University of Toronto
3 min

Likely novelty-cheques sized loopholes

At his early morning photo op at a child care facility, Michael Ignatieff committed to a national child care programme should he become Prime Minister – provided, of course, that they can afford it given that the Conservatives have “spent the cupboard bare.” But hey, he’s slowly releasing platform ideas, right? And yet, the topic of childcare came up not once again during Question Period. Ignatieff also said that he’s not in any rush to force an election – even if they’re no longer supporting the government. Which is really what he’s been saying all along if one has been paying attention, but he’s spelled it out now.

Question Period focused largely again on the issue of partisan novelty cheques, and Senator Housakos’s involvement with a company that received stimulus funds, and how it was that his involvement with said company has been scrubbed from his bio since it came to light. Funny that. Harper responded that his government was working hard, as were his MPs who would want to take credit for their hard work (with their name on novelty cheques, presumably). The Liberals chanted “pork!” and “oink, oink!” while Harper delivered such lines straight-faced.

Jack Layton got his own digs in when he asked why Harper had abandoned his Reform Party ideals of cleaning up Parliament and felt it okay to behave like “Chrétien Liberals.” Harper responded that Preston would be glad to know he has the NDP’s support before basically calling Chrétien Liberals crooked thieves.

Incidentally, the Ethics Commissioner will be examining some of the complaints regarding these novelty cheques, but it turns out that while “ethics” is in her title, it’s not in any of the legislation she is bound by. Huh. This came up during a committee hearing she testified at, and the more I read about it, the more I start to suspect that the too-cute-by-half PMO has ensured that these partisan novelty cheques manage to slide through loopholes in the rules, no matter that they break the spirit of the rules.

The other major series of questions from all three opposition parties was once again the missing memos of Richard Colvin on the mistreatment of Afghan detainees. No matter how many times it was asked, even when it was pointed out that Rick Hillier admitted to having read these reports so it was impossible that the Ministers involved could not have, Peter MacKay got up time after time and insisted that what was really important was that his government took action and improved upon the detainee transfer mechanism that they inherited from the Liberals. Which was totally not the point. At all. Even when the Liberals started chanting “Who and when and what?” during MacKay’s answers, he still avoided answering. Which makes it all the more plausible that he’s really covering something up.

It was also learned that when the question of trying to investigate this in the Commons defence committee came up, the Bloc sided with the government to shoot it down. They insist the place for it is in the special committee on Afghanistan – so we’ll see if it surfaces there, and gets Bloc support or not.

Sartorially speaking, there was a lot of orange in the House – and most of it wasn’t pretty. Snaps go to Michelle Simson, whose pumpkin-shade jacket over a chocolate turtleneck worked for her. Alexandra Mendes’ yellow-ish orange top under her grey suit and skirt was on the border, but I wasn’t entirely convinced. But there were plenty of cases of orange abuse that all deserve citations – from Niki Ashton’s orange sack dress under a black jacket, or Hedy Fry’s quilted orange jacket paired with a brown plaid skirt, or most especially Judy Wasylycia-Leis’ fluorescent jacket. Orange is a difficult colour, and few people can wear it properly. Let this be a lesson.

Elsewhere, the Queen welcomed former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien into the prestigious Order of Merit – only the fourth Canadian to have been invited. Apparently it’s because of Chrétien’s forty years in public life, thirty of them as a cabinet minister, leader of the opposition, and of course, Prime Minister. And NDP MP Bill Siksay congratulates Svend Robinson on winning the 2009 Grand Prix of the Conseil québécois des gais et lesbiennes.

Up today – two days of hearings on the Canadian Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) begin in the Senate committee.
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