It’s pretty sad when the media gets excited that the Prime Minister actually shows up in Question Period. And yet show up he did, to face questions on the allegations of abuse of Afghan detainees for the first time in over a week.
But that wasn’t the only drama in the House. Inappropriate comments by Conservative Gerald Keddy – calling panhandlers in Halifax “no good bastards” – led off outraged comments from Scott Brison.
Brison: Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives continue to negatively stereotype Atlantic Canadians and to attack the unemployed. The Prime Minister said Atlantic Canadians have a “can’t do attitude and a culture of defeat”. Then the human resources minister said she wanted to, “make it lucrative for the unemployed to stay at home and get paid for it”. Now the member for South Shore—St. Margaret’s refers to all those no-good bastards sitting on the sidewalk in Halifax who cannot get work.
The Speaker: Order, please. I do not care if it is a quote or not, members cannot do directly what they cannot do indirectly. We could find quotes of all kinds that contain all kinds of unparliamentary expressions that cannot be used in the House. I caution the hon. member to refrain from the use of unparliamentary language.
Brison: I agree, Mr. Speaker, it is a despicable word to use anywhere to describe Atlantic Canadians who are suffering. With an unemployment rate of 9.3% in Atlantic Canada, not only is the member attacking the unemployed, but he is attacking people when he says “sitting on the street”, he is attacking the homeless, many of whom suffer from mental health issues, including addiction. The ill and destitute need our compassion and our help, but this government cut literacy funding and has done nothing to help the homeless. When will the Conservatives stop attacking the people who need help the most? When will they stop kicking people when they are down?
Megan Leslie later asked about it during Question Period – and was similarly admonished for using the quote. Keddy’s comments were seen as more proof of how out of touch the Conservatives are with the rest of Canada.
The Bloc introduced their newest MP, Daniel Paillé, to the House before Question Period as well.
When Question Period was underway, Ignatieff hammered away after the Afghan detainee issue – when did Harper know, where are the documents that they promised? But the Prime Minister hit back with a crafty new strategy. Armed with news that the opposition might “muzzle” diplomat David Mulroney from appearing before special Afghanistan committee, he tried to play the moral high ground card. For their part, the opposition said they do want to hear from Mulroney – but only after they have the documents they’ve been requesting from the government so that they can be adequately prepared. Harper says they’ll turn over all of the “legally required” documents – but that sounds like a lot more weasel words that the opposition heckled.
But funny thing – apparently Mulroney got on a plane from China and volunteered to appear before the committee of his own volition – without actually having been added to the committee’s witness list. CBC’s Kady O’Malley recalls a similar tactic this government employed during the In-and-Out hearings as a stonewalling tactic.
Jack Layton broke ranks on the Afghan detainee questions to talk about child poverty. Harper touted how much they’re spending on their $100 a month payments for “child care.” That out of the way, things went right back to Afghan detainees – and the corresponding obfuscation.
Remember the issue of medical isotopes? It made a return to Question Period today when Carolyn Bennett brought it back up, not that she got anything but an old scripted answer from the Minister.
The Bloc’s Gérard Asselin was sartorially brave in wearing a paprika-coloured jacket with a black bow tie – and yet it kind of works on him. Diane Finley had her brown top/gold jacket Realtor outfit on again. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports that funny-shaped light grey jacket (with the A-shaped cut and the odd three-quarter length sleeves with a ruffled collar), which I still can’t fathom.
Outside of the House, the NDP sounded a lot like Conservatives by sending out a release full of all manner of out-of-context quotes from Michael Ignatieff on the subject of torture. Ignatieff’s people sent out a response to put those comments into context – in which he condemns torture – but I see a troubling new spate of this kind of partisan nonsense while each Opposition party tries to make themselves look like the true champions on this Afghan issue.
The Conservatives also spent the day touting their new bill on child pornography, which would see ISPs, be required to turn over records to the authorities if they receive complaints about the offending material on their servers. Of course, this is just a diversionary tactic, but hey – tough on crime!