Socialist International
3 min

QP: First Speaker smackdown

And on the second day of question period, the new Speaker flexed his muscles and enforced decorum. So say we all.

Today was the first Layton-Harper showdown of the new Parliament. Layton asked about job creation in the budget, and Harper replied that we have the best record in the G8. When that went no further, Layton shifted his question to how the cuts proposed in the budget would affect the unemployed, seniors and so on. Harper demurred, saying that they’re only going to amount to some two percent of spending, so it's no big deal.

Peggy Nash was next up, asking about the tax cuts in the budget. Answering, in her role as parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, was Shelly Glover, Canada’s most intellectually bankrupt MP. Glover was happy to rattle off talking points about how Canada has the best economic outlook in the G20. Bob Rae asked why Harper couldn't make any of his tax credits refundable to really help poor Canadians, and Harper told him that they should look at the credits they are getting as a positive. Scott Brison was next up to ask about manufacturing and extending the ecoEnergy retrofit program to five years rather than the current one. Glover told him to read the budget to see that it was extended. However, she neglected the whole issue of how long it was extended.

Round two began with Libby Davies asking about family doctors (Leona Aglukkaq: healthcare accord is up in 2014, we’re increasing transfers); Jean Rousseau asked about the E coli crisis in Europe and food inspection in Canada (Pierre Lemieux: we have advanced border controls to stop this contaminated food); Malcolm Allen and Lemieux spoke again on food safety; Irene Mathyssen asked about seniors living in poverty (Glover: support the budget!); Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe asked about single female seniors living in poverty (Diane Finley: we’re increasing the GIS); Alain Giguère asked about CPP expansion (Glover: talking point); Wayne Marston asked about government reliance on private pensions (Glover: we've reformed the framework); and Don Davies asked about a deportation case (Jason Kenney: provinces can rule on medical inadmissibility). Hedy Fry asked about healthcare in the budget (Aglukkaq: we’ve increased transfers); Justin Trudeau asked about a first ministers' meeting on health (Aglukkaq: health accords expire in 2014); and Judy Sgro asked about pensions and seniors (Alice Wong: we’re enhancing the GIS and tax credits). Pat Martin went on a tear about the Canadian Wheat Board, and, in his first response as parliamentary secretary, David Anderson said that farmers voted to scrap the CWB by electing Conservative MPs. (No, seriously, that was his answer.) In response to the supplementary question, Anderson started by saying that Martin was acting like a fool, at which point, Scheer stood up, cut off Anderson's microphone and called for the next question. After QP, Anderson stood up to apologize. Closing the round was Jack Harris asking about reports that the government hoped unemployment would drive Canadian Forces recruitment (Finley: we’re supporting workers).

Round three saw four different NDP questions on the various regional development agencies and a question on cuts to first nations housing. Joe Comartin gave a gimme to Rob Nicholson by asking about the former bill on speeding up mega-trials. Comartin pledged his support when it is reintroduced, which Nicholson promised would be soon. There were additional questions on Camp Mirage, EI for those affected by reduced snow-crab quotas and flooding in Quebec.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe for her fitted black top and grey skirt and Yvon Godin for his grey suit with a violet shirt and purple tie. Style citations go out to Sadia Groguhé for a terrible pale-orange dress, which was unsuited to her skin tone, Diane Finley for a floral pastel jacket with a pastel teal top and Pierre Poilievre for his blue suit.

In the foyer post-QP, Rae was asked his opinion on Scheer shutting down Anderson mid-response. Rae says that we need to exercise caution in this new era of “civility” in Parliament rather than simply relying on “unctuous sanctimony.” He hopes that we don’t end up stifling lively debate, which is the cut and thrust, and indeed the fun, of QP. That said, Rae agreed that Scheer made the right call.

I would also add that the current NDP strategy for QP is still a bit hard to follow. By simply trying to get as many MPs as possible to bring up as many topics as possible, they make the whole event scattershot, which does not allow room for supplementary questions and follow-ups to non-answers. Given the scattershot nature of how these questions are handled, it makes it difficult to follow any theme or narrative and virtually impossible to see on which particular issues to hold the government to account.

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