The Commons: If we can’t talk to each other, we can only talk to ourselves

And that makes us look crazy

The Commons: If we can't talk to each other, we can only talk to ourselvesThe Scene. The Conservatives cheered as Bob Rae, perhaps their preferred opponent, stood to start Question Period. Then, though, he spoke.

“Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for public health and for H1N1,” said the white-haired one. “It is very clear that there was a delay in the decision of the federal government to order the vaccine. It is very clear that there has been a delay in the distribution of the vaccine. I would like to ask the minister, in light of these two clear facts that are delineated by the evidence, does she not understand that these delays have cost and will cost lives?”

The Conservatives groaned, having apparently expected something more laudatory of their efforts.

On this question of health policy, it was of course Tony Clement, the Industry Minister, who was offered up to respond. Just as Christian Paradis, the Minister of Public Works, would later take a question on climate change, the Treasury Board President Vic Toews would expound on the scourge of organized crime, and Heritage Minister James Moore would stand and account for the government’s approach to taxation.

“Mr. Speaker, in fact our Minister of Health has been working with the Chief Public Health Officer and has been working assiduously with the provinces and territories across this land to deliver the vaccine,” Mr. Clement informed the House

And surely we can all agree that assiduously is a very impressive-sounding word.

But Mr. Rae, a man who knows at least several words of ten letters or more (note his aforementioned use of the term “delineated”), was not convinced. “Mr. Speaker, there was a delay of several months in the decision to order the vaccine. Those facts are very clear,” he offered. “There was an entire gap of time in which things were not done which needed to be done. There was a race against time, and we are now late in dealing with the outbreak of the virus. I would like to ask the minister—yesterday, in the Saskatchewan Legislature, the Minister of Health announced that there will be 40,000 fewer vaccines distributed next week than there were this week because of the decisions of the federal government. Those cuts are being faced by provinces across the board.”

Then, a question. “How,” Mr. Rae asked, “does the minister justify the fact that we are late in the day in dealing with this crisis?”

It was here that Mr. Clement decided he was Abraham Lincoln. “Mr. Speaker, I have a simple proposition to the honourable member and to the rest of his caucus, work with us,” the Minister enthused. “Work with public health officials who give their best advice to us day in and day out, work with the doctors, work with the nurses, work with the medical profession. We are all in this together. Work with us.”

His Conservative colleagues stood to applaud as he went, swelling to a full ovation as he finished. Seated in front of their televisions at home, untold numbers of viewers no doubt openly wept.

John Baird had been chirping about Carolyn Bennett, the Liberal who has been the subject of much attention this week, but who was not present this day. When Liberal David McGuinty stood to ask why so many federal ministries had been allocated so many millions of dollars for advertising, Baird found opportunity to offer his thoughts on the record.

“Mr. Speaker, if the Liberals had their way, they would continue to spread the kind of misinformation and scare-mongering that they have been doing in recent days. Their health critic had to of course apologize earlier for making some rather regrettable comments and trying to make light of a public health emergency,” he lamented. “We have an important responsibility. The Minister of National Revenue makes important pronouncements with respect to the tax credits available to Canadians. The Minister of Finance reports back to Canadians, as mandated by this House, on our economic stimulus plan. We are working hard to create jobs and opportunities. We are working hard to get that job done.”

Much of the rest of the hour was given to Mr. Baird’s one-man avant-garde theatrical exhibition, entitled Exploration of the Tangential. In short order the House heard reference to two former Liberal cabinet ministers, the lodging requirements of the international press, the current Premier of Ontario, a current minister in the Ontario government, and commercial fishing practices. Bravely seated, Mr. Clement motioned for the opposition to keep it coming.

As such it was perhaps not entirely surprising what came a little while later.

