3 min

Putting his foot down

Almost a third of the government front bench was empty – and there weren’t even any designated seat-warmers filling them. While the cat’s away…

Liberal MP Mario Silva was the second person to offer a Members’ Statement, speaking of people being honoured by the Portuguese community (which Silva is a part of).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to invite all members of the House in recognizing two outstanding members of the Portuguese Canadian community. On April 18, members of the Portuguese Canadian community will gather to honour Mr. Avelino Fonseca and Mr. Joe Botelho for their years of service.
Both Avelino and Joe are very active and successful members of the business community who have achieved a great deal through years of hard work and dedication. As well as being successful business people, Avelino and Joe have worked tirelessly to give of their time and resources to assist many individuals and groups throughout their communities. They have been especially committed and dedicated to providing support and assistance to those who are physically challenged.
It is indeed appropriate that we join with all of our communities in recognizing outstanding community leaders like Avelino Fonseca and Joe Botelho.

There was some drama during Members’ Statements today, when Conservative MP Daryl Kramp stood up to speak about Ignatieff’s supposed “hypocrisy.” While the Speaker had been cutting off members mid-statement, the Conservatives were trying to get around that by making statements about “someone” and not identifying that “someone” as the Liberal leader in the last sentence (by which point they’d be too far in to cut off). Well today, once Kramp was finished speaking, the Speaker declared that if Kramp repeated that stunt, he’d be banned from the Commons.

And while sure, the Speaker is finally being more aggressive in ensuring decorum – which you will recall everyone being all for during the Speaker elections – now the Conservatives are crying that he’s stifling free speech and that Ignatieff should be able to handle some partisan debate. Except that as the Speaker has pointed out, Members’ Statements aren’t debate, and I’m glad that he’s finally cracking down on some of this behaviour, as it’s neither clever nor amusing.

Question Period started out with a repetition of some of the previous day’s themes of the auto sector and the question of tax harmonisation in Quebec and Ontario, but things started to get a little bit interesting. Gerard Kennedy and John McCallum teamed up to ask about the unspent infrastructure money, seeing as it was the last day of the fiscal year. John Baird replied that they were “working aggressively” with the provinces, but that the funds would roll over rather than lapse.

Bob Rae asked about the Homeland Security secretary’s ominous comments about the northern border, to which Peter Van Loan suggested that Rae wasn’t giving the Obama administration enough credit.

Thierry St-Cyr asked about all the names on the IRB appointment list that hadn’t been chosen, even though they were apparently qualified, while controversial candidates like Doug Cryer were chosen instead. Jason Kenney insisted that they have a new “transparent process.”

Rob Oliphant asked about EI in the context of a constituent whose internships programme was cut and she didn’t have enough hours to qualify for EI because of the higher Ontario threshold. Diane Finley’s Parliamentary secretary filled in for her, and gave a nonsensical reply about the five extra weeks of benefits recipients would be receiving.

But the best question of the day came from Dawn Black, who raised the fact that new laws are being passed in Afghanistan, which will severely impact on women’s rights in that country. Stockwell Day rose to reply, saying that if this were true, it would create a problem for Canada, and that the onus was on the government of Afghanistan to live up to their human rights obligations. I’m hoping this question gets more airplay in the days and weeks ahead.

Sartorial snaps go out to Lisa Raitt for her crisp white long jacket, which was stylish, well-fitting, and stood out in a sea of black and grey. Also of note – Peter Van Loan was wearing suspenders, which is a bit novel in this day and age. The style citation goes out to Conservative backbencher Cheryl Gallant, whose psychedelic-striped and sparkling jacket was probably something that fell out of a time-tunnel from the eighties, and was just an eyesore.