3 min

The first day back

It’s such an over-used metaphor, but in some ways, it really was like the first day of school – the MPs all freshly scrubbed with new haircuts, or new glasses, and new wardrobes. They went about, shaking hands with colleagues they hadn’t seen in weeks or months. Even among the journalists, there was that similar sense.

But once things got down to business, and the Members’ Statements got started, it was like we’d never left. The Conservatives once again accused the Liberals of putting together a coalition and of disrespecting the flag, while the Liberals accused the Conservatives of having a hidden agenda. (Liberal Whip Roger Cuzner went so far as to say “Liberals will stop accusing the Conservatives of having a hidden agenda when they stop showing it behind closed doors!”)

When Question Period began, much of it was like old times – Ignatieff cited Harper’s leaked closed-doors speech and asked just what “lesson” he can teach Canadians (for which he did not get a reply), and asked about the Conservatives’ newfound “love of socialism” given that they are likely to make a deal with the NDP.

Bob Rae asked whether the Prime Minister was proud of Canadian health care – to which Harper responded that it was the only system he and his family used and would depend on in the future. This in hand, Rae asked why Harper didn’t defend it in the face of attacks by American pundits. Harper said that he would let the Americans make their own decision, and that Canadian health care could survive attacks by right-wing pundits, much as it survived “left-wing incompetence in Ontario.”

Gilles Duceppe is a born-again tough-on-crime fighter (to which Harper suggested that tough on white collar crime means a national securities regulator – which the Bloc opposes), and Jack Layton pleaded that Harper needs to govern like he has a minority and not a majority.

When asked about the potential new EI changes, the Conservatives not only trotted out old talking points, but accused the Liberals of walking away from the “working group” despite the fact that there was nothing for them to walk away from, as it was all a big sham from the start. Also, the Liberals are apparently having a lot of fun throwing the possibility of an EI rate increase – or a “job-killing payroll tax hike” – in their faces.

When responding to an infrastructure question, Tony Clement said that he was proud of the work he does for the people of Parry Sound-Muskoka, at which point Carolyn Bennett heckled “Not for long!” Ujjal Dosanjh and Deepak Obrai went head-to-head on whether “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” when in trouble abroad, and who was the prouder Canadian. And Libby Davies chastised the government for their “HST scheme” with the BC government has “foolishly signed on.” (Flaherty reminded her that it was a decision of the province).

I didn’t find anyone’s outfits to be particularly deserving of sartorial snaps, but style citations are definitely warranted for Conservatives Lynne Yelich for her high-waisted tartan jacket, and Cathy McLeod for her sparkling, multicoloured jacket over a black top. It was not a good look. Also, Liberal Kirsty Duncan didn’t learn how to apply make-up over the summer like I was hoping she might, though I did notice her right hand was bandaged up. And the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a dull grey suit paired with a ruffled fuchsia top and boring light grey shoes – a fairly neutral start to the session for one of Parliament’s worst style offenders.

Elsewhere, Elections Canada reports that they’re ready for H1N1 at any potential polling stations should we get an election, Michael Ignatieff used his speech at the Canadian Club of Ottawa to lay some foreign policy markers (in that Canada needs to do better on the world stage – but I thought that Canada was back?), and the Liberals are catching flak for their support of the Colombian free trade agreement. Scott Brison was speaking of his trip to Colombia during debates on the bill in question, and says that even those human rights advocates he met with couldn’t identify how such an agreement would make the situation in Colombia any worse than it already is.

Her Excellency gave a rather unusually emotional press release about the latest Canadian death in Afghanistan, and used the opportunity to praise the work of our mission there.

And finally, Michael Ignatieff’s next English-language pre-election ad has been released, this time talking about jobs and the “restructuring of our economy” – again apparently filmed on the Forest moon of Endor.