Up stood Judy Foote, a rookie Liberal along the opposition back row. “Mr. Speaker, my question is for the chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates,” she said, simply enough. “For months the committee has been asking the government for the exact amount of dollars spent on infrastructure. The Parliamentary Budget Officer was not able to provide the committee with specific dollars because the government has not given him the information and now we understand that the government is muzzling public servants. I ask the committee chair if today’s agenda will finally allow us to get this information or will the government stonewall and continue to obstruct the committee from doing its work on behalf of Canadians?”

Thing is, the chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates is a Liberal. So here the Speaker called on Yasmin Ratansi.

“Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question,” Ratansi reported to hoots and hollers from the government side. “The committee agenda is focused on the impact of infrastructure spending on the economy. Numerous witnesses have stated that the minister is not providing concrete information. It is very hard for the committee to do its work. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has also been denied the information he needs to do his job. On the agenda today in committee, we will be hearing from the minister responsible and we trust the minister will provide the exact and complete amount of dollars that have flowed to projects so that the committee can conclude its study.”

The Conservatives did not find this answer particularly sufficient and loudly said so. The Liberals stood and cheered.

The Stats. Infrastructure, eight questions. Ethics, six questions. H1N1, five questions. The environment, four questions. Taxation, equalization, pensions, trade and crime, two questions each. Gender equity, Iran, industry and agriculture, one question each.

John Baird, 11 answers. Tony Clement, four answers. Jim Flaherty, three answers. Christian Paradis, James Moore, Mark Warawa, Stockwell Day, Gary Goodyear, Vic Toews, two answers each. Diane Finley, Rob Merrifield, Helena Guergis, Lawrence Cannon, Yasmin Ratansi, Gerry Ritz and Rob Moore, one answer each.

The Commons: If we can’t talk to each other, we can only talk to ourselves

  1. 'does she not understand that these delays have cost and will cost lives'

    Yes, accusing the government of killing people is a real improvement in QP decorum.

    • Fair enough. How would you have phrased the question?

      • There is no evidence that the vaccine will save lives. Early research has shown the vaccine is most effective in people that are strong and healthy and need flu protection the least, and least effective in the people who need flu protection the most. There is very little understanding regarding whether the vaccine will in fact prevent the flu in people who are at risk.

        So the question is not based on any real evidence.

        • This is complete fabrication, and ads to the confusion. You're an idiot.

          • No it's not.

        • So what is the point of obtaining and distributing the vaccine?

          • Yeah, what is the point in distributing a vaccine that may not be effective in those who need it most?

          • Because it's a rhetorical question and no health official doubts the effectiveness of the vaccine nor do they have a reason to.

          • To be clear, my question was only 7% rhetorical / 93% genuine….however, is your comment genuine or sarcastic?

          • I'd say it was 1% rhetorical, 2% genuine, and 97% idiotic.

          • Realizing that I don't know everything and seeking to clarify comments makes my question idiotic? Or some other reason?

          • "So what is the point of obtaining and distributing the vaccine? "

            The purpose of getting a flu vaccine is to help prevent the flu. That's it.

            I don't know, it seems obvious to me, which is why I said it was an idiotic question – I actually thought it was a completely rhetorical sarcastic comment because the answer is so simple and obvious.

            What I have been talking about is not whether the vaccine can or cannot prevent the flu.

            It's debatable how effective it is, that's why I am talking about. And it's debatable whether it works for people who are at affected most by the flu, those that are at risk of losing their life.

          • Well you were wrong about my question being essentially rhetorical.

            I was simply trying to understand the first sentence of your original post: There is no evidence that the vaccine will save lives. That statement seemed provocative, so I was trying to get at the thinking behind it.

            And just out of curiosity – accepting that there is no scientific evidence supporting the contention that the vaccine will save lives – would you say that it is at least plausible that a few lives will be saved as a consequence of avoiding the flu in the first place?

          • OK.

            I'm somewhat confused by what is considered provocative about the statement There is no evidence that the vaccine will save lives To me, this is plain and honest fact. I'm not trying to be provocative. I am explaining why Bob Rae's statement is inflammatory. When he says "these delays have cost and will cost lives", to me that is a provocative statement, a strong statement that may be entirely false, because there is no evidence for it. I am trying to set the record straight, which to me is not provocative.

