3 min

Detainees or Copenhagen?

It was an exciting start to the day in the Nation’s Capital as a group of twenty Greenpeace activists scaled both the West Block and the Centre Block, near the Senate entrance, to hang giant banners about climate change. Twenty activists were arrested, to be charged with mischief, but now the RCMP is red-faced about the apparent lapse in security on the Hill. (My first reaction – that stunts like this are going to ruin it for everyone, since the accessibility of our Parliament is something that sets us apart). Not that Greenpeace is talking about how they got up there, though there is speculation it may have been via the scaffolding on the north side of the West Block, where they are rebuilding the masonry of those crumbling towers. The CBC, meanwhile, looks at Hill security breaches past.

The subject, however, did not come up during Question Period. That was dominated by a mixture of questions on the Afghan detainee issue as well as the Copenhagen conference. I’m sure the opposition is having a hell of a time trying to figure out which is their greater priority – calling out the minister for contradicting himself on the Afghan detainee question now that they’re on a roll with it, or changing gears to address climate change when the Liberals at least know they’re just going to get the tired (and contextually problematic) “thirteen years on inaction” retorts. Decisions, decisions…

Ignatieff rolled those dice and came up with detainees – so he went for it. Just what about those resurfaced reports of prisoner mistreatment? We’ve been over this before, John Baird insisted. That Afghan in question was never a Canadian detainee handed over, so we’re going to play semantic games over this. And stop smearing the troops while you’re at it. No, seriously – he kept insisting that. I know, I know – it doesn’t make sense. But he keeps saying it.

David McGuinty took the second set of questions, and asked about Copenhagen, but when the environment minister stood up to give his usual obfuscation on the subject, he was met by cries of “Why aren’t you there?” from the opposition benches. Duceppe and Layton both stuck to the climate change issue.

It was round two when the Liberals returned to the detainee questions, and when Peter MacKay’s parliamentary secretary, Laurie Hawn, who got to reiterate Baird’s line about this being an old story, Dosanjh was shouting across “Is General Deschamps lying?” When Marlene Jennings asked about all the redacted documents, the Justice Minister stood up to explain about the “three part test” that non-partisan civil servants engage in when redacting documents, but Jennings kept heckling that “he’s participating in a cover-up!”

(Incidentally, The Canadian Press’ digging into the Access to Information documents reveals that the government was treating Afghanistan like a political exercise, where image trumped policy, based on their drafting of talking points back in 2006. Not that this government would ever do something like forgo good policy in the face of optics.)

Bev Oda emerged briefly from front-bench obscurity to answer questions about why KAIROS lost their CIDA funding, explaining time and again that tough choices needed to be made. “A white stretch or a black stretch?” Dominic LeBlanc called out, referencing of course Oda’s penchant for taking limousines at the taxpayer’s expense.

And Bill Siksay got a question today, however it was about the HST and the lack of consultation, which James Moore gave a suitably partisan non-answer to.

Sartorially speaking, there were some very nice purple ties that caught my eye – like Jean-Claude D’Amours’ very shiny one, as well as Geoff Regan and Gary Goodyear’s more lavender ones. I also kind of liked Ruby Dhalla’s high-necked houndstooth jacket and skirt. The style citation goes out to Cheryl Gallant for the choice of a tan jacket with orange trim, paired with a matching skirt. You can’t pull off those autumn tones – so please stop trying.

Elsewhere, Bob Rae is forcefully denying that he had any part in these rumblings about leadership changes. Not that we expected anything differently.

Harper has announced that Toronto will indeed host the G20 Summit on June 26th and 27th next year. Out of curiosity – this is right before Toronto Pride, is it not? And only because they pushed it back a week this year, right? So they’re holding this at a time when all the hotels are going to be booked to capacity, and they’re going to have diplomats, functionaries and protesters from around the world all at the same time. Oh, Toronto – you’re going to have so much fun.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but when did it become common practice for the non-partisan civil service Health Canada communications shop begin sending out partisan broadsides on behalf of the Minister regarding legislation in the Senate? Just wondering…

And Her Excellency continues her tour of Mexico, meeting yesterday with the country’s president.

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