With Harper away, and indeed, several key ministers away from the front bench, it was very likely to be Tony Clement’s chance to shine, and he was in the line of fire. The announcements regarding the auto sector reorganisation plans being rejected were the top questions from the opposition benches, but Clement said little of substance.
Where is the coordinated strategy to save the North American car industry as a whole? The American companies have leveraged all their assets for their American loans – does that mean that our loans would be unsecured? Where is the credit facility announced back in December? Could we have an auto summit to discus the future of the industry?
Clement replied to most of these with vague generalities, and when he didn’t, he went on the attack. With Ignatieff, he took a quote from his weekend BC tour wildly out of context, claiming the Liberal leader didn’t support the auto sector (neglecting to mention the part where Ignatieff said he didn’t like bailouts but preferred refundable loans). And with Layton, Clement accused him of saying that back when Layton was a city councillor in Toronto, he wanted to ban cars from the city. (This was later refuted during the Points of Order after Question Period).
The other big issue for the day was Ontario’s plans to harmonise its provincial and federal sales tax, and the federal government’s decision to offer it compensation for the transition period. The Bloc have been mighty upset about that since Friday, saying that Quebec was being treated as second-class as it didn’t get any compensation when they harmonised years ago. Even Thomas Mulcair joined in on this fight, being the NDP’s sole Quebec MP.
Both Christian Paradis and Jim Flaherty took turns explaining that the circumstances were different, that it was the Liberals who were in charge back then, and oh yeah, Quebec kept the administration of its own taxes, so that apparently makes all the difference. Or something like that. Suffice to say, neither the Bloc nor Mulcair were pleased.
Ujjal Dosanjh asked why the government was delaying on introducing new wiretap provisions that police in BC were demanding to deal with the gang violence plaguing the Greater Vancouver Area, and Peter Van Loan lauded the government’s “success” with mandatory minimum sentences, how their two current bills (C-14 and C-15) were going to make such a big difference (hint: expert opinion is that they won’t have any measurable impact), but capped it off by saying that they needed to strike a balance with regards to privacy rights. Which I think speaks volumes about this government’s approach to justice and crime in this country – that their answer is plenty of useless legislation that looks tough but will have no impact, while they don’t spend the allotted funds on actual crime prevention programmes (which would be “soft on crime” apparently) and they’re reluctant to delve into the murky waters of what police and people on the ground say needs to be done. Well done, guys. Well done.
Bill Siksay finished off Question Period today asking about a new survey of pipeline locations across BC after there was an accident involving a pipeline struck during construction because the survey it used was out of date, or something as such. John Baird said that he’ll look at the TSB report.
Sartorially, it was a pretty neutral day – nothing standing out as either brilliant or hideous, which I suppose isn’t such a bad thing. I did notice that Bev Oda’s gold-tinged cream leather jacket was a nice fit, and she paired it with a rather interesting leopard-print scarf. And that her seatmate, Rona Ambrose, chose to spend the early minutes of Question Period, showing Oda pictures on her digital camera rather than paying attention to the questions being asked. But I’m sure they’ll totally check the Hansard later.
I’ve also noticed that Conservative backbencher Chris Warkentin (who seriously looks like he’s still in high school), has been a designated seat-warmer on the front bench the past couple of weeks, often filling in for an absent cabinet minister (not in a speaking capacity – that’s left up to that minister’s Parliamentary Secretary – but rather just to make it look more full for the cameras). I’m not sure what that’s about, since I haven’t seen any other backbenchers filling in – just him.