While we wait on tenterhooks as to just what the outcome of the Harper-Ignatieff talks was, we do know that they had two meetings today, and they’re due for a third tomorrow, and so far, almost no one is talking. The one rumour we’ve heard is that they’re talking about a “blue-ribbon panel” to examine EI over the summer, with the Liberal choosing two of the panel’s members. That the talks have continued this long means that the election doomsday clock has probably moved back one minute from midnight, but it’s by no means any kind of assurance that we won’t be going to the polls this summer.
Question Period carried on in the absence of the two leaders, it was Ralph Goodale who carried the day, demanding to know just how much of the stimulus funds has actually flowed to date (for which he did not receive an answer), and he also encouraged the government to admit that their assertion that an election would halt stimulus funds was in fact false. Vic Toews got up to answer this, and was very nearly puce with outrage as he declared that all of the various negotiations to fund construction programmes would halt, and all the money and the jobs that would flow from it would be lost, and it would all be the Liberals’ fault. Denis Coderre stood up to ask his questions, but made sure to get a dig in, calling bullshit on that declaration by reminding Toews that he was a minister far longer than Toews had ever been, and that in the event of an election, the negotiations would be carried out by senior officials. So there!
Meanwhile, only was The Canadian Press right yesterday in saying that most of the stimulus spending wouldn’t be affected by the supply votes on Friday, but the list of programmes the PMO sent over that wouldn’t be funded if we went into an election? Well, it now turns out that most of that money is for next year, not this year. So indeed, it was that much more disingenuous than we first gave them credit for. That’s saying something about their commitment to “transparency” and “accountability.”
There were a few other interesting notes during Question Period. The Bloc’s Luc Malo asserted that fewer baby boys are being born thanks to the prevalence of Bisphenol-A in plastics, and why aren’t we banning them faster? (Having heard first-hand from scientists who’ve studied BPA that we’re not getting nearly the level of exposure to make any difference, I chalk this up to conspiracy theory). The NDP’s Thomas Mulcair also asked why the government’s new ad campaign which “falsely” claims that 80 percent of stimulus funds have been committed isn’t treated as partisan and paid for by the party and not the taxpayers, only for Vic Toews to assure him that the ads weren’t partisan.
Scott Brison stood up late in the day to ask about the government’s inaction on growing US protectionist measures. He pointed out that the minister’s response has largely been that they were “monitoring” the situation, and that he seemed unaware of the actual rules. Stockwell Day assured him that we “can’t ignore the progress we’re making.” If by progress, one means absolutely none, then yes, it is difficult to ignore that as our businesses are being shut out of American bids.
Sartorially speaking, pink was the colour of note in the House, and snaps go to Judy Sgro for wearing it well under a check-patterned grey suit and skirt (with cute silver heels). There was also a study in contrasts between Ruby Dhalla and Megan Leslie, as each wore a pink top and neutral trousers. The difference was that Dhalla’s pink top was simple and a crisp light tone paired with khaki trousers, while Leslie’s top was a dull pink with two rows of buttons down the front that succeeded in making it look even frumpier, while pairing it with brown trousers and green shoes. Dhalla wins hands down. Also of politically charged sartorial note – Larry Bagnell surreptitiously showed that he was wearing a sealskin vest under his beige suit.
Outside of the House, Jim Flaherty quoted a figure of 190,000 jobs “created or saved” using a benchmark of jobs-created-per-billion-dollars-of-stimulus that the Canadian Federation of Municipalities gave, added to the numbers of people who are accessing the job-sharing programme through EI. Funny, I don’t remember the “jobs saved” as part of the “jobs created” figure he quoted in the original budget, and these numbers are still very theoretical, and should be taken with a shaker’s worth of salt.
Nuclear medicine experts are saying that this shortage is affecting patients, and the “alternatives” that the Health Minister talks about are not only more costly and less effective, but they’re also a lot more invasive, which includes exploratory surgery. Liberal health critic Carolyn Bennett offered her ten-point strategy for dealing with the crisis, and most of it seems really common sense and easily achievable. And McMaster University, which will soon produce an alternate supply, says that for an extra $30 million – on top of the $22 million they just got – they can fill the gap to restore 20 percent of the North American supply within 18 months. Funny – I seem to recall the US National Research Council which said that for a few tens of millions of dollars – “worst case” – we could replace the cores of the MAPLE reactors and safeguard the entire world’s isotope supply. Remind me which is the better option – the McMaster reactor, which is of the same vintage as the NRU, or fixing the MAPLEs?
Also: experts are already pouring cold water over the new plans to overhaul our corrections system unveiled this morning, the Canadian Human Rights Commission appeared before the International Human Rights Subcommittee (which Mario Silva sits on), and speaking of Silva, he recently published an essay talking about his Private Members’ Bill, Bill C-401, to introduce a national literacy policy in this country.