Concerns about procedure echoed through the press gallery as question period got underway. Jack Layton opened with a trio of questions on the Libyan deployment, despite the fact that there was an all-day debate in the House about the mission. Apparently, one is not supposed to ask questions about matters currently under debate, but that didn't matter. Layton asked about the UN resolution (Harper: we’re seeking a furtherance of the current resolution) and the timetable for additional humanitarian aid (Harper: we’re working with international partners). Paul Dewar informed the House that only a diplomatic solution will end the situation there and asked if Baird would attend the next Contact Group meeting (Baird: it’s my intention to be there); Hélène Lavendière asked about sexual violence as a weapon of war in Libya – seeming to ask how we can help prevent it while not deploying ground troops (Lois Brown: commitment to investigate these atrocities); and Bob Rae asked about the disconnect between the cuts to the public service and ministers’ office budgets going up (Harper: we’ve made an $11 million reduction in those budgets).
Round two saw Peggy Nash asking about the “magic” cuts that the parliamentary budget officer hasn’t seen a plan of (Tony Clement: seeing savings from strategic reviews); Tyrone Benskin asked about the 33-percent spending cut to the Department of Canadian Heritage (James Moore: the bureaucracy has been cut, but we’re increasing the funding going out); Alexandre Boulerice asked about the G8 legacy fund being appropriated from the border infrastructure fund (Baird: even Liberal MPs liked some of this spending!); and Charlie Angus continued on the same topic, declaring that putting Clement in charge of cutting the public service was like putting Dracula in charge of protecting the blood bank – well, unless you follow the myth that vampires need fresh blood à la being human. Roger Cuzner asked about deadlines on mediation for the Canada Post strike (Raitt: we’re monitoring and meeting with them); Denis Coderre moved on to the Air Canada strike (Raitt: the obligation is on the parties involved, but we’re giving notice about introducing back-to-work legislation); and Judy Sgro translated these strikes being about pension plans to worries about pension security (Ted Menzies: we’re doing our best to protect Canadians). Linda Duncan asked about certain aboriginal groups being under surveillance (John Duncan: we respect peaceful protest); and Romeo Saganash asked about the government ignoring the Health Canada report on asbestos (Christian Paradis: chrysotile can be used safely!).
Round three saw questions on the closure of those rescue centres, the UN report on our greenhouse gases, government analyses on what killing the Canadian Wheat Board would actually mean, a New Brunswicker detained in Lebanon, a particular project (this from Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the honourable member from Vegas), veterans using food banks, and Senate reform without consulting the provinces (which the government still insists they can do without opening the constitution – err, no).
Sartorially speaking, there was nothing really deserving of snaps. However, there were a whole lot of style citations to hand out. They go to: Dany Morin’s near-fluorescent-yellow shirt with a black suit (that’s two violations in one); Carol Hughes’ shiny green jacket, which, from a distance, appeared to be made of snakeskin; Cheryl Gallant’s space-age silver lamé jacket with a lilac top; Françoise Boivin’s dusky-rose smock; and Alex Atamanenko’s brown jacket with a dull-green shirt and a black tie with a silkscreened forest on it. So. Much. Bad. Style.
Overall, it was a deathly quiet day in the House, except for one particular outburst during a Liberal question. While the NDP is finally structuring questions in a way that allows for a follow-up, there was no dynamism to those follow-up questions. Again, they stuck to their scripts even when ministers gave answers that should have brought a response (such as during the Benskin-Moore exchange: Moore’s first answer was actually something that Benskin should have responded to rather than sticking to his script). The Liberals employed an interesting trio of questions on pensions with one question building off the last. It was more adeptly carried off than a previous attempt by the NDP, which used the same question with a different regional spin.