’s that? Finley not actually talking about the subject at hand? She’s never done that before.
A report that radiation was discovered in Ottawa sewage sludge was similarly a big issue, and Lisa Raitt was actually pretty on the ball today. She said it was likely from the medical isotope Iodine 131 (which the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says is the likely culprit), and not the incident at Chalk River in December. And while Raitt was actually performing fairly well in pointing out that no radioactive materials were released into the Ottawa River, she neglected to mention the release of radioactive tritium into the atmosphere from Chalk River around the same time as the heavy water leak. Oops.
(Incidentally, Raitt’s decision not to wear a jacket yesterday, but to simply wear a black turtleneck, actually worked on her – though not quite as well as something designed to give her a waist would).
Bloc MP Carole Lavallée’s crusade against the “foreign arts subsidy” is apparently a bit misplaced. It’s going to be the most generous arts prize in the world, destined to help Canada brand itself internationally. Except that it won’t actually do a lot to help local artists. Add to that, Heritage Minister James Moore read out a quote from the president of the Just For Laughs festival to prove how the arts community wanted to thank the government for their good work. Err, except that Just For Laughs was one of two festivals in Montreal that got increased funding (the other being the Jazz Festival), while all others either got no new money or faced cuts. But that’s just an inconvenient omission.
One other note was that in her Members’ Statement before Question Period, MP Marlene Jennings got up to speak about Black History Month, and talked about her election as the first Black MP from Quebec, and how she is currently the only Black Member of the House of Commons. It was a nice reminder of our own achievements at a time when the world is still fawning over Obama. (Also, Jennings’ caramel-coloured leather jacket was a rather inoffensive choice, unlike some of her previous choices).
Later in the day, the Ethics, Access to Information and Privacy committee got underway with its new member, Bill Siksay, now aboard.