4 min

The end of the 10 percenter?

That vote on Tuesday to end the practice of the “10 percenters?” It seems that the Conservatives have decided to waffle on the topic. During Question Period, it was the lead question, and Harper coyly suggested he was happy the Liberals had admitted to ending their use of the practice – but didn’t say his party would. On Monday, his own Minister of State for Democratic Reform railed about how ending 10 percenters was an assault on freedom of expression. Well, late yesterday the Conservatives lost their nerve, and agreed to end the practice.

But. They still have bulk mailing privileges. I wouldn’t be surprised if the very same kinds of propaganda tools still make their way into our mailboxes – just in a more costly envelope.

During Members’ statements, Mario Silva got up to speak about relief efforts for the earthquake flooding in Madeira:

Mr. Speaker, on February 20, the residents of Madeira Island suffered a devastating flood that caused several billion dollars in damage, injured hundreds of people and, sadly, left 42 people dead.
Torrential rainfall, the highest ever recorded in Portugal, caused landslides, washed away bridges and nearly destroyed entire villages.
I congratulate members of the Portuguese Canadian community as well as many other concerned Canadians who have already contributed, and I encourage the government and all Canadians to join the relief efforts by giving to one of the various funds that have been established.
We, the members of the House of Commons, pledge complete solidarity with the people of Madeira. We are absolutely committed to lending our support in any way we can, in order to help our friends cope with this disaster.

Back to Question Period, it was John McCallum leading off for the Liberals yesterday (with Harper congratulating him for his “promotion”), and after the question on 10 percenters, McCallum asked Harper, “from one economist to another,” about EI premiums going up next year. Harper said that the Liberals planned to raise taxes. (Incidentally, while McCallum actually worked as an economist, Harper never has).

Marlene Jennings made the link between the loss in research dollars and youth unemployment (who do you think is assisting in that research?); Gilles Duceppe asked once again about the HST negotiations with Quebec; and Jack Layton asked about his prorogation motion, that would be the Opposition Day motion following Question Period. Harper told him it would require a constitutional amendment. The motion did pass at the end of the day – just barely, at 139 to 135. But it was simply a motion, and not binding in the Standing Orders, or anything else that might influence constitutional conventions.

Layton moved onto the issue of the need for contraception in the government’s lofty plans to address maternal and child health in the developing world. Bev Oda kept repeating their plans were about saving lives with nutrition and vaccination – even when Carolyn Bennett later stood up to point out that 1.5 million deaths every year are related to a lack of contraception, and that 215 million women want contraception and can’t get it. Not that Oda would change her talking point. Incidentally, people have looked into the policies of our G8 partners, and oh, look – the UK, US and European Union all say contraception is important.

There was one other narrative during Question Period, about new revelations in the Afghan detainee file. This time it’s a leaked letter published in the Globe and Mail, which shows Canada, the US and the UK promised to build a prison in Afghanistan to house detainees, and then never did. Also, they’ve scaled back on inspections because they were “disruptive” for Afghan officials. The government kept going on about the 2007 transfer agreement, but if this leaked letter demonstrates that we’re now only checking up once a month and with plenty of advance notice, doesn’t that make much of the 2007 agreement, well, moot? Oh, wait – I’m not supposed to question these kinds of things, lest I be accused of not supporting the troops.

Sartorially speaking, it’s the Saint Patrick’s Day edition. There was a fair amount of green in the Chamber (which in and of itself is already done in green), but not quite as much uptake from the MPs as I might have expected. Regardless, best green tie goes to Scott Brison, who not only had an eye-catching shade, but if you got up close to see it, you could see it was printed with tiny little martini glasses with orange slices on the rims. “It’s a once-a-year tie,” Brison said. Cheekiest use of green went to Conservative MP Gary Schellenberger, who hauled out his mint-ice-cream green jacket that occasionally graces the chamber. Boldest use of green was newcomer Conservative Scott Armstrong’s emerald shirt, which was difficult to miss. And most eye-catching non-green outfit was Hedy Fry’s leopard print dress. Only Hedy can wear leopard print and get away with it like that. The Megan Leslie outfit watch was surprised to see that Leslie wore not a stitch of green – a grey suit and grey shoes with a dull blue-and-yellow shirt with the built-in bow down the front. I would have thought, given Leslie’s penchant for bright colours, she would have been all over the green theme.

Apparently those plans to cut the access to internet program? Was an “honest mistake” by Senior Industry Canada bureaucrats. Uh huh. Once again, this government blames the bureaucrats rather than looking at their own leadership. Not that we’re surprised.

And the Conservatives are going to stand up to the NDP’s attempt to compensate artists for pirated music by way of an “iPod levy,” because they’re such dedicated tax fighters, yo. As demonstrated by the way they raised income taxes to pay for their first GST cut, their decision to tax income trusts, raise airport security fees and EI premiums.

Up today – Michael Ignatieff is in Winnipeg to talk about Aboriginal issues on his cross-country tour.
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