After a showdown in the Government Operations Committee in the morning between Liberal Martha Hall Findlay and Transport Minister John Baird, where Baird dared the Liberals to bring down the government over the $3 billion “slush fund” in the spending estimates, one got a sense that it was going to be one of the main topics in Question Period once again.
When I got to the Hill, a little before two o’clock, there was a Tamil demonstration going on outside the Centre Block, which was referenced near the end of Question Period when Conservative MP Phil McColeman was granted one of the government’s suck-up questions of the day, and he asked about Sri Lanka situation, and Minister of State Peter Kent answered by alleging that a Liberal MP was in the crowd, pandering to the Tamil Tigers – a listed terrorist organisation.
Most of the Conservative front bench was empty, with Lawrence Cannon off at a NATO meeting, and Flaherty, Clement and MacKay all in Washington DC. In fact, there were enough vacancies that a bunch of backbenchers were brought forward to ensure that there were enough warm bodies in the seats so that it didn’t look desolate for the TV cameras.
Ignatieff repeated his Wednesday question about the $3 billion in infrastructure funding approved in 2007 that is about to lapse while the government continues to beat their chests about the $3 billion “slush fund.” And Layton repeated his statement from the post-Question Period scrums yesterday that the Auditor General did not approve this kind of a fund. Harper, predictably, shrugged them off.
Stéphane Dion’s return to Question Period was the second question of the day (he’s been there everyday, looking lost and forlorn, but he hasn’t asked a question since Ignatieff became leader). Dion asked about the Federal Court’s decision on Wednesday to compel the government to appeal for clemency in the case of a Canadian on death row in Montana. The government’s response, courtesy of Peter Kent, was to bring up the victims of that Canadian, and their families – a familiar refrain from this government.
The Bloc’s questions were all centred around women – pay equity, poverty, and so on. They were also all wearing black scarves with a slogan about equality for women (and as the day went on, more female NDP MPs also started wearing said scarves). It was a concerted effort to highlight that Sunday is International Women’s Day, and that this country still has work to do.
NDP MP Bill Siksay was up lat in the hour in his role as Ethics critic to ask once again about the Cadman Affair, castigating both Conservatives and Liberals for their silence. And once again, Pierre Poilievre stood up to reply that the matter was settled.
Sartorial snaps go to Bloc MP Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac, who is almost always a sartorial star, but today, with the fur-trimmed collar on her jacket, she was fierce! Also, Kristy Duncan debuted a heretofore unseen jacket, nicely tailored, in a colour that was somewhere between burgundy and rust – and it looked great on her. More of this kind of style please!
The style citation of the day goes to Stockwell Day. It was a laudable effort, with the palest of pale orange shirts under a chocolate brown suit. It was. But then he added a bright orange-and-black striped tie, and it just ruined the whole thing. Orange is a difficult colour – if you don’t know how to use it properly, then just don’t.
Elsewhere on the Hill, Rob Oliphant was in the Public Safety committee looking at the RCMP’s Public Complaints Commission and the Security and Intelligence Review Committee in the wake of the O’Connor and Iacobucci Reports.