Normally I’m a little sad when the House rises because I know I’m going to miss them. There is something that remains exhilarating about heading into the House of Commons daily to cover the business of the nation – but this past week, it became a little too much. Too many flared tempers, too much of the insanity of the “silly season,” too much disingenuous nonsense being cast about. And now they’re off back to their ridings, back to the barbecue circuit, having to head to every kindergarten, grade six and grade nine “grad” in their riding, plus shopping mall openings, cultural festivals, walks for good causes, and every other event. And so much the better, so that they can all cool off a little and gain a little perspective.
Or not. I’m not naïve in my optimism.
But first was the final Question Period of the session, where everyone tried to jam in as many questions as possible, and get their talking points out, and the heckles they’ve been saving up out. Just like kids on the last day of class. Bob Rae started off the day on the sombre note of the Air India Inquiry results, and the revelations about the “culture of complacency” that permeated the national security agencies of this country. Stephen Harper said they would act on the recommendations, but wanted the day to be about the families of the victims.
Mark Holland continued however, and raised the fact that the US had now issued a travel advisory to Toronto for the duration of the G8 and G20 summits – the height of tourist season – because of protests. Lawrence Cannon assured him that the costs were related to security. (That wasn’t the question!) When Holland pointed out that the $15 million “legacy fund” was really more of a slush fund because it didn’t fund projects that would be used by the G8, John Baird pointed to all the many projects they’ve funded and jobs they’ve “created.” (Again, not the question).
Gilles Duceppe returned to a couple of old standbys of Quebec being marginalised by the proposed seat redistribution, and compensating the province for harmonising it’s sales tax (which is not harmonised in the same way as Ontario or BC’s will be). From there came questions on dismantling the “passport system” for financial regulation, and the forestry industry. Jack Layton asked about Air India and the travel advisory, and Lawrence Cannon told him they weren’t legally obligated to compensate businesses that would be put out by it, but they did have a process in place (which Layton previous described at his press conference as being designed not to give money).
Questions moved to the abortion issue, a seed crisis for farmers on the prairies, and rising transport costs for said farmers. (Cue a Conservative diatribe about the evils of the Canadian Wheat Board). From there were questions on a carbon exchange to be situated in Montreal, offshore environmental assessments for the St. Lawrence region, the need for more Quebec cultural institutions (like their own CRTC), and the iPod levy. (Hint: James Moore is not in favour).
The funding spat in New Brunswick served as the first of several questions levelled at a clearly overwhelmed Keith Ashfield – political minister for Atlantic Canada. Ashfield was even stumbling on his talking points and waving it off like it didn’t matter. When Mark Eyking and Roger Cuzner raised the issue of dredging Sydney harbour, the exchange got positively heated, but it was a genuine moment of great political theatre – in the good sense.
Rounding it off was a mixed bag of questions on Tax-Free Savings Accounts, the NDP plan to end poverty, the long-gun registry, youth criminal justice changes, the plans to sell off heritage lighthouses, the fact that rest stops between Toronto and Windsor have been shut down, while those between Toronto and Deerhurst were being refurbished with G8 money, consular assistance for a Canadian put on trial in Saudi Arabia, and jobs endangered by the closure of the Shell Refinery in Quebec. And it was pretty exhausting by the end.
Sartorially speaking, it was a pretty lacklustre day. If pressed, I will say that I did like Mark Eyking’s lavender shirt and tie, and that Lise Zarac should recognise that a woman of her particular body shape should never, ever wear a turtleneck, such as the pink one she wore yesterday. And the final Megan Leslie outfit watch of the session reports a cute little dark grey dress and those hateful greige shoes, except that’s pretty much the only outfit they actually suited, so I’ll give them a reluctant pass.
It’s been well over a year – and a lot more than the “two or three months tops!” that was initially promised, but the Chalk River reactor is now repaired, and should be up and running by the end of July. I’m sure Leona Aglukkaq will be relieved not to have to answer more questions about the isotope shortage.
There has been a motion put forward to the House to ask the Speaker to find Rahim Jaffer in contempt of Parliament for his farcically bad testimony before a Commons committee. But like any other House business (with the possible exception of being recalled for emergency legislation to break an Air Canada Jazz strike that seems to be brewing), that will have to wait for September.