Ever so slowly, Harper’s iron-fisted control began to slip away yesterday. During his carefully managed morning press event, where he bemoaned that democracy was essentially going to ruin our economy, his staffers tried to dictate which media organizations could ask questions. Having none of it, the assembled reporters kept shouting questions until Harper finally picked two (one in English and one in French) that were not on his list. He then fled the scene. Later in the day, his attempt to control the parliamentary schedule and dictate which votes his government might fall on also eluded him. When the Liberals decided to move concurrence on their contempt motion instead of having the planned budget debate, the government tried to force a vote to halt the move. The return to the budget debate would have allowed for a Bloc sub-amendment to the budget – an automatic confidence measure – to be voted on tomorrow, ahead of the Liberal non-confidence motion on Friday. However, the vote failed. Concurrence continued for the rest of the day, which pushes the budget debate to tomorrow and the Liberal vote to Friday (unless Harper decides to head over to Rideau Hall tomorrow in a fit of pique). It is increasingly apparent that Harper cannot control everything the way he has been doing, largely because the press and opposition parties have started to show a little more spine.
Harper did not show up for question period, deciding instead to wait for the Governor General to arrive for a trumped-up Royal Assent ceremony. (I say trumped-up because these things usually aren't a big production – unless Harper is trying to make a point about all the good work his government's doing on passing crime bills.) That left the opposition parties to deal with John Baird as they began testing out their election messages. Ignatieff began with the lacklustre budget and moved on to ethics questions, taking all the Liberal spots. In response, John Baird called elections “reckless.” So, time to cancel democracy then? Gilles Duceppe made it known there was nothing in the budget for Quebec. Lawrence Cannon, the Conservative designated hitter for Quebec, did his best to shame the Bloc. Daniel Paillé asked about tax harmonization, getting bluster in return from both Flaherty and Cannon. Jack Layton similarly asked about the budget deficiencies, to which Flaherty intimated that Layton needed to read the document.
Round two kicked off with questions by Gerard Kennedy about the Carson affair. He made new revelations about meetings Carson attended as a “special advisor” to cabinet ministers after he was supposedly out of public life, raising more questions about his level of access. Denis Coderre followed in French on the same issue. Questioning continued from Yves Lessard about EI changes, Robert Bouchard about the forestry sector and André Bellavance about budget cuts to Quebec's agricultural producers. Back to the Liberals, Siobhan Coady began by asking about cuts to Atlantic Canadian organizations and programs. She then made it known that the Public Service Commission is investigating appointments in the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, as a suspicious number of former Conservative political staffers and failed candidates were given jobs there. Alexandra Mendes then brought up the issue of the Champlain Bridge, demanding that the evaluation reports be tabled.
Round three saw questions on seniors living in poverty; the aforementioned Champlain Bridge; cuts to the public service; family doctors; the lack of funding for First Nations in the budget; London, Ontario's Diamond Aircraft; and Quebec's Davie shipyard.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Gary Lunn for his dazzlingly pink tie with a black suit and Lisa Raitt for her purple fitted dress with the black leather jacket and her amazing faux-snakeskin heels. Style citations go out to France Bonsant for a somewhat couchlike mustard jacket with a brown-and-mustard plaid skirt and Robert Bouchard for yet another fluorescent-blue shirt violation.
In other Bruce Carson news, it seems he went bankrupt with thousands of dollars of debt before he went to work for Harper. Now he’s paid for a house and a Mercedes for his fiancée, the former escort. My, how things change.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page and the Department of National Defence are now having a drag-out fight over the cost of those F-35 fighter jets. It seems that Page is the one coming out with numbers that sound a lot more credible than “just trust us.”
The Conservatives have launched a new attack ad on an “unnecessary election.” Because, you know, we’re supposed to cancel democracy.
Susan Delacourt looks at the state of the united right in Canada.
As the question of his health has been coming up, here is Jack Layton's interview with John Geddes.
Finally, here’s a look at the electoral landscape in Quebec.