4 min

The poor bébé seals!

With Harper off to the Czech Republic for EU trade talks, there was always the possibility that the unpredictable could happen. After all, without Harper’s iron grip around his caucus, things were more likely to get a bit more interesting.

But it was the European Union’s decision to ban imports of seal products that got everyone riled up. Jay Hill, the Government House Leader, moved a motion to waive the usual notice period in order for the House to have an emergency take-note debate on the seal hunt that evening. That motion passed unanimously. There were a few Members’ Statements as well about the hunt, but Todd Russell is one person to keep your eye on during seal hunt debates because he’s from a First Nations community in Labrador, and he goes out onto the ice with his family every year to participate. He has first-hand experience (and a sharp wit to boot), so he tends to have something more interesting to say.

Incidentally, Maclean’s Aaron Wherry crunched the numbers, and while the Prime Minister keeps talking about not playing partisan games, his MPs made 81 partisan Members’ Statements attacking the Liberals or their leader in 49 sitting days. But he’s interested in working together and not being partisan.

Question Period got underway with Ignatieff asking about that AIDS researcher decamping for Florida because of insufficient funding, and Gary Goodyear, our Minister of State for Science and Technology, kept reassuring us that they had invested record amounts in science, while the Liberals had made cuts during the last recession. Goodyear fails to recognise that money for lab infrastructure and new equipment is all well and good, but with cuts to the granting councils, there won’t be any researchers to use those labs or that new equipment.

Toward the end of Question Period, NDP MPs Megan Leslie and Judy Wasylycia-Leis brought up the impending “brain drain” toward the States, given our poor research funding, but the Conservatives hecklers pointed to Ignatieff, shouting “Look, the brain came back.”

Employment Insurance continued to be the dominant issue, however Diane Finley’s new dodge today was that the Opposition needed to stop scaring people with tales of a broken system that wouldn’t help them in their time of need. But really – even if the 82% figure of people receiving that she keeps quoting is accurate, that remaining 18% is still thousands of people who won’t be getting benefits they paid into.

When John McCallum brought up that Jim Flaherty’s wife – who is currently running for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives – said that the EI system needed to be fixed, Finley retorted by quoting the Ontario Premier saying that now wasn’t the time to fix the system.

John Baird was also making a few obvious dodges, such as when Gerard Kennedy told the House about how he attended a funding announcement in Edmonton about infrastructure spending, only when he did a little more digging, he found that no money had actually had been committed, and it was unlikely to create jobs anytime in the foreseeable future. Baird accused Kennedy of not doing his homework, and that it was little wonder that, “the Professor sent you to the back row.” Martha Hall Findlay followed up by wondering why Baird declined to appear before the Government Operations Committee, and read out the refusal from Baird’s people, which said that it would be “more damaging for him to appear” than to not appear. Baird simply replied by saying that the Liberals promised to raise taxes.

Bill Siksay brought up the issue of the phantom Public Appoints Commission, and Pierre Poilievre pretty much repeated his Scooby-Doo-esque answer from the previous day, only this time someone heckled “You’re such a loser!” No argument there.

Scott Brison brought up the matter of our pork products being barred from China due to swine flu fears, returning to his thesis about the current government’s handling of the China file damaging our trading relations. The Agriculture Minister assured the House that the International Trade Minister was just in China, and that they were working on it. Or in common parlance, “just trust us.”

I can’t really give anyone sartorial snaps, because nothing really stood out as being worthy. The Bloc’s Carole Lavallée (known in some circles as “The Voice of Sanity”) broke from her usual mould, and was wearing a pink jacket over a floral dress that was very spring-like. Also, Bloc MP Raynald Blais had these shockingly blue shoes that matched his shirt and tie (paired with a couch-like brown jacket). It was unusual, to say the least. But several MPs get style citations for their unfortunate failure to realise that you really shouldn’t pair black with yellow. So Albina Guarnieri and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, consider yourselves warned. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a nice, modest brown dress that wasn’t matched with anything horrid – but then again, I couldn’t see her shoes, so the possibility still remained.

Up today in the Commons: Stéphane Dion’s Private Member’s motion on renewable energy goes up for debate. Hopefully his speech for it won’t be nearly as horrible as his speech at the convention was.

Elsewhere, the decisions have been made that no sitting Conservative MP will have to face a nomination challenge, so Rob Anders won’t have to face that challenge after all. And when faced with criticism that he is unfit to implement official languages policy because he can’t speak French, Treasury Board President Vic Toews accused the Liberals of insulting unilingual English Canadians. Really? That’s your defence? I think that means you’ve already lost that argument.