3 min

When the PM’s away…

While bitter, cold winds blew across the Nation’s Capital, the Prime Minister was out of town. Instead of basking in the reflected glory of the Obama visit in the House of Commons, he was capitalising on the brief bit of American exposure by taking his message to New York, to visit the UN and a number of American media outlets.

Back in the House, Michael Ignatieff led off Question Period by highlighting the latest sign of our financial crisis – poorer than expected retail sales numbers for the month of December. And what did Jim Flaherty have to say in response? That we’re in a “synchronised” global recession. Synchronised, I tell you! (This has become his favourite word, it seems – and the opposition loves to repeat it back to him).

When Gilles Duceppe asked about Harper’s assertion that the difference between “hard caps” and “intensity targets” for greenhouse gas reductions as being simply two different ways of measuring it, Jim Prentice said that Canada’s twenty percent reduction targets were more robust than the States’. But when pressed in a follow-up question on the baseline year of 1990 (which the rest of the world has adopted), Prentice’s response was to say that all the talk about 1990 meant the Bloc was dwelling in the past, when they should be looking to the future. Oh, Jim Prentice! I can see your credibility fleeing out the Chamber doors. It’s a pretty sad sight.

Jack Layton – wearing a snappy green tie – took his turn to give a laundry list of ways in which Canada is being criticised at the UN for areas it is falling behind in. But when Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl rose to take the question (almost inexplicably), touting progress on aboriginal issues, Liberal Anita Neville heckled him about refusing to sign the UN declaration on aboriginal rights.

Any other questions on the economy were met with cries by the government benches of “expedite the bill,” or “stop delaying,” even though it is being rushed through the committee stage, and no one I know of is actually delaying it. Oh, right – this is just the partisanship talking. My mistake.

Other bon mots: When Bob Rae stood up to point out that David Emerson, the Liberal-turned-Conservative former Minister is now criticising the government’s handling of the China file, Liberal MP called out “Tell us he’s a Liberal!” During Rae’s supplemental, when he started saying how we’ve been engaging China since the time of Diefenbaker, the Conservatives chanted “Dief! Dief!” until the Speaker calmed them down, to which Rae gave an “I knew Diefenbaker. None of them are a Diefenbaker.” When NDP MP Irene Mathyssen asked about pay equity changes, the Liberal benches all joined Treasury Board president Vic Toews in a rousing rendition of “fifteen years!” during his stock answer. International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda made an announcement during her answer to a government suck-up question, but you wouldn’t know it through all the Liberal calls of “send a limo!” referencing Oda’s penchant for limousine rides on taxpayer expense.

Sartorial snaps in the House went to Kristy Duncan for a change, who found an outfit that works on her – a black suit over a low-cut plum top. Let’s hope she can keep this up.

The Lisa Raitt jacket-watch today reports that her black jacket was of a good shape on the sides, but its lack of lapels and meant it was one solid block of black from hips-to-neck, and that wasn’t doing her any favours. Also, the two Dianes in Cabinet, Ablonczy and Finley, apparently decided to coordinate outfits, each wearing an orange turtleneck under a brownish suit. Oops.

Elsewhere on the Hill, NDP MP Bill Siksay did his part to interrogate the Privacy Commissioner in the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee, asking about Olympic security, “enhanced” drivers licences, RFID chips, and the legal challenges to the no-fly list.

Up today: A Bloc opposition day motion on securities commission and equalisation.