It was a sweltering day in Ottawa, and outside of the MP’s entrance to the Centre Block was someone in a sheep mask handing out copies of Sheeple, former “maverick” MP Garth Turner’s latest book in which he talks about the flock-like mentality of most MPs. (Some rather scintillating excerpts can be found here).
It was not sheep, however, that was the topic of conversation in Question Period, but rather swine – or more specifically, the outbreak of swine flu that is tracking across North America at present. Harper, it should be noted, was not in the House, and it wasn’t because he was off on another important international meeting or summit. No, I overheard his spokesperson telling another reporter in the foyer that he was in his office. One just hopes that this isn’t the sign of any kind of hypochondria setting in.
Leona Aglukkaq, the Minister of Health, answered more questions in a single day than she has since took on the portfolio – not that her wooden delivery improved any. And while her answers weren’t the most substantive, at least she didn’t feel like she needed to start adding the “at least we don’t want to raise taxes” jab to the end of them. Then again, it may simply have been the case that this issue was deemed one where non-partisanship was best observed.
Questions on the outbreak ranged from our pandemic planning, to travel advisories, and our stockpiles of anti-viral medications in the face of cuts to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Aglukkaq handled those questions with her particular wooden aplomb, and assured us that yes, everything was okay, she was monitoring the situation, and coordinating with other departments as necessary. On the question of migrant workers from Mexico – a vital part of the agricultural sector in some provinces – Jason Kenney assured us that each labourer would be examined by not one but two doctors before getting on the plane to Canada, and that they would be monitoring them to ensure their health.
Toward the end of Question Period, Kenney again stood up to respond to a question by NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, who was trying to get an answer about a Pakistani woman about to be deported to a situation where she faced certain death. Kenney first said that it was a decision of the IRB, but he could take a look and possibly intervene, but the member shouldn't have brought it to the floor of the House because of privacy issues. Mathyssen, meanwhile, was screaming that she’d sent Kenney two letters already – and it was loud enough to hear from the Press Gallery, all the way on the other end of the chamber from her seat (and that’s saying something, given the way that sound does not carry in there).
The sudden arrival of summer-like weather also meant that some MPs were breaking out their summer looks. For many of the men, it meant a few more tan and beige suits dotting the crowds of dark greys and navy, though snaps go out to Mario Silva for his exquisitely tailored light grey suit and matching tie. Marlene Jennings cropped her hair to a length that could almost be described as “lesbianic,” but I was envying her linen jacket by that point. (Did I mention that it was sweltering out, and that there is a jacket-and-tie dress code for the Press Gallery?) But I think the sartorial snaps go out to Carolyn Bennett for her very smart long jacket and long, straight skirt, with a blue-tinted green shirt’s wide collar poking through. She ditched her usual scarf or tied-sweater, and it was splendid.
And then there was the perpetually ensembley-challenged Megan Leslie. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to adequately describe just how utterly awful her particular colour combination was, but lo and behold, photographic evidence. (Leslie is on the right. That’s Liberal Kirsty Duncan on the left, who also needs a bit of work, but at least she’s stopped wearing inappropriately coloured jackets).
Seriously. Mustard-yellow sweater over a formless pea-green shirt with grey trousers? Seriously? Someone needs to stage an intervention. Could somebody please call Trinny & Susannah?
In other politics news, American documents reveal that the Prime Minister paid his new American PR flack $24,500 for his help in getting Harper American airtime before the G20 summit earlier this month. But hey, we’re getting “good value for money.”
And in case you were wondering, Iceland’s lesbian Prime Minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, is no longer just an interim Prime Minister after her party won a stunning electoral victory. Way to go Iceland!
Up today: A Bloc opposition day, where it looks like they want to debate the harmonisation of the GST & QST, in light of Ontario getting compensation for harmonising their provincial sales tax with the GST. Riveting stuff, ladies and gentlemen.