Such a busy day in Ottawa – Mulroney on the stand in the Oliphant Inquiry, Ruby! The Musical (as one of my Press Gallery colleagues referred to it), the trial of Mayor Larry O’Brian on charges of bribery, the Auditor General filing reports, and to top it all off, Michael Ignatieff turned 62. (During the scrums after Question Period, he joked that he was 140, and looking pretty good).
Ruby! The Musical sounded like it was quite a show at the Immigration Committee. Sobbing Filipina caregivers appearing by video, complaining of feeling mentally tortured and physically stressed. A short while later, Ruby Dhalla herself appeared, refuted a number of the claims (like how these caregivers were made to shampoo rugs, when the house is glad in hardwood), and again returned to the theme of the “conspiracy” against her – with all manner of strange coincidences and inconsistencies.
Many of the reporters following this story have been pointing out something else very troubling. For as much as Jason Kenney insists that he’s not involved in this affair, his assistant was present, handing out documents that claimed that Dhalla’s handwriting was on forms connected to these caregivers. Then there was his spokesperson saying that the caregivers have nothing to fear, that they won’t be deported for whistle-blowing. Funny – that sounds like ministerial involvement to us. And add to all of that, the way that Dhalla’s Conservative rival in the riding has been palling around with Kenney an awful lot, including on a trip to India. It certainly raises questions.
Just before Question Period started, gay Bloc MP Réal Ménard stood up to talk about the forthcoming International Day Against Homophobia.
Mr. Speaker, on May 17, Fondation Émergence will be marking this year's International Day against Homophobia around the theme “Homosexuality knows no borders”.
Homosexuality is universal and knows no geographical borders. The purpose of the 2009 campaign is to raise public awareness, particularly among tall ethnocultural communities, regardless of origin, to the realities of homosexuality and sexual diversity. These communities make invaluable contributions to our society, but some of their members come from countries where homosexuality is illegal. We need to make them aware that what was illegal in their country is allowed, and protected by law, in their host society.
Fondation Émergence marked the occasion as well by presenting its 2009 Fight Against Homophobia Award to Dany Turcotte, television host and comedian. My warmest congratulations to him.
May this day remind all of us that homophobia is always present and that we must fight against it.
Minutes later, Libby Davies also made a Members’ Statement, this one about the Stand-Up For Mental Health show that would be happen for Parliamentarians on the Hill that night.
Mr. Speaker, many people might say one would have to be nuts to do stand-up comedy. Stand Up for Mental Health does just that, for good therapeutic reasons. It raises awareness about mental illness and breaks down prejudice, stigma and discrimination.
Stand Up for Mental Health helps those living with mental illness to turn their experiences into comedy. It helps people move from despair to hope and empowerment, and it puts a human face on mental illness.
Stand Up for Mental Health founder David Granirer says:
"There's something incredibly healing about telling a roomful of people exactly who you are and having them laugh and cheer."
Mental illness touches people from all backgrounds, age and socio-economic status.
This evening we have the opportunity to confront our prejudices and learn more about mental illness while having fun at the same time. Stand Up for Mental Health comics will be giving a performance in room 200, West Block. I encourage all members and staff to come at 6 p.m., offer their support to these brave comics and enjoy a great evening of comedy.
Both Harper and Ignatieff were in the House today, and Question Period got started off with questions about how $2 billion in committed infrastructure money wasn’t spent last year, and already the committed spending for this year was being delayed. There were more questions on the situation in Sri Lanka, about Quebec’s plans to participate in a carbon exchange, and in some of the findings of the Auditor General. (When Vic Toews refuted one of said questions on the Auditor General’s report, Carolyn Bennett heckled with “Are you saying the Auditor General is wrong?”)
Sartorially speaking, there were no snap-worthy ensembles for the day, though Liberal Bonnie Crombie was trying to make a statement with her greenish-grey Jackie-O-esque outfit. There was, however, plenty of bad. Like NDP MP Alex Atamenenko, who wore a powder-blue jacket with a dark blue shirt and a grey striped tie. Or Carolyn Bennett’s brown skirt and vest top over a dark teal shirt, and a light teal sweater tied around her shoulders with matching shoes. But there was a definite theme with the two worst style offences of the day – Niki Ashton’s creamsicle-coloured jacket, contrasted with Gary Schellenberger’s mint ice cream-green jacket. Neither looked good (even if they did make me a bit hungry).
As mentioned earlier, the Auditor General filed seven reports today, among them criticism of conflicts of interest in the way Natural Resources Canada designed and implemented programmes, a lack of gender-based analyses, and loopholes at the Canada Revenue Agency, but possibly most damning was the fact that accounting problems and a clear lack of direction in senior levels in the military meant that the Department of National Defence had $300 million in funding lapse and returned to the treasury. But they’re standing up for our men and women in uniform, don’t you know.
In an update over the looming slap-and-hair pull fight over just who ended the Tamil protest on the Gardiner Expressway, the Toronto Star details how Ignatieff’s deputy chief of staff was working the phones from his mother’s house, while Jack Layton was on the train to Ottawa. He told reporters he was doing the same.
And finally, if I needed any more proof about the sheer ass-backwardness of the province of my birth, Alberta’s proposal to enshrine a parent’s right to determine their children’s education (in order to protect them against learning about things like sex and religion) is generating heat from former members of its own party, who quite rightly call it embarassing. Oh, and the utter train-wreck of Premier Stelmach’s entire tenure in government should also serve as a warning as to the dangers of a preferential ballot electoral system.