The Commons: Carry on

The congeniality of the opening session ended quickly. Let us be thankful for that.


The Scene. The Speaker called on the leader of the opposition and Nycole Turmel stood in her spot, just to the left of the conspicuously vacant chair. The New Democrat caucus stood to cheer and the Conservatives across the way offered a round of applause. After Ms. Turmel had finished with her first question, the Prime Minister stood and congratulated her on having done so.

The congeniality ended there, or at least very soon thereafter. And let us be thankful for that.

For however the passing of Jack Layton is to influence our politics from here on—and in many ways for various reasons it would be good if it did—it should probably having nothing to do with reducing Question Period to a polite exchange of demure musings and rhetorical hugs. A Question Period without accusations that one or another is in league with terrorists or criminals might be nice. But a Question Period without vigorous disagreement, raised voices and scathing indictments would be a silly legacy for a man who so often revelled in such stuff.

Credit then to Mr. Harper, who, with his second response, opted to suggest aloud that Ms. Turmel hadn’t the faintest idea what she was talking about. Here was the signal that it was okay to impugn again.

Ms. Turmel’s second question had been fairly straightforward. “Mr. Speaker, last month unemployment rose in Canada. Our economy shed over 5,000 more jobs,” she observed. “More and more Canadians are giving up because of the lack of job opportunities. To reach the same proportion of working Canadians as before the recession, we actually need to create 420,000 new jobs. Canadians need a job strategy now. Where is the job plan?”

“Mr. Speaker,” sighed Mr. Harper, “I would encourage the leader of the opposition to get her facts correct.”

And so here Mr. Harper asserted a few facts of his own. “There are more people working in Canada today than before the recession,” he said, “the only advanced country where that is the case, and that is because the government remains focused on jobs.”

The relative merit of Mr. Harper’s argument here may depend on how one defines advanced (ie. Does Luxembourg count? How bout Australia?). Somewhat indisputably, the unemployment rate in this country, while lower than it was in 2009, is still higher than it was in 2008. But this would seem to be less the crux of the disagreement between the government and official opposition, than the beginning of it.

You see, while the opposition feels the government should do something, the government thinks the opposition stop talking.

“We realize that our unemployment rate is still too high,” Jim Flaherty conceded this afternoon under questioning from the NDP’s Peggy Nash. “We have to keep working at it. The way to get there is not to have a $10 billion tax increase on business, which is what the opposition has suggested.”

You might recognize this as precisely the sort of debate these sides have been engaged in for something like the last half decade. You might equally recognize the second topic raised this day: namely the small matter of the G8 Legacy Fund, its creation and its use for the purposes of outfitting Tony Clement’s riding in new gazebos and public toilets. Once more it was Charlie Angus up in his sing-songy Northern Ontario lilt. Once more it was Mr. Clement, resolutely remaining in his seat, making a good show of being preoccupied with his paperwork.

“I have a simple question for the President of the Treasury Board,” Mr. Angus humbly offered. “If any bureaucrats, political staffers or even ministers attempted to keep the Auditor General in the dark or mislead her about the spending and misspending of money around the G8, would the minister not agree that would constitute a very serious breach of public trust?”

“Mr. Speaker, here we have once again from this member and once again from the New Democratic Party the same old, same old,” sighed John Baird in response.

Mr. Angus tried again, focusing this time on revelations revealed this summer.

“Mr. Speaker,” sighed Mr. Baird, “I say to my colleagues opposite there is nothing new here.”

So as to raise the matter in both official languages, the NDP duly sent up the ably accusatory Alexandre Boulerice. For Mr. Boulerice’s edification, Mr. Baird restated his disinterest.

“Mr. Speaker, the same old, same old,” the Foreign Affairs Minister moaned. “There is nothing new here whatsoever.”

Indeed, there is nothing new here. The same questions and concerns mostly remain. The same spectre of a government using public funds approved by the House of Commons for border infrastructure to build toilets in the riding of a cabinet minister for the purposes of leaving a “legacy” for a three-day international summit still looms.

But it is not all bad news.

“The good news is that because of those infrastructure projects we saw economic growth, more jobs, more hope and more opportunity,” Mr. Baird enthused sometime later. “That is why Canada is leading the world in the G7. That is why our economy is among the strongest of the industrialized nations. That is why the Minister of Finance was named the best minister of finance last year.”

