4 min

QP: Nothing but admiration for Sheila Fraser

During members’ statements before question period, Liberal Scott Brison rose to mark the passing of Audrey-Ann Murphy, his constituency staffer for the past 14 years.

Jack Layton was absent from QP, and one hopes he has a doctor’s note, given his singling out of House attendance during the election campaign (never mind that his statistics were bogus). In his place, the party’s House leader, Thomas Mulcair, led off QP by asking about the auditor general’s report, which was released this morning. He focused on the revelations of spending in Tony Clement’s riding, trying all along to draw the Liberals into the affair by continually making links to the sponsorship scandal, despite the fact that they are very different things. Harper stood up and calmly said that they were municipal projects, which followed procedure (but said nothing of the absent paper trail). Charlie Angus followed up with questions on the G8 “slush fund,” to which John Baird responded by praising Sheila Fraser. He then “rejected the premise” of Angus’s question. For his turn, Bob Rae began by asking about the government requesting funds under the supplementary estimates for border infrastructure and spending it on the G8 “legacy projects.” Harper assured him that the border infrastructure fund was routinely used for other projects, which elicited some outcry from the Liberal benches. Rae then asked about the report’s recommendations on first nations and pointed to the Conservatives' having cancelled the Kelowna Accords, to which Harper gave a bland request for working together. And for his last question, Rae brought up an email from a constituent, in which Immigration Canada said it was no longer processing parental sponsorship. Rick Dykstra responded by touting the government's record of increasing the number of newcomers (omitting that most of those are now temporary foreign workers).

Peggy Nash kicked off round two by bringing up the lack of G8 compensation for Toronto, to which Baird obfuscated. This was followed by another similar exchange with Andrew Cash. Linda Duncan asked about the AG report on first nations. John Duncan replied that it was in the past and the government was now looking to the future. (No, seriously.) Guy Caron asked about problems on reserves (Duncan: we’re bringing the prosperity agenda!); Jasbir Sandhu asked about the AG’s finding that the RCMP is underfunded, especially for organized-crime units (Vic Toews: we’re working on a management action plan); Christine Moore asked about the AG findings on pensions for Canadian Forces reservists (Chris Alexander: reservists are key for the Forces!); Jack Harris asked about the Libya mission mandate and concerns about regime change (Baird: trying to extend the current mission of protecting civilians); Paul Dewar asked about the Libya Contact Group (Baird: we’re working with partners); and Hélène Laverdière asked about humanitarian aid to Libyans (Lois Brown: it’s a volatile situation, but look at the aid we’ve given). Judy Foote asked about the closure of those search-and-rescue centres (Ashfield: deficit reduction!); Mauril Bélanger wondered about the lack of commitment to linguistic duality in the throne speech (James Moore gave a perfunctory talking point); and John McCallum asked about Tony Clement's musing about new user fees (Clement: we’re doing a program review to find savings!). Anne Minh Thu Quach wondered about the government’s absence from the UN conference on HIV/AIDS (Leona Aglukkaq: we’re proud of our work with the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative – neglecting to mention that all they’ve done is shift the funds around from one pot to another and haven't actually done anything worthwhile with it); and Libby Davies followed up on that by asking why Harper could go to a hockey game in Boston but not that UN conference. Closing off round two, Yvon Godin asked about the Canada Post strike (Lisa Raitt: we’re at the negotiating table). When Godin asked a supplemental question and Stephen Fletcher answered, Godin interrupted by asking “when” Fletcher’s plans were going to happen, causing everyone to accuse him of heckling.

Round three saw questions on cellphone roaming charges, credit card debt, whether the government would show some contrition over the G8 spending (hint: no), results on first nations issues (at which point Duncan seemed to blame the first nations by emphasizing that they must work with the government), shipbuilding lobbyists, discrepancies between greenhouse gas reports sent to the UN and Parliament, extending the Kyoto targets, and $700 million for seniors living in poverty. Elizabeth May closed QP with her first question, asking whether the government would make another omnibus “Trojan horse” bill out of the budget implementation act. Jim Flaherty lamented her defeat of Gary Lunn, jokingly wondering what she has against munchkins (he being one too), and said that the bill will only be about things in the budget.

Sartorially speaking, I am not giving any snaps because there was just so much that was bad today. Like Françoise Boivin’s dusty-rose smocklike jacket. Or Linda Duncan’s bright-yellow dress with a moss-green… pullover. Or Gordon O’Connor’s bright-lemon shirt with a black jacket and tie. (Please stop wearing yellow with black.) Or Diane Finley’s Century 21 realtor’s outfit of a brown top with a gold jacket. So. Much. Bad. Style.

Overall, it was largely back to being scattershot again. On the one hand, I can understand that there was a lot to talk about with the AG's report, but on the other hand, there remained virtually no follow-up to any response given by the government. This not only makes accountability difficult to maintain, but continues to make QP a dull recitation of prepared scripts, which is a mere shadow of what QP can and should be. We need some actual cut-and-thrust and a means to keep the government on its toes. As it is, they’re pretty much phoning it in.
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