          • It seems that our perspectives dictate what we take as provocative.

            Knowing what I knew at the time, I thought that the basic assertion that Bob Rae used was reasonable – delays equates to deaths. However, let me add right now, I actually don't agree that any delays that might have occurred during the last six months or so are at all inexcusable, and I am not going to try to defend Bob Rae's torguing of the basic question. OTOH, you, knowing what you already knew saw that as a provocative question. Fair enough.

            And then the reverse is true wrt your statement, because you had accessed some information that I hadn't I saw the statement as provocative, and you see it as reasonable.

            As an aside, I would say that public health officials and Minister Agluqaak and others have actually been doing an admirable job over this time.

            Anyways, thanks for hanging in there with me. I accept that you are simply trying to engage in honest debate, and I am actually trying to do the same.

          • You're an idiot too, that blanket statement is false, there is plenty of doubt regarding the effectiveness of flu vaccines, the only certainty is that it won't harm you. There is absolutely no proof that is saves lives.

          • Preventing the flu.

          • I wouldn't have asked the question if the answer was obvious to me.

            Thanks for spelling it out for me, and for providing those links for the other phil; they were an interesting read.

            Your last question is a good one, and I don't have an answer to it.

        • This answer just demonstrates that you don't understand vaccination. You don't get the vaccine for yourself, you get it for all the people who have the misfortune to interact with you.

          • While that is a good point, it still offers no proof that the vaccine saves lives. Period.

  2. "Seated in front of their televisions at home, untold numbers of viewers no doubt openly wept."

    By the time Tony Clement is trying to pull off Abraham Lincoln in the HoC, I'm sure Jesus himself wept.

  3. Okay Wilson
    Fair enough not decorum but the reality is my niece was so sick last week and yes she contracted H1N1 – her Mum thought she was going to die. She is fine now but very weak.

    Fair enough could they have got the vaccine out earlier? I don't know. But you don't think families who have lost children want to know that answer?

    This is very serious and all I received this week from the government is a pamphet telling me where to find a guide. This would be funny if it was not so serious.

    • Bonnie, I get it. I took my very sick (by her standards, ie unable to eat and talking very little) daughter to the doctor yesterday to find that she had a viral (no medical fix, immunization or otherwise) issue.

      Pray tell – WHAT COUNTRIES have delivered on the vaccine earlier? For crying out loud, it came out THIS WEEK. Do you understand the crapshoot that flu vaccines are?

      Not to take away from the pain of families that have lost loved ones, but for goodness sakes, vaccines, of any kind, take time to develop. If not, why have we not all been vaccinated against oh, lets see, AIDS, Herpes, etc? Because its a medical crap shoot, that's why.

      • Candace… the following countries delivered the vaccine earlier (not a complete list, only what I could track down):

        Australia: Monday 28 September
        US: Tuesday 6 October
        France: Tuesday 20 October
        UK: Wednesday 21 October

        I will note that some of these roll-outs (such as in the US, which differs by state) begun on a relatively small scale for the size of the country, these are simply the days when the vaccine was first available to the public. As you will notice Europe is very much in-line with our vaccination plan, although Australia was far ahead of everyone…

        Additionally, there continues to be much confusion about the vaccine, its impact and specifically reasons why everyone should receive one… (I happen to work at a prominent polling firm, we track this information and I can confirm it is very disturbing how little the general public knows about H1N1 and the vaccine). I do place some blame on the shoulders of our federal government, I realize they are trying to walk a fine line between inducing panic and educating the public… but the spread of information could have been much more effective (specifically the advertising surrounding the delivery of the vaccine and reasons for getting it)

        • I wonder if the Government of Canada could have delivered small amounts of the vaccine earlier, which might have saved some of the horrendous lineups when the vaccines all came out at once.

