2 min

Not really signing that blank cheque – really!

The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Diane Finley, took to the microphones in the morning to announce spending of some $60 million to hire more workers to help speed the processing of EI claims. And hey, they’re meeting their target of processing 80 percent of claims in 28 days.

Err, excuse me? That’s your target? And is this before or after the two-week waiting period that EI claimants are being asked to swallow?

Regardless, the opposition didn’t much like the figures either, and the topic dominated Question Period.

All three opposition leaders led off with questions about EI, from Ignatieff asking about the problems of eligibility (to which Harper replied that it was a regional determination), to Duceppe asking about claimants (for which he was reminded that the Bloc is “against everything”), and Layton’s asking about why there was such a discrepancy between the numbers of jobs lost and the numbers of new EI recipients (to which Harper said that the NDP voted against increasing benefits).

And on it went.

Scott Brison asked about access to venture capital, and in his supplementary question said that the Department of Foreign Affairs held a “boot camp” that suggested that businesses incorporate in Delaware. And when Stockwell Day first excoriated Brison about dealing with the facts, he reminded him about all of the various programs out there, from places like Export Development Canada.

In the foyer after Question Period, Brison quipped that according to the government, EDC apparently stands for the “Exporting jobs to Delaware Corporation.”

There were plenty of questions about the arts funding (Pablo Rodriguez said that many dance troupes had funding requests on the Minister’s desk gathering dust a week away from deadline), and about the coming cuts to the CBC. James Moore’s oh-so-clever response was list all the years that the NDP – and later the Bloc – voted against increases to CBC funding.

Both Carolyn Bennett and Paul Szabo asked about cuts to funding for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome prevention programmes, to which the Minister replied that they are committed to strategic investment.

And Bill Siksay’s questions on Gary Lunn’s campaign spending irregularities were disallowed.

Later in the day, the Liberals passed a non-binding motion with the support of the Bloc and the NDP, calling on the government to specify which departments and programmes have access to the stimulus funds of the main estimates (also known as the $3 billion “slush fund”). Not that the government has any plans to abide by it.

Shortly after, Treasury Board President Vic Toews was on Politics whining that the motion would mean he’d have to stand up in the House and announce projects, would take up “hours of time.” Really? Or are you trying to make accountability sound onerous?

And despite the Liberals’ threats and assertion that they wouldn’t sign a blank cheque on that $3 billion, they passed the main estimates, saying they’d use committees to ensure that the government discloses the spending. The Auditor General also vowed that she’d be keeping her eagle eyes on that spending too.

Sartorial snaps went out to Lisa Raitt for her new hairstyle, her blonde toned down with low-lights, and it went really well with her previously unseen fitted red jacket. Way to go! Also, Liberal Yukon MP Larry Bagnell had this cool aboriginal-themed embroidery on his shirt, which was only visible when his jacket that undone.

But the WTF went out to Conservative MP Sylvie Boucher for her…interesting jacket. Picture this – greenish-brown, velvet-like texture but with a large alligator-like print, with three-quarter length sleeves and a buttoned black shirt collar at the neck, which opened below like a jacket would. Huh? WTF? You would have to see it to believe it, my friends.