During Jim Flaherty’s noon teleconference he was asked if his government had shown itself to be tone deaf to the present political situation and the profound economic turmoil would seem to supersede all else. I do not recall a subsequent admission of haplessness from the Finance Minister.
A short while later though, he was asked about opposition criticism for another part of his fiscal update: the proposed changes to the rules governing pay equity for women. Mr. Flaherty said he had not heard of such complaints, nor had he been informed by his staff of any such complaints.
That admission is altogether remarkable. Not least because the Prime Minister’s Office has just sent out a press release trumpeting its ability to eavesdrop on the telephone conversations of other parties.
Each party was given a chance to respond to the economic update immediately after Flaherty delivered it. Each party made pointed reference to pay equity and women’s rights. By my count, noted separatist Gilles Duceppe made no less than nine references to the rights of women in Canada.
Of course, as noted previously, Flaherty did not stick around for the opposition reactions, leaving the House shortly after Scott Brison began the Liberal response.
The next day, during Question Period, nine of the opposition’s questions referenced pay equity or women’s rights. Vic Toews (President of the Treasury Board) and Ted Menzies (Parliament Secretary to the Minister of Finance) handled most of those questions, some of their answers even managing to explicitly recognize the opposition members’ complaints.
It is perhaps possible that Mr. Flaherty and his parliament secretary are not on speaking terms. And maybe Mr. Toews assumed officials in the finance department would take their own note of the proceedings.
But what are we to make of a government that seems more keenly aware of the politics discussed in opposition teleconferences than the legitimate issues raised in the House of Commons?