With a Canada Post lockout now in place, one would think that Jack Layton would begin question period by asking about it. But instead, he began with a fairly standard pair of questions about job creation (Harper: thanks to us, the economy is creating lots of jobs!). He then hit on labour disputes and the government’s desire to implement back-to-work legislation, letting it be known that his sympathies are clearly with the workers. Harper gave a bland response about concerns of damaging the economy and the public interest. Yvon Godin picked up on it and asked more pointed questions about the lockout, to which Lisa Raitt announced the government would indeed be giving notice later in the day to introduce back-to-work legislation – despite the contradictory answer she gave a mere hour earlier to the media. Bob Rae then stood up to ask about Jim Flaherty’s speech in New York, where he “took sides” with American Republicans and spoke about the implications of Canada interfering with domestic American affairs (Harper: G20 leaders are working together on the economy!). Rae also asked whether the government feels the auditor general was telling the truth, given some government comments regarding the report on the G8/G20 spending (Harper: we’ve looked at the report and its recommendations and are taking them into account for the future).
Round Two kicked off with Jean Crowder asking about poverty reduction (Diane Finley: our Economic Action Plan™ helped with unemployment!); Nycole Turmel asked about staffing cuts (Tony Clement: we’re rationalizing and are focused on better delivery of service); and, since Clement answered, Alexandre Boulerice figured Clement could answer a question about the G8 legacy fund and the border infrastructure fund (nope – Baird gave his stock response). Charlie Angus then took a stab at Baird, who deflected by lamenting the tone of debate. Andrew Cash asked about businesses in Toronto being compensated for G20 losses (Baird: give me names of the businesses, and we’ll get to work on it); and John Rafferty asked about congested border crossings in Northern Ontario that would have benefited from infrastructure money (Baird: stock response on the AG report). Judy Foote and Scott Simms asked about the closure of those rescue centres (Keith Ashfield: finding efficiencies, you Liberals decimated the Coast Guard); and Joyce Murray asked about the plight of poor veterans while the government increases its ad budget (Steven Blaney: we’re helping veterans!). Peter Julian declared that only the NDP were responsible for stopping the MDA and Potash takeovers (at which point Bob Rae stood up and started bowing reverently in his direction) and asked whether we would see clear investment rules before the TSX was sold (Paradis: yay for more competition and foreign investment).
And then came this exchange (apologies for the lack of a translation):
Dany Morin: Monsieur le Président, les dernières statistiques démontrent une augmentation de 18 p. 100 des crimes haineux contre la communauté gay et lesbienne. Alors que la plupart des autres crimes haineux sont principalement perpétrés contre la propriété, plus de la moitié de ceux commis contre les gays et lesbiennes impliquent de la violence. C'est inacceptable. Quelles mesures le gouvernement entend-il prendre pour combattre l'augmentation des crimes haineux contre les gays et lesbiennes?
(Basically, he said that 18 percent of hate crimes are committed against gays and lesbians. What is the government going to do about it?)
There was sudden confusion on the government benches as they wondered who was going to answer it. After several panicked seconds, both John Baird and Peter Van Loan stood up, but Van Loan ended up answering.
Peter Van Loan: Mr Speaker, our government's track record is clear. We believe strongly in protecting the rights of all Canadians regardless of their background, regardless of their roots. That continues to be the position of our government.
Randall Garrison: Mr Speaker, sadly and unjustly, transgender Canadians are still not protected against hate crimes. Nor are they protected against discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Code. Last session, this House passed legislation to provide those protections, legislation that was supported by the minister of justice. This is a question of equality for Canadians who are our brothers and sisters, our daughters, our sons, our neighbours and our friends. Will this government act now to protect the rights and safety of transgender Canadians?
Peter Van Loan: Mr Speaker, as I already indicated to this House, the commitment of this government to the equality of all Canadians remains as firm as it has always been. That continues to be our position and will be in the future.
Their roots? Committed to equality when most of them, including most of the cabinet, voted down Bill C-389 in the last Parliament? Okay then.
Round Three saw questions on bridge repairs in Montreal, youth unemployment, the government plans to kill the Canadian Wheat Board without a plan in place for the post-CWB world, a pair of questions from Libby Davies on drug safety, a New Brunswick farmer imprisoned in Lebanon, elder abuse, and pulp and paper layoffs.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Jonathan Genest-Jourdain for his charcoal suit with a light-blue shirt and a blue-and-brown patterned tie (and I believe he may be in the running for the most consistently best-dressed male MP). I’ll also give snaps to Elizabeth May for her lime-green overshirt and matching sun hat (well, she didn’t wear the hat in the House) because it does suit her. Style citations go out to Isabelle Morin for an awful yellow T-shirt with a melon-pink skirt, Alex Atamanenko for his cheesy powder-blue jacket and Olivia Chow for a yellow sweater over a black dress. (People, yellow and black. Stop it!) Honourable mentions go to Nina Grewal for a bright-magenta leather jacket and Diane Finley, whose fuchsia jacket and skirt combo was so eye-searingly bright that one of my colleagues remarked that it came with its own batteries.
Overall, there’s not a lot to say about the dull, lacklustre performances we’ve been seeing. Again, only the Liberals seem to have signs of life and to be committed to actual vigorous debate with back-and-forth exchanges – you know, what Parliament is actually designed for.