Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We livestream and liveblog all the action.
The Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition had finally had enough this afternoon, standing in his place and hearing nothing but non-sequiturs from a parliamentary secretary. Thomas Mulcair had asked the government three questions about its military deployment to Iraq. He wondered if the mission would last the 30 days initially promised. He wondered how many personnel were stationed in Baghdad. He wondered about the operating rules governing those personnel. Each time, the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, railed against an NDP staffer who had himself railed against Israel. Upset by all of the non-answers, Mulcair then directed his wrath at Speaker Andrew Scheer.
Our clip joins Mulcair as he poses his second question, having been thwarted the first time ’round by Calandra’s preoccupation with Israel. “I can understand the confusion. We are in the Middle East, and we’re under the I’s. But we’re talking about Iraq,” he said, emphasizing the country in question. Mulcair pointed to concerns about delays in the Canadian deployment, because some personnel required Iraqi-approved visas and hadn’t yet received the go-ahead. Calandra stood and repeated, with vigour, his disbelief that the NDP wouldn’t denounce a staffer’s overwhelmingly negative views about Israel’s conduct. Calandra said “effing” a lot, cleaning up the New Democrat’s apparent words, and carefully avoiding the substance of the question.
Mulcair’s third question came with a preamble that urged the Speaker to cut off non-answers. “You are our arbiter. We ask you to enforce the rules,” he insisted. Following the next question and response, an exchange about as useful as the two that came before, Mulcair stood disappointed in the Speaker. In reference to Scheer’s silence, the opposition leader came to an important conclusion: “Well, Mr. Speaker, that doesn’t speak very favourably about your neutrality in this House.” Scheer dutifully cut off the question and moved on to the next speaker, Justin Trudeau.
Was Mulcair out of line? Was Calandra out of line? Aaron Wherry put the question to Twitter. From her perch, Green leader Elizabeth May passed along her assessment.
@AaronWherry I think it's a draw.
— Elizabeth May MP (@ElizabethMay) September 23, 2014
In the aftermath of Mulcair v. Scheer, Paul Wells wouldn’t condemn Mulcair.
My Twitter feed is full of tut-tutting about Mulcair's response to Scheer. Seems fine to me. Scheer wins this round but is now put on notice
— Paul Wells (@InklessPW) September 23, 2014
And Gerald Butts, a senior adviser to Trudeau, even praised Mulcair after his quip about understanding Calandra’s confusion.
That was a very funny comeback, Tom Mulcair.
— Gerald Butts (@gmbutts) September 23, 2014
To be sure, Calandra found few fans among the reporters watching.
How can Calandra's inanity today not constitute a breach of order, decorum or procedure? It brought the House into disrepute.
— John Ivison (@IvisonJ) September 23, 2014
Scheer should have directed Calandra to answer the question. Not docked questions from the opposition leader.
— Michael Den Tandt (@mdentandt) September 23, 2014
For the record, an NDP spokesman showed everyone the rules to which Mulcair referred.
— M-A V (@maviau) September 23, 2014
Was Mulcair agitating for a fight so that voters might notice him in the House, a chamber in which his interventions are critically acclaimed but not rewarded by voters in tracking polls? Was he simply annoyed with Scheer? Was he justified in his indignation? Was he way out of line? Hey, Wherry, please provide us some guidance. (p.s. Wherry has chimed in on all of this.)
Colin Carrie stood yesterday for much of Question Period and repeated his well-worn talking points about the Conservative Party’s supposed global leadership on efforts to fight climate change. The talking points countered the government’s actual data on emissions reductions, but truth has always been somewhat subjective in the House of Commons. Aaron Wherry imagined how the prime minister might speak frankly, as opposed to evasively or defensively, about his government’s approach to climate change. Total fantasy, but a fun read. Today, the Liberals will push employment insurance, a file doggedly pursued by the NDP during normal times, on to the parliamentary agenda. They’d like the House to adopt the following motion, which is the culmination of several days of opposition to a recently announced Tory tax credit.
That, in the opinion of the House, the Employment Insurance (EI) plan announced by the government on September 11, 2014, and which will begin on January 1, 2015, will not create jobs and growth but will instead provide a financial incentive for employers to lay off workers; and therefore, the House urges the government to re-direct those resources by providing employers an EI premium exemption on newly-created jobs in 2015 and 2016.