Jack Layton was absent from the House today, which left his deputy, Thomas Mulcair, to lead off question period. He began with a pair of questions about news that the PMO had broken its own rules on hospitality expenses, to which Dean Del Mastro, Harper’s parliamentary secretary (seeing as Harper wasn’t in the House either), assured the House that they had cut hospitality spending. For his last question, Mulcair asked about the Canada Post strike before handing it off to Yvon Godin. Godin asked two more questions on the same subject, to which Lisa Raitt assured them that the government had given both parties ample time to come to an agreement. Bob Rae picked up on the strike topic and extended it to the broader issue of pension security in Canada (Raitt: it has been narrowed down to three of four issues). Judy Sgro took the pension issue and accused the government of adopting a failed Australian experiment, which privately pooled pensions (Ted Menzies: the Liberals did nothing during all those years).
Round two kicked off with Peggy Nash asking questions about private mortgage insurance, which is part of the budget implementation act. Jim Flaherty assured the House that we have a solid housing market and said that the NDP just hates free enterprise. Alexandrine Latendresse and David Christopherson asked increasingly shrill and sanctimonious questions on Senate reform (Tim Uppal: the Senate has to change, and we’re going to do it!); Alexandre Boulerice asked about cuts versus G8 spending (Baird: yay G8 legacy products. Tony Clement: I will be in committee to defend the spending estimates); Charlie Angus tried to employ alliteration in asking about the ethical standards of cabinet ministers (Baird: you’re no Pat Martin); and Andrew Cash asked about G20 compensation for Toronto businesses (Baird: we’re reviewing the rules around it). John McCallum returned to the topic of the PMO’s breaking of hospitality expense rules (Del Mastro repeated the same talking point); Denis Coderre asked about Montreal bridges (Denis Lebel: we’re investing in infrastructure); and Ralph Goodale asked about floods in Saskatchewan and natural disasters (Candice Hoeppner: we’re committed to helping!). Megan Leslie asked about that million-dollar carbon-capture-and-storage lobbyist (Peter Kent: it worked in Saskatchewan!); and Romeo Saganash asked about chrysotile asbestos (Joe Oliver: we promote the safe and controlled use of chrysotile).
Round three saw questions on cuts to the National Research Council (Nycole Turmel called out Gary Goodyear as a creationist, which doesn’t sound like she was “raising the tone of debate” as the NDP promised to do), the affordability of housing, that New Brunswick farmer in a Lebanese jail, the Canadian Wheat Board, first nations needing help with equality now that they’re included under the Canadian Human Rights Act, helicopter procurement and job cuts to Public Works.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Joyce Murray for a nicely tailored black suit with a fuchsia top beneath and Ted Menzies for a grey suit with a violet shirt and a grey striped tie. Style citations go out to Megan Leslie for her faded floral old-lady dress with a light-grey jacket and Alex Atamanenko, who needs to burn that powder-blue jacket. Dishonourable mention goes to Rathika Sitsabaiesan for a yellow-and-black violation.
Overall, things were slightly more engaging today, but only just. I will note that the NDP did have the opportunity to add excitement by asking about some breaking news (the PWGSC job cuts). Alas, it was merely a robotic reading of a sheet by Turmel rather than something that demonstrated a bit of life or passion about the subject. As well, most attempts at wit or humour failed miserably and somewhat painfully. It would be nice if we had some dynamic cut and thrust or genuine wit, but I may be asking too much.