When she walked into the House on Monday, Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt carried forward the tradition begun by many a blonde female politician – when in trouble, ditch the blonde. (You don’t believe me? Check the photos on Thursday and then Monday).
Raitt was under attack from all sides. Aside from the ongoing fallout from her handling of the isotope crisis, and then Harper’s refusing to accept her resignation after her secret documents were left in a CTV studio. But then this morning, the NDP’s Olivia Chow held a press conference asking the Auditor General to audit the Toronto Port Authority, and pointed out some financial irregularities when Raitt was the CEO – as well as the fact that the records have been sealed. As well, it is alleged that John Baird made appointments to the board of the Port Authority, increasing the numbers from seven to nine to help cover it up.
And then this story came along –Raitt’s former press secretary going to court to stop the publication of the contents of a tape where Raitt called the isotope issue “sexy,” and that she was willing to roll the dice on, while she slagged off the Health Minister, and others. And indeed in Question Period, Raitt refused to even look at Aglukkaq. It wasn’t until after six o’clock that the injunction failed and the story was printed. But there are still some questions – like just how it was that said unemployed former assistant was in a Halifax courtroom with three lawyers trying to get this injunction. Just who was bankrolling her if not the government? No one will say.
Harper wasn’t in the House today to defend Raitt, so it was mostly Raitt and Aglukkaq up on their feet defending the isotope problem, largely the fact that Raitt has been saying that all these new isotope sources will be online shortly, so let’s stop worrying. Never mind the fact that the Dutch reactor will be shut down in a month for maintenance, and then down for six months in January. Never mind that the Australian reactor, despite Raitt claiming to be ready to run in “weeks,” has no processing facility in place for the isotopes it produces. Never mind the fact that there’s no guarantee that any of these alternate sources will be supplying enough isotopes to meet domestic supply, let alone global. In the scrums in the foyer after Question Period, David McGuinty raised a very serious point about the fact that there could soon be a global bidding war on the isotope supply, and already the Americans were paying top dollar for the isotopes still being produced.
But back in the House, McGuinty’s comments fed off of Carolyn Bennett’s question about how even the “alternates” to isotopes could increase costs by as much as 30 percent, and would Health Canada be helping provinces cover the shortfall. Aglukkaq didn’t provide an answer to that.
In fact, as more isotope questions rolled out, Bennett’s heckles proved to be quite illuminating. When Aglukkaq listed possible alternatives to the isotopes, Bennett would shout out things like “Thallium hasn’t been used in 21 years! Find out why they’re not using it anymore!” or “They don’t work!” When Hedy Fry asked another question on the isotopes, and Aglukkaq responded that she was in regular contact with the medical community, Bennett (who is also a doctor, I will remind you) was shouting out “They’re really not happy!”
I will say, that for this reason, it proves to me why Question Period is a different beast in person than when you see it on television. On screen, the heckling is just background noise – the sounds of jeering, hooting baboons, if you will. But being there, you can often hear them shouting the truth to the spin. Not every time, mind you, and you often hear a lot of witless, and really tired heckles that aren’t the least bit enlightening. But now and again, it can really be worth it.
Sartorial snaps go out to Liberal Kirsty Duncan who really is improving by leaps and bounds – today with a black suit and matching short skirt, with a flattering low-cut red top and matching red ribbon tying her hair back. (If only someone could get her to a MAC counter…) But there was a whole lotta bad – Niki Ashton’s fluorescent orange jacket, Carole Lavallée’s shapeless yellow floral top, Alexandra Mendes’ shapeless olive dress (do you detect a pattern there?) It’s especially disappointing, since Lavallée and Mendes are usually pretty good for this kind of thing.
Elsewhere, it looks like the Liberals did indeed support bill C-15 on drug sentencing – even though not everyone is happy about it, and there was grumbling about having to vote for it (which I can personally attest to hearing).
Up today: the blood in the water around Raitt.