Bill Siksay
3 min

When in doubt, change the topic

With the Prime Minister in attendance, unlike the previous day, one would no doubt imagine that the topic of Lisa Raitt’s lost documents would again be a hot topic – and yet, Harper only bothered answering the first two questions put to him by Liberal David McGuinty – standing in for an absent Michael Ignatieff, and even then, he just repeated the previous day’s talking points rather than actually answering why he didn’t accept Raitt’s resignation.

Raitt, for her part, decided the time had come to change the channel, so instead of not answering another question on what exactly happened with those secret documents, she instead volunteered that thanks to Canada’s leadership, the Netherlands would be increasing their isotope output by some fifty percent, while the Australians were getting their reactor online faster than expected, and wasn’t that really what mattered?

The other main line of questioning was about the Federal Court decision on the fate of Abousfian Abdelrazik, where the government was ordered to return him to Canada. For those of you keeping score, that court-administered spanking of this government can be added to those regarding Omar Khadr and the Canadian on death row in Montana. In Question Period, it as the Justice Minister who replied – as opposed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs – and he simply said that they were “still reading” the 100 page judgement. But when Libby Davies asked about it on behalf of the NDP, Nicholson used the topic-changing option and accused the NDP of filibustering Bill C-15 (being the one now in Third Reading about toughening up drug laws).

Later on, Raitt did answer a question on the documents – shocking, I know. When Carolyn Bennett asked about just what the revealed notation about $75 million for AECL was for, Raitt said that she had previously explained it – $25 million of that was to decommission the MAPLE reactors, while the rest went to things like getting the Chalk River reactor re-licensed in order for it to continue operating.

Sartorially snaps go to Alexandra Mendes, whose patterned red jacket over a red floral dress actually worked for that much red – something not everyone can pull off. Also, Bev Oda’s faded green sweater over the green-patterned white dress was much more suited to her green-rimmed glasses than that big jacket she has otherwise paired them with. But with the good comes the bad, and sitting next to Oda was Rona Ambrose, wearing a brown jacket over a green and brown paisley dress – one with a beaded collar, and all the shape of a sack. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Also, Niki Ashton was wearing this too-tight grey jacket over an orange shirt, paired with white trousers that appeared to be jeans from my vantage point. It hurt to watch her stand up late in Question Period.

Later in the day, Bill Siksay sent out a press release in his capacity as Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics critic:

New Democrat Access to Information and Ethics Critic Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas) today called on the government to stop interfering with the mandate of the Information Commissioner of Canada and to honour the budgetary recommendation of the Advisory Panel on the Funding and Oversight of Parliamentary Officers.
“The Conservative government is out to get yet another Officer of Parliament,” said Siksay. “The Information Commissioner’s job is to scrutinize the activities of the government with regard to ensuring Canadians’ right to access government information. Reducing the Commissioner’s budget directly interferes with his mandate to do this important work.  Conservatives should butt out of the affairs of Parliament and immediately ensure the full funding recommended by the advisory panel.”
Siksay was responding to revelations that Treasury Board has significantly cut funding to the Information Commissioner contrary to the recommendation of the advisory panel.
“The advisory panel process was established several years ago to prevent exactly this situation,” noted Siksay. “Governments are in a direct conflict of interest when they cut the budgets and limit the mandates of an Officer of Parliament whose job is to check up on their performance.  Interfering with this process is a challenge to Parliament, a challenge to the Information Commissioner, and a challenge to the quasi-constitutional right of Canadians to have access to government information.  It can’t be tolerated,” concluded Siksay.

There was another release from Joe Volpe and Martha Hall Findlay on the loss of gold from the Royal Canadian Mint – whether by accounting error or theft, no one will say, but also on the sale of silver from Rideau Hall, which was very disturbing.

As reported in Sun Media today, three sterling silver flower baskets on loan to Rideau Hall from Buckingham Palace were sold online for $532 total, even though they’re worth an estimated $10,000 each. These are among several Rideau Hall assets, including silver and china, sold through the Crown Assets Distribution website usually used to offload surplus filing cabinets and old computers.

Do I get the feeling that Her Majesty is very much Not Amused? She loans us her pretty things, and we sell them for the barest fraction of their worth? How did this happen? And can we please see some heads roll over it?