It was a rare occasion in the House, having a foreign leader come in to give an address of a joint session of Parliament. Mexican President Felipe Calderon spoke of the deep friendship between Canada and Mexico – the visa issue aside – and he spoke highly of the RCMP helping train Mexican police as they wage a drug war. Outside the Chamber, red carpets and Mexican flags lined the halls of the Centre Block, which was a nice change of place.
A few hours later, when Question Period began, both Michael Ignatieff and Mark Holland raged on about the billion-dollar price tag for security at the G8 and G20 meetings, and John Baird – the designated spokesminister for the day – obfuscated by talking about security in the post-9/11 world.
Gilles Duceppe brought up the abortion issue again, but in his supplemental question, he brought up the connections to Opus Dei of certain policymakers, which sent Jason Kenney into apoplexy, calling Duceppe “disgusting” for attacking people’s religious beliefs. Rona Ambrose, meanwhile, gave the stock response about not wanting to reopen the debate. As Christiane Gagnon followed up on the same issue, Ambrose went back to her ready quotes from World Vision Canada, which isn't exactly an objective authority.
After Jack Layton returned to the question of the G20 security bill, he turned to the “save the banks” tour that Harper is going on (being his trips to London and Paris to fight the proposed global bank tax), the floor turned to Wayne Easter, who brought up the issues of Rahim Jaffer’s alleged misuse of his special passport, and Tony Clement’s infomercial for his friend’s company that was being marketed to China. Pierre Poilievre, predictably, resorted to obfuscation.
Questions later turned back to abortion, the national securities regulator, the long-gun registry, and moratoriums on offshore oil drilling and tanker traffic along the West Coast. Pat Martin got up to give his high-dudgeon take on the Tony Clement infomercial (comparing him to the Sham-Wow guy). There were a couple more questions on ministers appearing before committee, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting, and the budget omnibus bill (and more on that in a bit). The final government suck-up question of the day was a shocking surprise – Conservative backbencher Nina Grewal asked after the jailed gay couple in Malawi. Lawrence Cannon gave a little speech about condemning human rights violations.
Sartorially speaking, I have to give snaps to Alexandra Mendes for the rather chiffon-like white top over an orange top and white trousers. It not only looked good, but it looked extremely comfortable in the heat wave we’ve been living through, and perhaps I was a bit envious while sitting in the gallery in a suit. I was also a fan of Martha Hall Findlay’s textured white jacket and skirt with matching top. Not so good was Judy Foote’s shapeless custard-coloured suit and top.
Elsewhere, there is a battle brewing over the budget implementation bill in both Houses, but it’s likely only to see real movement in the Senate. Why? Bill C-9 is a budget bill, and therefore a motion of confidence. While the NDP can oppose it all they want, the Liberals have decided they don’t want an election, so they have to let it pass – no matter how bad and how undemocratic it is. So it falls to Liberal senators – aided by some of the independents like Progressive Conservative senator Lowell Murray – to try and break the bill up. The actual finance motions would stay and get study in the finance committee, where the other non-finance bits that were shoved in to see them pass unopposed, would be returned to the House to be debated on their own. And because the Senate is not a confidence chamber, they can actually do this.
But Government Leader in the Senate Marjorie LeBreton is not pleased. She says that because it passed the Commons finance committee unamended it should be just fine, that the Senate should rubber-stamp it. Otherwise, it's an insult to the elected representatives and therefore democracy. Um, hello? Way to cut off your own constitutional legitimacy at the knees. The whole point of the Senate is sober second thought, which is what Liberal senators like Pierrette Ringuette, who first brought this up, are trying to do. The Senate is not a rubber stamp for the elected chamber, because the elected chamber will pass bad bills for political considerations, like they’re doing now. They’re trying to do their jobs! Heaven forbid!
LeBreton did have a point in calling out Ignatieff – if he thinks it’s an abuse of power, then why isn’t he flexing his muscles in the House? Why is he leaving it up to his Senators – and allied independents – to do that heavy lifting? But like I said – this is for political considerations. Is it worth bringing down a government over? Arguably yes, this is one more abuse of power that needs to be called out and stopped. But consider the political considerations, where the disengaged voters of this country would be more concerned about the terrible chore of having to actually get out to vote again after only 18 months, and it’s not hard to see why Ignatieff isn’t bringing down the government over it.
(LeBreton also said that the Senate is prepared to sit well into the summer in order to get the bill through, so that will probably mean that I’ll be spending some time in the Upper Chamber in the next few weeks).
Susan Delacourt posts a video that demonstrates just how selective Jason Kenney’s memory is when it comes to the issue of calling political staff before committees.
The Toronto Star talks to Rob Oliphant about his opening up his books for public scrutiny and takes him up on his offer to break down his expenses even further, which he does for them.
And the CBC crunches some of the numbers around MP expenses, for what it’s worth.
Update: I forgot to add Mario Silva’s Members’ Statement from before Question Period.
Mr. Speaker, on this day in 1955, the Portuguese ship, Gil Eannes, sailed into the port of St. John's, Newfoundland.
Four thousand Portuguese fishermen in beautiful costumes carried a statue of Our Lady of Fatima up the hill to the Basilica of St. John the Baptist where it was erected as a gift to the people of St. John's from the fishermen of Portugal in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Basilica.
Those beautiful days in 1955 were a celebration of the close relationships that saw St. John's filled with Portuguese vessels and fishermen for six months each year for over 400 years.
The Portuguese fishing fleets and Portuguese fishermen who travelled across the Atlantic each year will continue to echo through history ever reminding the people of Newfoundland and all Canadians of this special period in their history and of their friends who lived just across the sea.