University of Toronto
3 min

Happy parallel universe election day!

If you lived in the parallel universe where Stephen Harper hadn’t broken his own fixed election date law, then yesterday would have been a federal election. So I wish the denizens of that parallel universe well. But in this reality, there were a lot of questions about government partisan spending to be asked, and no Prime Minister in the House to answer them.

Question Period began with Michael Ignatieff asking about the links between Senator Leo Housakos and the infrastructure funds that the company he was the Vice President of. And that topic carried through with Gilles Duceppe and, later, the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair. Transport Minister John Baird continually stood up and demanded that his questioners brought forward any evidence – despite it being all out in the media – and even invited them to repeat any accusations outside of the House, where they didn’t have the protection of Parliamentary Privilege. Baird also kept up his rather incredulous pretence that this government is open and transparent – even though it is repeatedly proven that this is far from the case. (Witness the Halifax Chronicle-Herald’s bureau chief attempting to get spending figures from the black hole of “open” and “transparent” government). Incidentally, the aforementioned Senator is going to be on Her Excellency’s state visit to Greece next week – though one can imagine that he’ll want to get out of the country a few days early.

The rest of Question Period was a pretty mixed bag. When asked by the Bloc about his refusal to update Access to Information laws, Rob Nicholson erroneously referred to their success with the so-called “Accountability Act.” When Jack Layton asked after his climate change bill, C-311, he was informed that such a bill would “devastate” our economic recovery. Vic Toews refused to answer Martha Hall Findlay’s demands for just how much it cost to set up that “report card” press release in Cambridge, Ontario – though John Baird said that half of the costs were for printing the reports in the first place. A likely story.

When Liberal Wayne Easter pointed out that the Conservatives have put up Economic Action Plan™ signs for a routine replacement of doorknobs in a PEI RCMP building, denoting an abuse of advertising for partisan purposes, John Baird brought up photos of Easter handing out giant novelty cheques. What he failed to mention was that those cheques a) were not in Liberal party colours or have the Liberal party logo, b) was not made to look like it came from Easter’s account, and most importantly c) did not have Easter’s signature. But hey, what’s context, right?

You could also tell that Peter MacKay was on the defensive on the Richard Colvin questions. While he skirted the questions, claiming that the memos in question never reached his desk when he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and later Minister of Defence – even though they were addressed to senior ADMs – he later turned to old tropes of accusing the opposition of caring more about the lives of Taliban prisoners than they did about our soldiers. Really. In a scrum after Question Period, Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh suggested that there was no plausible explanation for MacKay not having seen those memos, and that the lengths MacKay was going to in order to avoid answering suggested that he was hiding something. This government? Hiding something? Never!

Best heckle of the day goes to Liberal Todd Russell, who shouted, “What’s the mandatory minimum for cheque fraud?” when Nicholson touted his new white-collar crime bill after a suck-up question.

Sartorially speaking, it was a pretty bland day. Snaps go to Candice Hoeppner for her shiny red jacket over a chocolate dress with a flattering plunging neckline. The style citation goes out to Cheryl Gallant, for whom pumpkin is not a good colour.

Elsewhere, it seems that there’s still no price tag attached to Bill C-25, which would eliminate time-served credits (which is currently held up in the Senate). Apparently we’re just supposed to trust that it’ll all turn out for the best while they pursue failed American tough-on-crime measures.

Up today – Michael Ignatieff begins his day by “sharing a story” with the children of a senior pre-kindergarten class in Ottawa. One more reason I could never, ever envy him his job. Ever.
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