4 min

Making EI the line in the sand

The Public Policy Forum released a new report that breaks down the demographics of the House of Commons (more women, but less educated, less experienced and more White). Funny that they didn't look at how queer it was, because we would totally rock against our American and UK counterparts. Nevertheless, it raises some very interesting notions about the notions of “career politicians,” and the high rate of turnover we’re experiencing in these successive minority governments. When two-thirds of your political leaders have less than five years experience, problems start to emerge.

One of those problems is that these rookies have no experience of previous Parliaments that were less partisan and rancorous. Add to that, the environment created by Harper of such a power-hungry centre reducing the caucus to little more than parrots of the PMO’s will, and you get things like these backbenchers, eager to please, reading ridiculous statements free of context, substance or even style about “Liberal tax grabs” for what could have been far more dignified and meaningful Members’ Statements. So much for the dignity of the office.

Then again, the Reform Party still has much to answer for. When they arrived in Ottawa, so full of disdain for the way that the government operates, it destroyed much of the collegial atmosphere, which has never recovered.

Just before Question Period began on the Monday after the convention, Harper saw fit to walk across the aisle to shake Michael Ignatieff’s hand to congratulate him on his official leadership status, which Jack Layton soon followed. Duceppe, not wanting to be left out, followed Layton, at which point John Baird need to get in on the action – only he brought over some printed joke, which Ignatieff grimaced over when he read it.

And they were off – Ignatieff is now the champion of reforming EI, asking that a national standard of 360 hours in the past year for eligibility – not the 58 different standards which exist around the country currently. Harper, in response, said that our system was already generous even before they enhanced it in the last budget, and by the way, didn’t you just rip off the NDP’s policy, oh and you said you wanted to raise taxes.

Incidentally, they’re still on the “job-killing carbon tax” meme, even though Ignatieff said he was now against it. Not that context or reality matters in these kinds of things.

EI really was the central issue. When Mike Savage followed up on Ignatieff’s questions, Diane Finley replied that the Liberals created the eligibility rules. When Gilles Duceppe attacked the Liberals in his question, Harper couldn’t be arsed to stand up to reply, but sent Jean-Pierre Blackburn to deliver the canned answer. When Layton reminded him that the House adopted a proposition to amend the EI system, Harper shot back that the House also adopted the budget.

When Liberal Marcel Proulx was asking about the million dollars spent on the “phantom” public appointments commission – which doesn’t yet exist, but was uncovered by the good people at The Canadian Press over the weekend – we were treated to a couple of oh-so-brilliant answers by the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary, Pierre Poilievre. According to Poilievre, we would have had a commission in place if it weren’t for you darn meddling kids! Oh, no wait – that’s Scooby-Doo. Poilievre actually said it was for their “partisan games,” even though Harper tried to appoint one of his party bagmen to the post. But there was no partisan gamesmanship there, no siree. And when Poilievre tried to bring up the meme of Ignatieff raising taxes, Marlene Jennings chanted from across the aisle “Income trusts!”

And oh yes, according to Charlie Angus, flag pins are still an issue of utmost national importance.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Mario Silva’s very nicely tailored greige suit, paired with the pink shirt and pink-and-purple striped tie. My eyes were also quite drawn to Hedy Fry’s grey-black-and-red top under the sleeveless hoodie-like jacket, with the long skirt. It did look pretty cool, nevertheless. Also, Candice Hoeppner’s bright, shiny blue three-quarter sleeve jacket certainly got one’s attention. The style citation goes out to Lynne Yelich’s high-collared oversized yellow jacket. It caught the eye in the wrong way. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports her coral pink dress, actually worn with appropriate tights and shoes for a change.

Elsewhere, over in the Foreign Affairs committee, the NDP’s Paul Dewar successfully moved a motion to summon Abousfian Abdelrazik to appear before the committee – a rather crafty way of getting around the travel ban that the government has Abdelrazik under, even though he has been cleared of suspicion by CSIS and the RCMP, and he is currently living in the lobby of our embassy in Khartoum.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer fears that his budget has been cut, which wouldn’t surprise anyone given the way he’s embarrassed the government already so early in his tenure – and his office was set up by them.

And finally, a prominent AIDS researcher in this country is packing up to move to Florida, because his funding here has been cut, while they’re offering him twice as much money to do research. He’s hoping that his departure will send a message to Harper that he can’t continue to under-fund the sciences in this country.