It was a sombre day in the Press Gallery, as news reached that Canadian Press photographer Tom Hanson had died suddenly the night before. And while Liberal MP Marcel Proulx made note of it in Members’ Statements before Question Period, there was a lengthier round of statements from the party leaders (or their proxies in the Bloc’s case) afterward. I observed this part from the foyer, where most of the Press Gallery members crowded around the television there, and there were few dry eyes. I only met Hanson once, briefly, but his work was ubiquitous, and he will be missed.
And on to Question Period, where the topic of the day is the government’s first “report card” on their fiscal progress. Michael Ignatieff wanted to know why their job creation numbers were suddenly absent? Harper responded by reading out good things the IMF was saying. When John McCallum followed up on that, Jim Flaherty demanded the Senate pass the budget “today.”
Jack Layton pointed out that it’s the government that sets the dates for votes on the estimates, so why are they accusing the opposition of delaying the spending? Harper said that Layton refused to support the budget before he read it.
And here’s where some of the more intrepid reporters in the Gallery are starting to do some reality checks. There was a great one yesterday where the Liberal Senate leader’s spokesperson laid it out – up until Flaherty went before the Senate committee yesterday, the government and opposition had agreed to hold their hearings and have the budget passed before the 1st. It was all gentlemanly and civilised, and then the Minister came before the committee and was full of bluster and outrage. Seriously? What does he really hope to accomplish that way other than scoring some cheap political points? And I will put the emphasis on the cheap.
And for all of the government’s howling about what the Liberals demand in the way of explanation for the “slush fund” spending, the motion they tabled on it is far from onerous and leaves plenty of leeway for the government to keep looking like they’re being accountable. So why is it so hard for them to do it? You’re asking the wrong reporter.
Scott Brison got up to ask about the reality that the Buy American provisions were coming into force in the States, and was told that the Free Trade Agreement created a lot of wealth in both countries. Réal Ménard asked about obstructions lawyers were facing in getting access to essential evidence, and was basically told by the Justice Minister that Ménard didn’t know what he was talking about.
Something else that I noticed over the course of Question Period was the way that the Conservatives have started trying to work the word “hope” into their answers. One of the most egregious examples was when Diane Ablonczy (who again proved that she is one of the few women who can successfully wear orange) got up to answer Siobhan Coady’s question on small businesses, she asserted that this government was giving “hope” to small businesses across the country. Really? Huh. If you guys think that you can try and just use the word and hope for an Obama effect, well, you’re sadly mistaken.
Also in the House, Libby Davies gave a Members’ Statement about CODEPINK’s visit to Gaza:
Mr. Speaker, a group of 60 delegates, including 6 Canadians, under the auspices of CODEPINK, are on a solidarity mission in Gaza this week for International Women's Day. They are visiting refugee camps, hospitals and witnessing the devastating aftermath of 22 days of bombing by Israeli defence forces.
After 20 months of the blockade and the loss of basic necessities of life, Canada must call for an end to the siege of Gaza and help find a way forward to address the root causes of violence and the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land.
Canada must begin by following through on its promise for aid and exercise its responsibility under international law to condemn the use of force and violence and begin the process of normalized relations to attain a Palestinian state and peace for the region.
The women and men in the solidarity delegation in Gaza are showing tremendous courage and resolve in their mission. The Canadian government must do likewise and commit to the rule of law for peace and justice.
In the Speaker’s Gallery, former Conservative Party leader from the UK, Iain Duncan Smith was in attendance. His assistant was pretty cute, and I do so love an English accent… But I digress.
No sartorial snaps to be handed out, but I will note that Marlene Jennings’ dusky rose jacket isn’t so bad when it’s paired with a nice white collared shirt, as it was this time. But Megan Leslie has struck again. This time the style citation goes out for the combination of a light brown dress (which in and of itself looked pretty good), paired with orange tights. Orange tights! Why, gods? Why?
Over in the Senate National Finance committee, Senator Nancy Ruth was hard at work, asking pretty tough questions about things like pay equity, penalising unionised workers, and wage restraints. Remember, she’s a government senator, asking these kinds of questions. That is why the Senate rocks, my friends. In fact, the question that seems to be coming up in that committee from all sides was “how does this provide economic stimulus?” with all those other measures, like pay equity and changes to the Competition Act.
Also something you should know – the government plans on reintroducing several anti-terrorism measures that had sunsetted out of the original anti-terrorism bill. These provisions, like preventative arrest, have never been used, but suddenly they seem to be in a hurry to bring these powers back. Something to definitely keep an eye on.