The Quebec nationalist rhetoric was cranked up by the NDP yesterday when Jack Layton began question period with a round of “I love Quebec more than you do" by demanding to know why the government isn’t willing to suspend sitting on St-Jean-Baptiste Day (which is Friday). Harper demurred and said they are ready to pass the back-to-work legislation on the postal strike. Layton then turned his attention to the Senate and demanded a referendum on abolishing the upper chamber (as though a referendum were either binding or, indeed, constitutional). Harper again demurred and said that his reform bill doesn’t impose any regime on the provinces. Anne Minh-Thu Quach and Libby Davies asked about healthcare reforms with respect to wait times (Leona Aglukkaq: we’ve spent a billion dollars on it, and this is under provincial jurisdiction). Bob Rae then posed a trio of questions on the misappropriated G8 legacy funds and the curious lack of a paper trail. Harper replied by simply dismissing the issue as a “process failing.”
Round two kicked off with Alexandre Boulerice and Charlie Angus continuing their assault on the government over that G8 spending (Baird: you talk about decorum, and then you insult us? Shame!); Jack Harris and Yvon Godin asked about the soon-to-be-released Afghan detainee documents (Rob Nicholson: if you were that worried about it, you should have participated in the parliamentary process that was set up); and Olivia Chow, Jamie Nicholls and Hoang Mai asked about crumbling bridges in Montreal and Toronto (Denis Lebel: we’ve invested $680 million!). John McCallum and Joyce Murray returned to the issue of the G8 legacy fund, calling on the auditor general to perform a value-for-money audit on the projects (Baird selectively quoted the AG, making it sound as though the government was doing a bang-up job); and Kevin Lamoureux asked about increasing RCMP resources for people who need a criminal records check during the hiring process (Vic Toews: we’re announcing new technology that should speed things up). Philip Toone asked about an environmental assessment for the Old Harry project; Fin Donnelly asked about protecting our oceans (Ashfield: we’re showing leadership on our oceans!); and Jack Layton asked a pair of questions on Libya, focusing on Italy's request for a ceasefire to get humanitarian aid through (Harper: we’re in contact with our allies).
Round three saw questions on intellectual property rights in the Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement, with respect to rising drug costs, the closure of rescue centres, the lack of federal leadership on the 2004 health accords in the area of homecare, shale gas, a local hockey rink project, what killing the Canadian Wheat Board will mean to the port of Churchill, Manitoba, and heritage lighthouses.
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Lisa Raitt for her black suit with white piping and the white low-cut top beneath and Maxime Bernier for his impeccably tailored brownish-grey suit with a pink shirt and a violet-blue tie. Style citations go out to Denis Blanchette for a repeat violation of a khaki suit and beige shirt with a teal tie and Linda Duncan for what appeared to be a yellow patterned caftan over a moss-green skirt.
Overall, it felt like the quality of QP had regressed to what it was a week ago. We were back to hearing scattershot questions because the parties were more concerned with getting out as many faces as possible rather than employing quality questions and follow-ups. Occasionally there were better questions (usually coming from the Liberals, such as with the EU trade agreement – not that the “answer” from the minister changed at all), but, on the whole, it was a pretty disappointing day.