Socialist International
3 min

Protectionism remains the word of the day

There were two dominant themes during Question Period today – the continued threat of protectionist measures in the American economic stimulus legislation, and the problems that the Canadian budget has with regards to equalisation payments for Newfoundland and Labrador.

But kicking things off, during Members’ Statements, was Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie talking about Black History Month. While her message was a good one, her particular choice in ensemble was not – a hideous coral-pink sweater over a mustard-yellow shirt assaulted my eyes, and I was on the verge of hysterical blindness. Megan, honey, I know you’re got activist cred, but that doesn’t mean you have to dress like a crazy lady.

And on to Question Period. Prime Minister Harper wasn’t in the House today, and Stockwell Day was fielding most of the questions on the protectionist measures in the States. Day’s message was contradictory in places – legislation going through Congress takes time so we don’t have to worry, through to “we’re moving quickly,” as he gave an impromptu lesson on American civics in his thirty-second response time.

On the question of equalisation for Newfoundland and Labrador, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s answers saw the first strains of this session’s attempts at good behaviour in the house. At one point, in response to a particular Newfoundland MP shouting him down during a response, Flaherty quipped, “the Member opposite is screeching. Screech is a product of Newfoundland.” Most interestingly, he invited these members back to his office after Question Period to answer questions on the matter – but when these members made their reports to the public later on Politics, they still weren’t impressed.

(By the way, Marlene Jennings – your orange leather jacket wasn’t working for you either).

The NDP’s main sticking point today were comments made by Human Resources minister Diane Finley several days ago where she suggested that they didn’t want to make EI too lucrative, lest people try to stay at home instead of work. Of course, any time an NDP MP brought it up, her response was to get utterly indignant that the NDP apparently believes that a person over fifty is too old for retraining and to find a new job. At least her outfit wasn’t so ridiculously dated for a change.

Later during the afternoon, NDP House Leader Libby Davies was sitting in for Joe Comartin as the Justice Committee got underway and elected Ed Fast as their new chair. One item that the committee wants to look at this session is Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act – the section which pertains to empowering the Commission to deal complaints about hate messages sent over telephone or the Internet. This section has been under a great deal of public scrutiny of late (and Maclean’s was making a big deal out of it over the summer), so this could be something worth keeping an eye on.

And finally, just before the vote that saw the Liberal amendment to the budget pass, Scott Brison was talking to Don Newman about his trip to Davos, Switzerland over the weekend to attend a conference on trade issues. He said that upon speaking with several American congressmen and women, that he found the mood of protectionism to be their dominant sentiment. While he does think that we could play our energy resources card if the measures got too far along, he was concerned by the NDP’s sentiment of seeking retaliatory measures. After all, wasn’t it protectionist measures that led to a trade war that dragged a recession into a depression back in 1930?

Incidentally, Brison also isn’t too happy with the way that Harper has been dealing with cross-border economic issues. Citing their performance with the auto sector bailout, where they waited until the American Congress had done all of the negotiating (for their local benefit) before showing up at the end with a cheque, he sees this as a very bad thing. Except that his party still supports the budget, and the Conservatives remain in power because of it.