4 min

The first day back at school

In so many ways, it was like the first day of school. Everyone was back and MPs whom we haven’t seen for three months were happy to see us (or, at least some of us anyway). And then there were the staged arrivals – Candice Hoeppner in her “Abolish the Registry” SUV, and Michael Ignatieff in the Liberal Express bus. Ignatieff held a media availability, where he talked about everything from the long-gun registry to aboriginal issues, and even the fact that Canada is vying for a seat on the UN Security Council, where he wondered if we have actually earned said seat, given the way Harper’s government has hurt our bid.

Before Question Period began, several MPs, including the prime minister, went over to see Liberal MP Albina Guarnieri, who recently revealed that she has MS and won’t be seeking reelection. This on the day that MS sufferers were protesting on the Hill for access to “liberation therapy.”

During members’ statements, Libby Davies spoke about the public inquiry into the missing and murdered women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the B.C. government's recent decision to undertake a public inquiry into the investigation of the downtown eastside's murdered and missing women. Families and friends deserve answers as to why the disappearance of their daughters, sisters, mothers and friends was overlooked for so long.

For decades, law enforcement policies played a real part in allowing over 60 women to go missing from the downtown eastside with little notice from authorities. Society failed these women at every turn. A public inquiry into the actions of law enforcement and the judicial system must rectify these failures and protect the most vulnerable in our society.

I call on the federal government and the RCMP to fully co-operate and assist in the inquiry. We must also engage in a community-led process that allows the downtown eastside to deal with the trauma and impact on so many lives. Mistakes, discrimination, racism, harmful laws and policies must be identified and then rectified.

Question Period got off to its usual partisan, blustery start, with Michael Ignatieff asking why Harper doesn't share the true concerns of Canadians, while Harper responded about how great our economic recovery is. Also, they want to keep criminals in jail, and they stand behind the military. When Ralph Goodale took a turn to point out that the great choice ahead was in the kinds of government spending that took place, rather than to spend or not to spend. Jim Flaherty said that he is proud of the tax relief they brought in.

Gilles Duceppe compared the law-and-order agenda to the plans to scrap the long-gun registry, while Maria Mourani cranked it up another notch by bringing up the NRA. Jack Layton asked about fixing the gun registry, unemployment and the sale of “key strategic resources” like potash. Harper responded that his party ran on killing the registry, that the special EI measures would continue until August of 2011, and that they have a policy on foreign takeovers.

From there, Scott Brison – in his new role as finance critic – asked about the long-form census from the perspective of the comments on its necessity by Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, and the needs of charities. (Tony Clement brought up the jail time red herring.) Siobhan Coady brought up the F-35 fighter jet purchase and the revelation that the Air Force itself expected there would be a competition process. Rona Ambrose claimed that delaying purchasing the jets would have been harmful, and Peter MacKay said that the chief of the air staff said this was the only jet for us – so there.

When the rising cost of jails was brought up, Vic Toews responded with a false equivalence of Liberals not wanting to put criminals in jail while criminalizing gun owners. There were further questions on the Economic Action Plan signs, MS trials, stimulus spending deadlines, spending on the Quebec City arena as part of its Olympic bid (since they spent on Toronto infrastructure for their unsuccessful Olympic bid), pensions, pharmacare (apparently transfer payments to the provinces is the only answer the minister will give), and the muzzling of scientists by this government (which they say was a policy of the previous government and they “improved” in 2006).

Sartorial snaps go out to Cathy McLeod for her great moss-green jacket and a well-cut black top beneath. This contrasted mightily to her neighbour Tilly O’Neill-Gordon, who wore a bright green jacket with black trim, but it was poorly cut and had three-quarter sleeves that did not flatter her figure at all. Also deserving of snaps are Diane Ablonczy, who wears orange and brown perfectly, and Kirsty Duncan for her tailored black suit with the hot pink top peeking out beneath. Lisa Raitt lost points for the terrible ruffled grey sweater she wore, but she had the most fantastic crystal-studded strappy heels that made up for it. Style citations go out to Stockwell Day for a navy suit with a pinkish shirt and an orange-and-brown striped tie, none of which suited his orange-tan skin tone. Also, Andrew Kania has a very bad attempt at a beard going, and Josée Verner had an awful yellowish-green shiny top with a black pleated skirt that was just tragic. And the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a great black suit, with a middling yellowish top that had floral detailing, but lost points for those greige heels.

After Question Period, Jack Layton tried to make a bid for an emergency debate on the long-form census. The Speaker said no, that’s a matter for an opposition day – so whenever those happen I’m sure the topic will come up.

NDP MP Peter Stoffer has said that he’s changing his vote on the long-gun registry, which makes the vote now 153-150, and the bill will now likely go down to defeat, barring any mysterious absences. Also, the new federal ombudsman for victims of crime has come out in support of the registry. How long until she’s fired now? What makes this extremely pointed is the fact that Vic Toews says that scrapping the registry is listening to victims. Oops.

The Canadian Press has learned that Jason Kenney is planning on making a special designation for mass asylum seekers – like those Tamil refugee claimants on ships – in order to “combat human smuggling.” Because it’s totally not a moral panic they’re pushing.

And finally, for the return of the House, Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star gives 10 suggestions of things that we can do without in politics in Canada. And I do believe that she represents the voice of sanity.
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