Xtra
3 min

Second verse, same as the first

Statements before Question Period let it be known that this is both National Policing Week, and National Nursing Week. You would think that someone would try and keep track of these things – unless of course there are so many “national” weeks that they’re overlapping.

With both Ignatieff and Harper absent from the House, the lead question fell to Liberal Marlene Jennings, who led off by asking about EI reform, attain bringing up the promise for benefits for the self-employed. Human Resources Minister Diane Finley talked about parental benefits for the self-employed, hoping that we’d obligingly forget that she didn’t mention EI benefits.

But while EI reform and access for benefits were still key on the Liberal agenda, the situations with the Tamils in Sri Lanka was also fairly top of mind, with Rob Oliphant taking the Liberals’ second question of the day to ask about the situation. Bev Oda said that she asked for a ceasefire, that she had pledged increased support, and she was in Colombo last week and instructed our High Commissioner there to keep on the case. (Oliphant and I talked about this after Question Period). Albina Guarnieri followed up, bringing up images of mass graves for Tamil civilians, but Oda only repeated that she was aware of the issue and taking steps.

But it wasn’t until Layton brought up the same issue that the possibility of a looming slap-and-hair-pull fight came up. You see, Oda began her answer by thanking Jack Layton for his role in helping to defuse the situation with the protest on the Gardiner Freeway Sunday evening. And here’s where things get interesting. All Sunday evening and Monday morning, the media said the protest was broken up when the Tamil leaders met with officials from Michael Ignatieff’s office. But later Monday morning, the NDP put out a statement that it was Jack Layton’s phone calls that ended things, and during the scrums after Question Period, Layton was boasting that he talked to Stephen Harper that morning, and that Harper suggested that senior people would be engaging the file. That Oda would credit Layton makes me think that she’s playing into this game of trying to suck up to the NDP to help keep the government in power while the Liberals are now itching to pull the plug. As per my conversation with Oliphant, who has been on this file for the Liberals, he knew nothing about Layton’s involvement until it came up in Question Period – much as Oda claims she knew nothing of the Liberal involvement, even though it was in all the news articles this morning. But surely we could be doing better than this kind of gamesmanship, don’t you think? Especially when there are civilian lives at stake in Sri Lanka.

The Bloc were back onto the topic of the environment, after a report was released that stated that Canada could cut its GHGs by 40% by 2020 using existing technologies if it had the political will to do so. And how did the government respond to this? By saying that the Bloc’s environment critic had no credibility until he actually visited the tar sands operations in Alberta to see them for himself. Really? That’s your defence? I have to wonder how Jim Prentice can look in the mirror anymore, the way he’s been selling out his credibility this much lately.

Scott Brison kept on the topic of the Buy America provisions in 7 pieces of US legislation, and this time, Stockwell Day was actually in the House to answer. Except that his only answers were that he was “continuing to monitor” the situation. Wow – colour me just so impressed.

During an answer on the collapse of the lobster fishery, due to low catch and even lower prices, Liberal agriculture critic heckled during a canned answer “Second verse, same as the first.” Which summed up so much of Question Period of late.

Sartorial snaps go out to Liberal Joyce Murray for her fitted chocolate brown leather jacket, paired with a floral top and a serious skirt. Contrast that with NDP Jean Crowder, who also sported a chocolate brown leather jacket, but Crowder’s wasn’t tailored, and paired with matching trousers, she managed to make it simply look dowdy. And compare both with the chocolate brown monochromatic outfit of Conservative Lynne Yelich, whose jacket buttoned up to the collar, and yet had no shape with sleeves that were too short, making the whole thing look ill-fitting. Murray wins.

Also of note were Marlene Jennings’ serious grey pantsuit with crisp white shirt, Lisa Raitt’s scoop-necked black top under a thin, fitted sweater, and Kirsty Duncan’s beige pantsuit with an appropriately-cut pink top beneath. Peter MacKay has recently buzzed his hair completely, and several of us in the Gallery wondered if that was to look like “one of the boys” for when he goes to Afghanistan. But the major style citation for the day goes out to NDP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, for her eye-searingly coral jacket over black.

Up today: Brian Mulroney takes the stand at the Oliphant Inquiry, Ruby Dhalla goes before the Immigration Committee immediately following her accusers (which Dhalla negotiated, lest the accusations hang in the air unchecked until the next scheduled meeting, on the 26th), and the Auditor General also has a report of some variety to release. It’s going to be a very busy day in official Ottawa.