University of Toronto
3 min

Disingenuousness as defence

Everyone was on edge as Question Period was about to begin. Except maybe Michael Ignatieff’s wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, who was in the gallery facing him, blowing a kiss before the show started.

After outlining his four “questions” for the government in that morning’s press conference, Ignatieff stood up to ask about the current shortage of isotopes in the country. To which Harper assured him that they were working with suppliers, and that there were enough isotopes available to manage. For his second question, Ignatieff asked about Harper’s statement that Canada would be getting out of the isotope business altogether. Harper quoted the $600 million spent on the MAPLE reactors, and that this was not a new policy, though given the way we keep re-licensing the NRU, one might think that it in fact was.

Later isotope-related questions revealed that Health Canada had given regulatory approval to isotopes due to come from Australia (but don’t they lack the capability to process the isotopes?). When Carolyn Bennett mentioned how the Minister’s new advisor said that Canada throwing away its nuclear medicine expertise was “criminal,” Aglukkaq said that she welcomed said advisor’s valuable contribution.

There were some hints during Question Period as to what Harper would later talk about in his press conference – like telling the Bloc how important it was to pass the supply estimates on Friday to keep stimulus money flowing (which, I will remind you, is a disingenuous statement), and that the changes they’re proposing to the EI system revolve around the self-employed rather than a national eligibility standard for the duration of the recession.

There are no sartorial snaps to distribute for Monday, but plenty of warnings to deliver. Like to Diane Finley – hot pink is not your colour, even if the shape of the outfit worked. Or to Stockwell Day – these beige summer jackets are all well and good, but given your propensity for fake tans, it does you no favours. And Lisa Raitt – never wear a double-breasted jacket again. Please. But the style citations go out to Josée Verner for that mostly shapeless green-patterned-on-white dress paired with a white sweater – find something with a little more shape. And Rona Ambrose – what the hell was that top? It was yellow with brown speckles and grey patches, and it looked like it was made of velour, and the way it was long and flowing at the bottom and the sleeves, yet hiked up under the bust – it looked like maternity wear. (No, I’m not starting a “baby bump” rumour). And in case you’re keeping track, the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a medium grey suit with a coral pink top beneath. I didn’t get a look at the shoes, but she does seem to be dressing a little more age-appropriate of late.

After Question Period, in the foyer, was probably the most instructive part of the day, however. While Harper groused at the opening of his press conference that he was expecting questions during Question Period – which he actually got – a senior Liberal (and I’ll use that term rather than said individual’s name as I don’t know if the conversation I overheard was on the record or not) was explaining to one reporter that Ignatieff didn’t return to the subject of his “ultimatum” questions because he was moving onto the business of the nation – not playing politics.

But for all his protests, Harper is indeed playing politics. The Canadian Press has confirmed that indeed, nearly 90 percent of stimulus funds would indeed flow during an election. The PMO sent over a partial list of programmes affected by the estimates not passing, and there are some important programmes on there, however Ignatieff has a simple way to get around that – pass the estimates, and vote non-confidence in their own Opposition Day motion.

Meanwhile, all three opposition parties have vowed to gut the new Conservative bill that would limit conditional sentencing. Because it looks like they’re finally waking up about just how bad some of these proposed “law-and-order” bills really are.

Up today: Harper and Ignatieff are going to have their first face-to-face meeting (outside of the House) since January to see if they can’t Make Parliament Work™. Also, votes on both the NDP and Bloc opposition motions, though neither of them appears to be confidence measures.