3 min

QP: Thoroughly aired these issues

With the energy in the House somewhat sedate,
Nycole Turmel got up to ask about Tony Clement’s no-show at a freedom of
information event last night, and what it said in relation to the mayor of
Huntsville’s assurances that he would make any future deals by phone. Harper assured
the House that these G8 legacy issues were already aired – end of story.
Alexandre Boulerice was up next doing double-duty – asking about Clement and
the G8 legacy spending in both official languages while Charlie Angus was
elsewhere and getting the same non-answer from Baird that he always does. Dominic
LeBlanc was up to ask about the various American protectionist measures under
discussion while the perimeter security agreement is being negotiated, and John
Baird came back with a reminder that 23 years ago, the Liberals were against
free trade. Oh, the burn! Laurence Macauley then asked about search-and-rescue
centre closures (Ashfield: No negative impacts!) and Stéphane Dion reminded him
about the inadequate French spoken at the remaining facilities (Ashfield: We’re
increasing bilingual capacity!).

Kicking off round two, Mathieu Ravignat
asked about taxpayer dollars spent on news conferences (Ted Menzies: We’re
proud to share good things with Canadians!), the costs of new websites at
Justice Canada (Nicholson: that’s IT stuff, but we too have good news to
share), Chris Charlton asked about a failed Conservative candidate given a particular federal job (Del Mastro: This was an independent office with a
hiring process, and you hire your own failed candidates, too), François Lapointe
and Dennis Bevington asked about spending rules at CanNor development agency (Aglukkaq:
This was a draft internal audit, we’re looking at it), and Jasbir Sandhu asked
about the RCMP contracts coming due in PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador
(Toews: They know the deadline is March 2012). Denis Coderre asked about making
the engineering reports on the current Champlain Bridge public (Paradis: We
take no lessons from the Liberals on safety!), and Jim Karygiannis asked about
a Canadian family being detained in Saudi Arabia (Ablonczy: We’re aware and working
on it). Jamie Nicholls, Olivia Chow and Thomas Mulcair then all asked questions
about how awful a toll on the Champlain Bridge will be for families, and its
lack of public transit options.

Round three saw questions on energy drink
regulations (one from Libby Davies), the muzzling of Environment Canada
scientists (to which former broadcaster Peter Kent richly said that one cannot
trust everything the media says and that Environment Canada scientists
are free to talk to “responsible journalists”). Randall Garrison asked about the
government’s intervention in an international same-sex divorce case (I wrote
about that here). Here was the exchange:

Garrison: Mr Speaker, in 2005 Canada
made the historic decision to allow same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, the
Conservatives are now trying to erode this right by intervening in an Ontario
case to oppose recognition of a same-sex civil partnership from the UK. The Ontario government has agreed to
recognize this partnership under Canadian law, but the Conservative government
is opposing the guarantee of full protection of the law to this couple under
the Divorce Act. Why is the minister of justice
intervening in this case to deny equal protection of the law for all same-sex

Nicholson: Mr Speaker, the honourable member
has it wrong. We have been very clear that we are not reopening the issue, but
it is a legal dispute over definitions. As this matter is before the court, I
look forward to the decision of the court.

Garrison: Mr Speaker, the government
knows full well it is intervening in the case, not standing back from the case.
The government claims it does not want to reopen the same-sex marriage debate,
but that is exactly what it is doing by disputing the definition of a civil
partnership. Conservatives are saying straight couples who move to Canada have
more rights than same-sex couples. Will the minister agree to respect gay
and lesbian rights and stop opposing full legal recognition of same-sex
marriages and civil unions from other jurisdictions?

Nicholson: Mr Speaker, we respect the
rights of all individuals, and we have been very clear about that. We have done
nothing to reopen that debate. We respect the decision by Parliament. But it is
a question of definitions, and that is being argued before the courts. We are
interveners as are a number of other individuals and organizations, and I look
forward to the court's decision.

The rest of QP saw questions on a Canadian
locked in a Mexican jail (Ablonczy bizarrely answered about Omar Khadr),
disability issues, EI and the perimeter agreement.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Kirsty Duncan for her white jacket with the black and blue square patterns, and Tarik Brahmi for his grey suit with the lavender shirt and purple tie. Style
citations go out again to Bev Oda for her green and brown leaf-patterned jacket with
a green dress, and to Peter Julian for his burgundy shirt with a striped tie
and tan jacket.

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