The government’s report card on the economic stimulus package came out today, and wouldn’t you just know it – they gave themselves an “A.” Harper waxed poetic about all the wonderful things they were doing, like how 80 percent of stimulus funds were being implemented across the country, and in such record time. Funny how the opposition sees it a little differently.
Citing projects announced as much as two years ago that have yet to even break ground, the fact that the mayors just last weekend complained that they have yet to see funds, and that the government’s own figures say that only 42 percent of infrastructure funds have even been earmarked, and far less actually spent – well, it’s little surprise that the Liberals are less than impressed. But will they actually bring the government down over it?
That really is the question as we head into the weekend. The Bloc stated in Question Period that they’re not going to support it. The NDP said as much outside of the House. And Ignatieff? Well, at a town hall in Montreal, he said that unlike the other two parties, he was actually going to read the update, and seriously ponder it. According to The Canadian Press, Ignatieff is genuinely torn about it – is it in his interest to bring down the government now and plunge us into a summer election? Even though his poll numbers continue to improve?
And the Conservatives have continued to play games over the timing of this all. Originally the Liberals’ opposition day was set for June 23rd – the last day of the sitting – but that’s been moved up to the 19th. Only the House never votes on Fridays, because a lot of MPs will head off to their ridings that day, while party leaders and cabinet ministers will head out across the country to make announcements. What does this mean? Will it mean they delay the vote until the following Monday? Will they vote to end the session early, on that day? It may all depend on what the Liberals decide this weekend. Oh, the drama of it all!
Of course, the other story continues to be medical isotopes, and armed with all this new testimony from the nuclear medicine experts, and MDS Nordion – the company that actually prepares the isotopes once their precursor isotope has been produced by the Chalk River reactor – questions were asked about Harper’s comments about getting out of the isotope business altogether. And there was disagreement – the industry says the MAPLE reactors can work, while Raitt says the never will work, they never produced isotopes, and it’s all Ralph Goodale’s fault when he was minister.
(Later in the afternoon, MDS Nordion officials and other nuclear experts met the Natural Resources committee and said that yes, one of the MAPLE reactors did actually produce isotopes and that one reactor can supply the world’s needs. Other experts said that our abandoning the field would be a tragedy as we were the first out of the gate and are world leaders – despite the Conservatives attempting to paint it all now as a financial sinkhole).
There were a few other notable exchanges in Question Period, such as when Carolyn Bennett asked about the availability of isotopes for children with cancer, since no other alternative is safe. And when Leona Aglukkaq stood up to talk about alternatives, there were collective of shouts of “No, there aren’t!” And Aglukkaq did really appear to be flailing. When asked about the revelation from the Raitt Tape that funds for wind power were diverted to the oil sands, Jim Prentice said it was nonsense, then avoided answering the question. And when John McCallum asked for actual numbers of jobs created and cheques cut for infrastructure funds, Jim Flaherty danced around it by saying that we got our infrastructure funding out before Obama did. Um, okay?
Sartorial snaps for the day go to Navdeep Bains, who very astutely matched his light blue turban to his shirt colour. This contrasted to fellow Sikh Liberal Grubax Mahli, whose turban was a cool purple colour, but it did not go with anything else he was wearing. Style citations are handed out to Chris Charlton for her fluorescent orange jacket (just because you’re a member of the NDP, it doesn’t mean you can wear orange, let along a shade that bright), and Gail Shea for her enormously boxy fuchsia jacket and top. And the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a summery blue-grey dress with a white floral pattern on top, paired with brownish shoes. Again, not hideous, but there is significant room for improvement.
And finally, it was Don Newman’s retirement party on the Hill, and there were some pretty excellent speeches, including one from Libby Davies on behalf of the NDP caucus. One thing everyone talked about was the way Newman was fair to everyone, and he is one journalist in the Press Gallery that I will miss terribly when he is no longer on the air five days a week.