The House treated today like a Friday to allow the NDP to head to Vancouver for its party convention by holding question period early. But it wasn’t a real Friday with the usual B and C-list MPs and parliamentary secretaries jockeying for camera time.
Jack Layton kicked things off by declaring that the government’s decision to introduce special legislation to end both the Air Canada and Canada Post strikes was showing a preference for management over workers and is a blow to collective bargaining because the government was so quick to interfere. Harper, however, insisted the government was simply trying to protect the economy. Libby Davies rose to defend the existence of labour rights, to which Lisa Raitt insisted that they weren’t taking any side other than that of the economy. And Bob Rae stood up to declare that the only tool the government was using to deal with these strikes was a sledgehammer. He said that the real issue at the heart of these strikes was pension security, something all Canadians are worried about. After declaring Rae to be the other NDP leader, Harper again insisted this was all about protecting the economy.
Round two was kicked off with Charlie Angus making his daily run at Tony Clement over the G8 spending by employing a bad Twitter and hashtag joke (please, just stop). John Baird demurred. Nycole Turmel questioned on the same topic (Baird: the auditor general suggested we be more open and transparent, and we accept that recommendation); Nathan Cullen asked about the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project (Joe Oliver: reviewed by a joint review panel); and Fin Donnelly built on that by asking about a ban on oil tankers along the West Coast (Oliver: the National Energy Board is an independent regulator). Jinny Sims and Peter Julian both asked about the HST in BC (Ted Menzies: it’s provincial jurisdiction, and there’s an upcoming referendum, which you shouldn’t interfere in); Judy Foote returned to the favoured East Coast topic of the closure of rescue centres (Keith Ashfield: Liberals kept Coast Guard ships tied up with no fuel); and Ted Hsu asked about the cuts to the National Research Council (Gary Goodyear: we increased funding under Economic Action Plan™, which has now ended). Geoff Regan blasted the government for calling the auditor general’s recommendations merely “interesting” (Baird: we’ve accepted recommendations); Romeo Saganash asked about asbestos, considering its removal from Parliament Hill offices (Paradis: we advocate safe and controlled use of chrysotile, which is not the case with these offices); and Megan Leslie asked about studies on the impact of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – a term which now has a completely other meaning for those of us who were fans of Battlestar Galactica (Kent: provincial and federal governments share responsibility, shale gas is largely provincial, and research is being conducted).
Round three saw questions on affordable childcare, oil sector speculation and gasoline prices, a Canadian in a Lebanese prison, core funding to Canadian organizations looking to develop a long-term strategy for the Americas, the UN report on greenhouse gases, sending the health accords review to the Commons health committee rather than the Senate committee (Leona Aglukkaq responded by saying that the Commons committee sets its own agenda, and if it wants to study the review, it should decide that) and the plans for deepwater oil exploration in the Gulf of St Lawrence.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Megan Leslie for her brown wrap dress and to Devinder Shory for his grey suit with pink shirt. As was typical of this week, there were a lot of style citations, which go to Nycole Turmel’s white tracksuit jacket with black stripes and the matching polo shirt beneath, Scott Armstrong’s black jacket with yellow shirt (yellow and black, people!), Diane Finley’s pastel floral jacket and Denis Blanchette’s cream jacket with a forest-green shirt, to name but a few. Far more bad than good.
And that was week two of the “heckle ban” in question period: two weeks of lifeless recitations of talking points from all sides with few exceptions, most of them coming from the Liberals. Seriously. In QP today, Joe Oliver actually held up his briefing binder to recite his response. This is not debate, nor is it holding the government to account, and it’s certainly not interesting to watch.