Outside the Centre Block, MS patients were rallying for experimental treatment, while inside, volunteers were pinning carnations on MPs to support the cause. Inside there were a few Members’ Statements about it, but one in particular stood out – or rather, its response. When Conservative Larry Miller stood up to berate Liberal Todd Russell for his changing his position on the long-gun registry in light of the compromise Michael Ignatieff proposed, Russell shouted out, “They whipped me and I liked it!” And thus began a litany of whipping jokes across the aisle.
When Question Period began, Michael Ignatieff referenced Senator Nancy Ruth’s comments, but immediately moved into the fact that women’s groups were getting their funds cut all across the map – as many as two dozen groups have now faced cuts. John Baird countered that they’re giving record funding to Status of Women (but the CBC looked into some of the groups who are now being funded – and some are pretty eyebrow-raising). Ignatieff took it further, to the intimidation of critics, which Baird countered with their being an open and transparent government. (Also, the chocolate rations were doubled from four grams to two. Doubleplusgood!) For his final supplemental, Ignatieff asked it point-blank – do they respect democracy? John Baird pulled out the complete non sequitur of the long-gun registry vote, and if Ignatieff cared about democracy, he wouldn’t whip his caucus. (And did you hear about those chocolate rations?)
From there, the questions returned to the cuts to women’s groups – Lise Zarac, Gilles Duceppe and Nicole Demers all had their questions answered by an increasingly agitated Bev Oda, who began with allegations of financial mismanagement at these groups, and ended up with a spectacular outburst on how the USAID website says they don’t support investing in equipment, training or research for abortions abroad. Um, except that’s not exactly true (and kudos to Aaron Wherry for debunking this). And she was also using some pretty specific technical terms, which leaves plenty of room to maneuvre if you really want to get specific.
Jack Layton broke the tension by returning to the topic of that Louisiana oil spill (John Baird says that we believe in a polluter-pays principle – really!) before questions returned to intimidation and funding cuts (new Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose says women really want tough-on-crime policies), where the Conservatives responded with non sequitur answers. Questions moved on to the long-gun registry (and the Bloc were targeting the Quebec Conservatives specifically), bilingualism on the Supreme Court, lobbying, renewable energy, drilling in the Arctic and Haitian refugees. One of the final government suck-up questions was about the supposed bullying in the Public Safety committee of Conservative Candace Hoeppner (which wasn’t really a question, but two rants posing as a question and answer).
After Question Period, in the scrums in the foyer, I asked Liberals Marlene Jennings (who was on that committee) and Anita Neville about those bullying allegations.
Neville: “Who’s bullying who?”
Jennings: “That’s complete nonsense. I’ve been here for 13 years, and I made the point in the committee after Ms Hoeppner and Ms Glover made their claims of bullying by one of my colleagues, who’s a strong advocate for gender equality and equity, Mark Holland — has been before he ever got to Parliament and has remained so. Every time a member comes before a committee to defend their Private Member's Bill, they give a presentation of their bill and then they answer questions from members seated around that table, who are members of the committee. Ms Hoeppner apparently did not want to answer questions. We made the point that she should answer questions.”
Neville: “And if I can respond, when they don’t like the questions, and don’t want to give the answer, they resort to name-calling, and I think this is very much a part of the pattern.”
Jennings: “And shame on both of them.”
The scrum began with a livid Marlene Jennings calling out Baird for using the phrase “Let freedom reign” as part of his non sequitur answers on the whipped long-gun vote, which Jennings took as a mockery of Martin Luther King Jr’s “Let freedom ring,” and seeing as King was killed with a gun, well, it went downhill from there.
Sartorially speaking, it was a pretty blah day, and nothing caught my eye in terms of snaps. There was one major style citation, which went to Linda Duncan for the combination of a long sherbet-orange top and deep orange trousers, which was… eye-catching to say the least. And the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a light grey suit with a pink top and green heels. The heels could have been a more apropos colour, but otherwise she’s having a decent style week.
The Liberals’ motion to strengthen lobbying rules passed unanimously yesterday. What remains to be seen is how the Conservatives’ legislation to make it happen will look, and what kind of poison pills they’ll put in it to try and embarrass the Liberals. Also passing the House was the NDP’s Bill C-311, their “Climate Change Accountability Act,” which passed third reading, 149 to 136. But will it pass the Senate? I guess we’ll have to see.
Speaking of the Senate, the government reintroduced the mandatory jail time for marijuana possession bill in the Upper Chamber, hoping it’ll get a smoother ride there now that the numbers are a little different than the last time, when it got amended. Considering that some of Harper's own Senators don’t agree with it, I’m wondering if his confidence is warranted.
In the revisionist history of some Conservatives, the École Polytechnique massacre has nothing to do with the long-gun registry in this country. Oops.
Evangelical leader Charles McVety was in town yesterday to decry judicial activism and cited child pornography, same-sex marriage and lowering the age of consent for anal sex as proof. Maclean’s John Geddes does a pretty thorough job in debunking McVety’s rambling tirade, but he simply dismissed the 1995 Court of Appeal ruling that struck down the prohibition on anal sex as an unequal age of consent as not imagining why anyone would still be dwelling on this issue. Except of course that Geddes isn’t faced with the realities many gay youth face with an unequal age of consent in this country, when there is a huge beating of drums for increasing the punishment agenda for sexual offenders, as though all sexual offences were created equal. (But otherwise it was a good read.)
Conservative MP Devinder Shory has been named in a mortgage scam lawsuit. Will he get kicked out of caucus next? Because he’s already in the nosebleeds… I think I can hear some new Question Period fodder coming on.