4 min

What’s left to discuss?

As events got underway in the Commons, one of my fellow journalists and I wondered just what the lead questions would be, since the announcement of the “blue ribbon panel” on EI reform that morning. Chalk River was the guess.

But we were wrong. It was still EI reform, but more in the sense of Ignatieff trying to look tough as he asked Harper to reiterate their points of agreement. Did the Prime Minister promise to work constructively to reform EI? Would he actually bring forward legislative changes? Would he extend the full complement of EI benefits to the self-employed that choose to opt-in rather than just parental leave benefits, as was the election promise?

Harper just humoured Ignatieff, and assured Canadians that yes they were looking forward to good discussions that would arrive at a more effective system in an affordable manner. And to the Bloc and NDP, well, look at the EI measures in our budget, you fool, ineffective oppositions parties. (Or something to that effect).

Chalk River didn’t come up until the second round of questions, when Liberal Geoff Regan said that the former president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said that the MAPLE reactors could still have worked. Lisa Raitt countered that the same CNSC president was told the MAPLEs had problems in 2001, but it seems to me that Raitt has been missing the point. In fact, I believe she’s been setting up a dangerous narrative that carries on a pattern in this government.

A later question on isotopes asked how it could be that our abandoning nuclear medicine technology was seen as leadership, and yet in a stunning bit of doublespeak, Raitt said that they were global leaders because of how they responded to the crisis (which, I’m guessing, involved making a bunch of phone calls). But you have to wonder just how it is that allowing our nuclear medicine industry to die is showing leadership. How all indications being that the MAPLE reactors were salvageable in one way or another was not worth at least investigating or investing in, rather than just pulling the plug over vague talk of “money sink-holes” when this government has squandered far more money over far more frivolous things in the name of ideology or vote-buying in suburban ridings. Or how not engaging potential backup sources like McMaster University earlier, like when the first isotope crisis occurred – was again “showing leadership.”

Incidentally, the Health Minister would not commit to appearing before committee with her senior officials to answer questions on the isotope crisis.

During Members Statements, Mario Silva stood up to speak about the Davenport Community Builders Awards in his riding:

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to pay tribute to the recipients of this year's Davenport Community Builders Awards which recognize outstanding contribution to our community.

Welcoming new Canadians, the Abrigo Centre is an organization that provides comprehensive assistance to Portuguese speaking newcomers as they transition to their new life in Canada.
David Anderson is the artistic director of the Clay and Paper Theatre which brightens our urban spaces with a range of public art, puppetry and theatre.
Donna Cowan, the chair of Dig In, has worked tirelessly to beautify Toronto through the cultural, social, environmental and economic vitalization of our neighbourhoods.
Gabrielle Langlois is a co-founder of GreenHere and works daily to help preserve and expand green space in our city and assists the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre in dealing with issues of poverty, violence and social alienation.
Lisa Rainford will receive an award for her excellent work with the Bloor West Villager newspaper which keeps residents of Toronto's west end well informed.
On behalf of the residents of Davenport, I invite all members of Parliament to join with me in congratulating these outstanding community leaders. They help to make the Davenport community and Toronto a vibrant and beautiful place to live.

Incidentally, nearly everyone in the House was wearing little furry grey ribbons made out of sealskin to support the sealing industry in this country. Not to be outdone, Yukon MP Larry Bagnell one-upped everyone with his sealskin vest and a sealskin tie.

Sartorial snaps go out to Hedy Fry for her very smart medium grey suit with the red collared shirt beneath, and fabulous red heels. I also thought Marlene Jennings – whose journey through linen has been interesting and envious while some of us melt under jacket-and-tie dress codes – had a great white linen top today that had fantastic structure, paired with khakis. But as things slide to the more interesting – like Bev Oda’s multicoloured dress under a lime-green sweater – they inevitably end up at two examples of outfits that could have been good if the MPs in question respected the rules of what shapes to wear. Lisa Raitt’s bright blue dress could have been very cute, except that the way it flared out at the hips created an unflattering bottom-heavy shape, while Rona Ambrose’s silver dress under a grey jacket had a completely wonky shape, which once again resembled maternity wear. And the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports her light grey pantsuit with a bright teal-blue top beneath. Inoffensive (though I couldn’t see what the shoes were), but she is getting into a bit of a rut with these same three pantsuits.

Outside of the House, each party clamoured to rephrase the morning’s spectacular climb-down from forcing a confidence vote. The Liberals tried to claim victory by saying they’ve replaced confrontation with cooperation, they’ve force concessions from the government, and just look at all the opposition days coming up in autumn. The Conservatives, on the other hand, were given talking points that say that they’ve force the Liberals to back down from their 360-hour EI reform plan, and into voting for the “next round of stimulus” in their Economic Action Plan.

And the NDP? They’re saying the last time they made a deal with a government in need of propping-up, they got $4.6 billion in investments, and not a blue-ribbon panel. And they’re not wrong.

Up today: Second Reading debate on controversial Bill C-31 continues.