The Scene. To be fair to the environment minister, neither of the options presented to him by the NDP’s Megan Leslie were particularly worth choosing.
“Did the minister decide to hide the cost,” Ms. Leslie asked, “or is it that his government is simply incompetent and does not know how much it will cost?”
There was no right answer here. But then Peter Kent attempted to have it both ways anyway.
“Mr. Speaker, I agree with the commissioner that costing, as it becomes available, should be shared with both him and Parliament,” Mr. Kent conceded. “As for costing in advance of consultations with industry, for example, as we are with the oil and gas industry now, that would be premature and speculative.”
Indeed, Mr. Kent would never allow himself to be premature and speculative. At least as it pertains to anything other than the government’s targets for greenhouse gas reductions, of which, he later assured the House, his government will make good. How the Harper government will go about doing that remains to be explained. But of something that won’t be objectively determined for eight years, it is willing to claim certainty now.
And, to his credit, Mr. Kent is sure of at least one other thing: that Stephane Dion is not currently the Prime Minister of Canada.
“One cost that my colleague will not see in that report is a carbon tax,” Mr. Kent continued, apparently slipping into the 2008 election campaign for a moment, “increased cost at the gas pump, increased home heating costs, generally an increased cost of living.”
Oddly, this did not assuage Ms. Leslie’s concerns.
“Mr. Speaker, the government has not even done a simple cost benefit analysis,” she said, sounding almost like a Conservative. “There is no implementation plan to reduce emissions, and Conservatives have no idea what their failed approach will cost the Canadian economy in the future. This fall the minister made the bizarre claim that withdrawing from Kyoto would save us money. But it seems he has not done a full life cycle accounting of his own plan. Why will the minister not come clean with Canadians? Why is he hiding the full costs of the Conservative approach?”
For a moment it seemed Ms. Leslie had switched scripts with Matthew Kellway and Christine Moore, the New Democrats responsible for pursuing the F-35 file.
“Well, Mr. Speaker, indeed,” Mr. Kent seemed almost to concur, “withdrawing from Kyoto, as is our legal right, does save Canadians great costs. We are not sending billions of dollars of hard-earned Canadian tax dollars overseas to buy hot air credits from depressed eastern European communities.”
This was not the end of the good news. “Where we are saving Canadians a great deal of money is with our sector by sector approach with regard to regulation,” Mr. Kent assured. “With regard to regulations in the light car and truck sector alone, we are saving Canadians many tens of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
This was less a number than a figure of speech and it was on that note that Marc Garneau stood to question Mr. Kent next.
“Mr. Speaker, yesterday when asked about his irresponsible allegations about so-called money laundering by unspecified NGOs, the Minister of the Environment hid behind the Minister of National Revenue,” the Liberal deputy chided. “Maybe the government is nervous about him getting up and speaking.”
This seemed somewhat disproven by the previous 60 seconds, but Mr. Garneau had exclusive news to break.
“I spoke to him afterwards,” Mr. Garneau continued, “and told him that he should not make irresponsible allegations, to which he replied, ‘Don’t you know what a figure of speech is?’ A figure of speech.”
The Liberal was apparently mystified.
“Will the Minister of the Environment get up and explain to us why slandering an NGO by innuendo is a figure of speech?” he begged.
With a bit of a smile on his face, the Prime Minister stood to take this one. He enthused about the government’s commitment not only to “responsible resource development,” but also the “responsible use of charitable moneys.”
Mr. Garneau repeated his concern. This time it was Gail Shea, the aforementioned Minister of National Revenue, seated directly beside Mr. Kent along the government front row, who stood.
“Mr. Speaker, we have announced measures in the budget to provide more education to charities to ensure they are operating within the law and with more transparency for those Canadians who donate so generously to these charities,” she explained. “We are taking action so Canadians can be sure that the charities they donate to are using their resources appropriately.”
One might suggest Mr. Kent was being shielded or hidden here. But perhaps Mr. Kent’s answers on this file are now being laundered—a humourous figure of speech intended to mean “cleaned of unfortunate spots and ironed of wrinkles” by another minister.
The Stats. The environment, 11 questions. The budget and ethics, five questions each. Health care and the Canadian Forces, four questions each. Military procurement, credit cards and veterans, two questions each. The United States, bilingualism and infrastructure, one question each.
Peter Kent, seven responses. Peter MacKay, six responses. Stephen Harper, Leona Aglukkaq, Jim Flaherty and Dean Del Mastro, four responses each. Gail Shea, three responses. Peter Van Loan and Steven Blaney, two responses each. Candice Hoeppner, James Moore and Denis Lebel, one response each.