3 min

Disruptions in the visitor’s gallery!

Disruption in the Visitor’s Gallery! Climate Action Youth Delegates stage a flash protest during Question Period and are removed from the House of Commons by security. (Imagine that read by the narrator from The Clone Wars).

In all seriousness, when Question Period began, I was starting to wonder if there had been a cabinet shuffle that they forgot to send a memo out about. I mean, first of all, Tony Clement was answering Ralph Goodale’s questions about H1N1 vaccines, and not the designated Health Minister. And Lawrence Cannon was answering questions about potential ethical issues with a certain bridge contract in Quebec, and some of the questionable ethics involved with some contacts of a certain Senator Housakos – as though he were responsible for transportation or infrastructure.

It was during Jack Layton’s questions around pension funds that the disruptions happened. It began with one activist standing up, and being ushered out, but as soon as he was gone, another stood up to yell, and then another, many in call-and-response style – a style that betrayed their ignorance of the Parliamentary process. “I say C-311, you say sign it. C-311!” “Sign it!” Sign what? Do you see the Governor General in the House?

That said, the protest was about a hundred people ushered out over about five minutes – it didn’t suspend the House operations very long, contrary to some media assertions. And only one or two refused to go peacefully – the rest were quite cooperative, and most of Commons security didn’t look to be getting too aggressive either. Yes, one of them got bloodied, but from the sounds of it, he was also putting on a show for the cameras – like all good protesters will. (Not that he was at all articulate when he later turned up on CBC). In the end, six were briefly detained, then released and banned from the Hill for a year.

My first question after all of this was just how many of these “youth delegates” actually vote? How many of them have actually joined in the democratic process, joined parties, contributed to policy discussions? While I can’t speak for most of them, it turns out that the ringleader was in fact a delegate at the NDP convention. Interesting. How will this all play out in the days to come? I guess we’ll find out.

The rest of Question Period was fairly dull in comparison. When Martha Hall Findlay asked why she had yet to receive an answer from Treasury Board on the partisan advertising, John Baird accused her of using her MP office to fundraise for her leadership debt. Later questions on Senator Housakos and the partisan distribution of stimulus spending were met with accusations that the Liberals were just so desperate that they had resorted to “throwing mud.” Um, okay.

One government suck-up question from the nosebleed benches was around their new bill to tighten parole requirements, to which a notable heckle was “Supersize our jails!” Indeed – just as with the recently passed C-25, there don’t appear to be any figures attached to how much housing these prisoners for longer will cost the taxpayers, in penitentiaries that are already overcrowded. The government keeps insisting it won’t be much, but one figure I heard on CBC today was that it could really be something like $200 million per year – and that doesn’t count building new facilities to house them. I also have to shake my head at the government’s use of their roll-out strategy for the bill, to have backbenchers making announcements in Montreal, Winnipeg, Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver, trying to capture as much of the regional media as possible. Because they haven’t finished devaluing the Nation’s Capital quite enough just yet.

On the sartorial front, snaps go to Liberal Kirsty Duncan for her sumptuous black velvet jacket (and yay, she appears to be wearing make-up for a change), and Navdeep Bains did it once again with an excellent light blue matching turban and tie combination. The style citation goes out to Martha Hall Findlay for the fuchsia jacket paired with the black top, skirt, tights and heels. That much colour with black looks tacky and cheapens the black. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a grey dress and long sweater, which was unfortunately paired with a teal green belt and those awful greige shoes that she really, really needs to burn.

And finally, the saga of Richard Colvin, whistle-blowing diplomat continues. Now he can testify, but the government refuses to pay for his independent legal counsel. Of course. Because they’re not trying to muzzle him. Not at all.
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