And so here was answer to both the opposition’s demands that the government do and the economy’s inability to get moving: a gazebo in every backyard and a bike rack on every street corner, let a thousand public washrooms bloom.


The Commons: Carry on

  1. The fact that none of this matters any more makes me a little sad. I used to enjoy reading these columns under the previous minority governments. The outrage exhibited by the Con comments was always worth a laugh at the end of the day. Now it is, sadly, all for not. Whatever the Harper government wants, the Harper government will get.

    • Get used to it. The opposition will flail away and the government will govern and at the end of four years the CANADIAN PEOPLE will decide whether the government deserves re-election. Not the oppositin parties and certainly not the Separatist leader of the NDP who has difficulty speaking the language of the majority of the population and the has been who currently pretends he is the leader of the moribund Liberal party.

  2. It must be tough being a leftie these days. Canada’s unemployment rate is near historic lows despite the global recession, we continue to out perform other G7 members, and the end of the world hasn’t befallen us.
    Woe is me….

    • It is an outright lie to suggest we are performing better than all G7 countries. Germany has one of the strongest economies on the planet with an enormous trade surplus founded on the production of value-added goods. Canada is suffering from the ‘Dutch Disease’ which has caused our manufacturing sector to collapse and turned $20B trade surpluses to record $40B trade deficits. We have lost 100,000 full-time jobs since the start of the recession only to be replace with part-time McJobs that have lousy pay and benefits.

      Also the Conference Board of Canada gave Canada a ‘C’ rating on its recovery, or #10 out of #17 economies. Let’s hope the opposition calls the Cons on their bald-faced lies about our economic standing. But even if they don’t, our economy is sinking like a stone and a couple years from now Harper won’t be able to make such absurd statements.

      IMF: Canada’s Trade Balances 1990-2010

      • That’s it? One country is doing better then us and you crying about the sky falling?

        Lefties are such a laugh.

    • Unemployment near historic lows? I guess I must be older than you because I can remember when it was 3%. And that was before they adjusted the way unemployment was calculated to make it look better than it really was.

      • Appearently you must have been napping during the PET years.

      • How far back are you going?  Our unemployment rate hasn’t been anywhere near 3% in most Canadians’ lifetimes:

        “From 1976 until 2010, Canada’s Unemployment Rate averaged 8.53 percent reaching an historical high of 13.10 percent in December of 1982 and a record low of 5.90 percent in September of 2007.”

        • Most Canadians are under 35?

          • I didn’t know a lot of newborns back in 1976 were looking for work.

          • I didn’t know you had such poor reading comprehension, kindly explain what you think “in most Canadians’ lifetimes” means?

  3. Yup, carry on up the creek without a paddle….because that’s where they’re headed now.

    • How do you “carry on up” a creek without a paddle? 

        • Oh Emily give it a rest.

          • No time to give it a rest when the country is in serious trouble.

        • I am well aware of the metaphor and its morphology.  What prompted my query was your suggestion the fed govt can somehow “carry on UP” a creek without the normal instrument of canoe propulsion.  Knowing Harper, he probably powers his canoe with dirty tarsands oil. 

          • It’s very hard to go ‘up’ a creek no matter what you use….and in this case not even a paddle is available.

  4. If this is what Question Period is going to look like it will be a boring four years.

    • The next 4 years will be a lot of things…but boring isn’t one of them.

  5. We … all of us, that is Canadians .. await with anticipation the coming 
    announcement of the appointment of Ted Morton or Gwyn Morgan as
    Parliamentary Budget Officer … er, is Herb Grubel still around ?

  6. How about Germany? “Germany’s jobless rate is at 7 percent, the lowest since records for a reunified Germany began in 1991” Google for “German August Unemployment Falls” for details. Don’t lie to people.

    • Exactly. Germany has a $200B trade surplus founded on value-added exports, Canada has a record $40B trade deficit and our manufacturing sector has collapsed. Anyone who thinks our economy is fairing better than Germany’s has absolutely no idea of what they are talking about.

      • Does Aaron Wherry believe Germany is NOT an advanced country? Why did he not mention Germany? 

        It goes to show Canada’s journalists know very little about economics. 
        Harper lied, and not Canadian journalist is willing to call him on it. Shame.

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