3 min

Getting off the Hill is not really reaching out

The Conservatives don’t seem to be all that shy about their growing contempt for Parliament, as their continued propensity for off-the-Hill news conferences demonstrates. This time it’s a cross-country blitz on their forthcoming white-collar crime bills, with events staged in Edmonton and Montreal, making simultaneous announcements. Never mind that it costs a lot more money, and that it bypasses the mechanisms in place for these kinds of announcements – no, it’s “reaching out” to regional media, and more importantly, if you listen to the Justice Minister, it’s putting pressure on Parliament to pass those bills.

Um, okay. None of the other parties are debating the need for these measures on principle, but your politicising the issue isn’t winning you any points – especially when you accuse them once again of being “soft on crime” when they’re on your side. How does that work again, exactly? Suffice to say, this continual practice of heading off the Hill to make announcements is an abuse of process, and a waste of those taxpayer dollars that you declared “precious” not so long ago.

The Liberals spent the morning launching Pink Book III – their new policy platform on women’s issues. To mark the occasion, all Liberal MPs (and some Senators) wore pink roses on their lapels. They paid mention to this during Members’ Statements – especially Hedy Fry’s use of tying her congratulations for Jean Chrétien’s induction into the Order of Merit in with Chrétien’s record of accomplishments with regards to women – largely in the number of women he appointed to important positions under his leadership.

But did Ignatieff ask about women’s issues in Question Period? Erm, no. He focused once again on the whole issue of novelty cheques, and the fact that nearly two-thirds of the recreational facility infrastructure funds have gone to Conservative ridings. Tony Clement was the designated hitter for the government, and he assured the House that the government was focused on economic recovery. And no, that wasn’t an answer to the question asked. (The Liberals did have only women – other than Ignatieff – asking the questions in honour of the Pink Book release, so that was something).

Gilles Duceppe asked about judicial discretion in sentencing for white-collar crime (which Christian Paradis assured the House that they were getting tough on it), and Jack Layton asked after climate change, to which Tony Clement assured him that the government was going to Copenhagen to get a comprehensive agreement on the subject. Really? And how are you going to get an agreement when you don’t any proposals, or a record to show for it? Just asking.

When questions turned to the matter of Richard Colvin and his reports on Afghan prisoner abuse, Peter MacKay again danced around the question, and wanted the House to know that Canada is now training female prison guards in Afghanistan. Great – but that wasn’t even close to resembling an answer to the question. When Marlene Jennings asked on the same subject, MacKay repeated the line about female prison guards, but also wanted the House to know that these abuse allegations were never proven. Um, maybe because you’ve been hampering the efforts to investigate them? Possibly?

On the sartorial front, I have to say that I quite liked Marlene Jennings’ white shirt with the banded collar under the grey jacket with the dark piping. I wasn’t so crazy about Yasmin Ratansi’s pale green jacket over a shiny collared shirt that I suspect had some kind of zebra-stripe pattern on it, but I couldn’t tell for all the reflection from the lights. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a light blue top with a ruffled v-neck under a black suit, but I couldn’t see the shoes (which I certainly hope weren’t those awful greige ones).

After Question Period, the Government House Leader and the three opposition leaders all stood up to congratulate the Speaker on his record tenure in the chair. The Speaker said that while he missed being able to participate in debates and get into the heckling, he enjoyed the job.
(The Globe and Mail has an interview with Milliken here).

Elsewhere, embattled Conservative Senator Housakos is now accusing a fellow Conservative of trying to discredit him. Ooh – drama! As well, likely in retaliation for the novelty cheques issue, one Conservative MP is now complaining about Liberal MPs using their websites for fundraising. I wonder if tomorrow we’ll hear about how many of his party’s MPs are doing the very same thing – or if they were until two days ago when their sites were suddenly scrubbed – or something like that.

And finally, Her Excellency arrived in the Republic of Slovenia today for her state visit. She’s seen here with the country’s president.

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