Thomas Mulcair
4 min

Kenney willing to kill the refugee bill

Further to my story on xtra.ca, it looks like Jason Kenney is prepared to accept all of the Liberal amendments on the refugee bill – except for the one about safe countries of origin. In fact, he’s willing to kill the whole bill if that is left out. Seriously? No matter that the experience from other countries has said that it’s a cumbersome process that does more harm than good?

It was a Liberal opposition day in the House yesterday, and the topic of the day was the security costs of the G8 and G20 meetings. Not surprisingly, they made it into Michael Ignatieff’s lead question for Question Period – in a way. It was a kind of mashed question, which included the Bank of Canada increasing the interest rates, the cost of the G20, and general Conservative incompetence. In successive answers, Harper praised the country’s economic performance, necessitating the rate increase, and pointed out that we have more delegates showing up for the G20 than athletes at the Olympics. Really? Huh.

Marlene Jennings was up next on the Mulroney file and demanded the government get him to repay the $2.1 million settlement – with interest – he received when he claimed not to have business dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber. Jennings later said that money could help to cover the costs of the Oliphant Commission – especially with compound interest. Rob Nicholson gave the same non-committal “We’re still reading it” answer.

Gilles Duceppe asked after the Gaza incident and if Canada would call for an independent investigation. Harper said he was waiting for the facts from all parties involved. Pierre Paquette returned to the Mulroney issue, and Jack Layton went back to the Gaza issue, touching on the three Canadians in detention. Harper said they were being provided with consular assistance. He then turned to the issue of NGOs losing funding, but Harper assured him that Canada was a generous country.

From there, questions moved on to moratoriums on drilling in the Beaufort, the fact that we had a willing medical isotope supplier from Israel that Health Canada turned down (Leona Aglukkaq wouldn’t provide a reason why), placing a moratorium on offshore drilling in the mouth of the St Lawrence river, the proposed national securities regulator and the abortion issue. Liberal public health critic Kirsty Duncan asked why the government is discriminating against MS patients, who can’t get angioplasties for blocked veins, which could help their symptoms. Aglukkaq again didn’t provide anything resembling an answer. (There’s a great story on this issue in the current print issue of Maclean’s, which I’d urge you to check out.)

When Thomas Mulcair got up to decry the C-9 omnibus budget bill and Jim Prentice got up to say that provincial governments wanted streamlined environmental assessment processes, Mulcair started shouting that Prentice was a liar because he was one of those environment ministers. John McKay asked after potential defunding of the Canadian Council of International Cooperation, to which Bev Oda said the proposal was still under review. And Gerard Kennedy asked whether the government would compensate Toronto for their needing to remove every garbage can, newspaper box and bus shelter from the downtown core during the G20 to prevent vandalism. John Baird assured him they’ve shown unprecedented support for Toronto – just look at all the money they gave them for public transit! Huh?

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Judy Foote for her tailored, long pinstripe suit jacket and matching trousers, with the crisp white collared shirt. I have a mixed review of Cathy McLeod’s ensemble – the long black jacket was perfect for her body shape, but the busy blue top beneath was not. I also have mixed feelings about Geoff Regan’s blue-and-pink patterned shirt, which he matched well with a pink tie and navy suit – but the shirt I wasn’t crazy about. Style citations go out to Tilly O’Neill-Gordon for an awful dusky rose smock-like jacket. Dusky rose! Also, Chris Charlton has reverted to fluorescent colours. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a light grey jacket with three-quarter sleeves with dark grey trousers, a black top and pearls. Not bad, if I ignore the three-quarter sleeves and those unfortunate greige heels.

In their quest to never let a good moral panic go to waste, the Conservatives unveiled their bill to stop convicts from getting things like Old Age Security benefits. But don’t worry – they say they’ll make sure that family members relying on that income will still get it “on their own merits.”

A senior bureaucrat says it was simply a mistake when a Conservative staffer “unreleased” Access to Information documents.

A third director of the federal fertility agency has quit, leaving seven on the board that have Conservative leanings. Megan Leslie raised this in the House a couple of days ago, not that she got a real response to it.

Independent Senator Michael Pitfield resigned yesterday, citing health issues. He was due to sit until 2012, and this means that it’s one more seat for Harper to maintain the Conservative plurality, and one seat away from him getting a majority in the Upper Chamber.

The Globe and Mail talks to Belinda Stronach about the G(irls)20 summit she’s organizing.

Up today – The prime minister heads off to London and Paris for this “Stop the global bank tax!” tour. You know, the one Paul Martin said was a waste of time because it’s unlikely to happen anyway, so he should be spending his energy and political capital elsewhere?
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