  4. Is Bob Rae the Silver Scab?

    • With a tan I might add. Obviously he's been away, and not 'fearing deaths"
      about H1Ni

  5. Say what you like about Bob Rae – but he has guided a gov't through a terrible recession period (at the cost of popularity, esp. from his former-base) and got the HWY 407 built – all these Harris retreads know how to do is destroy stuff and waste our money on pet projects.

  6. If it wasn't for John Baird and his answers I would have fallen asleep. Bennett is looking more like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies TV show and McGuinty looks like he has a pickle stuffed up his a$$. No wonder nobody is paying attention to the Libs. Then you have that silly woman Hedy Fry suggesting MPs should get priority for the vaccine and Bob Rae suggesting that people are dying because the vaccine isn't being delivered to his liking. The Libs are becoming jokes and no magic by Peter Donolo will change the sad members of that sad poltiical party.

    • If only the Liberals had developed a detailed, credible alternative vision for Canada so the Party wouldn't have to rely exclusively on trumped-up, petty attacks like these.

    • That's nasty to say the least. Insult a woman because she's aging? Pathetic.

      • It's the typical Conservative attitude. I'm sure Harper would approve – he's that kind of guy.

  7. Why is baird answering questions that other ministers should be answering?
    Where is the accountability?

  8. So in the ongoing LPC effort to politicize this issue Bob Rae has sunk to a new low. Under the legal protection of the HoC he is now accusing a non-elected official, the Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones (a Liberal appointee by none other than Carolyn Bennett) of negligence causing death. Just think, soon the LPC will reach even further down to the very bottom of the barrel and make this low life their new leader.

  9. Final note: Wherry. Give your head a shake. Do you truly think you provide unbiased columns and/or blog posts? Really? Could you carry the Liberal pail, bereft as it is, any further without serious side effects?

    Are you legally allowed to drive? I'm concerned for the citizens of your home town. Seriously. Take a friggin' powder.

    • Well, this is Macleans' "balance" my dear. All others are Conservative……..Wherry is the token leftie.

      Give your head a shake.

      Besides, he can't make it up, because you see it on TV

      • I on't know where you get the idea that the others at Macleans are conservative. Wells is about as "equal opportunity bash each party equally" non-partisan as they come. So is Geddes. As for Coyne, he may be a fiscal conservative, but that doesn't make him a big "C" conservative.

        • As for Coyne, he may be a fiscal conservative, but that doesn't make him a big "C" conservative.

          That's for sure. Coyne may not be the most vociferous critic of the Harper government, but he's certainly the most effective.

          • Agreed. In my opinion, that is why Coyne and Wells are so much more effective critics of the government than Wherry. You know that they'll tear a strip off the Liberals when they deserve it too, so their criticism carries real weight.

            How can anyone take Wherry seriously as someone interested in improving the decency and decorum of politics when he ignores the most egregious examples of the Liberals' descent into the gutter, like he has this week? He clearly doesn't care about decency and decorum at all…except to the extent that he can use it to score points against the Conservatives.

          • Styen, Taylor, Amiel. Not to mention, Wells and Coyne, two former National Postees (though both, great writers, one more so.). How can anyone take a muppet seriously?

  10. I honestly think that Bob Rae is slowly losing his mind. He keeps coming with more and more outrageous statements. I think he's been spending too much time with Hedy Fry (who is already a full-blown loon).

    But his comments yesterday accusing the govt of killing Canadians with H1N1 goes beyond crazy all the way to dispicable. Bob Rae is dead to me now. I will never speak or type his name again.

    That has to be one of the most moronic and insensitive remarks I've ever heard. He should apologize to the whole country! Make him the next Liberal leader and the Bloc will vote Conservative!

    What little respect I had left for the nameless one, is gone now.

    • Agreed. Way way way beyond the pale.

      This has been a week from Hell for the Liberals. Let's recap:

      * Hedy Fry tries to make an issue out of the colour blue
      * Ignatieff botched the communications in changing his chief of staff
      * Liberal pink book suggests that Harper is responsible for escalating violence against women
      * Carolyn Bennett's apology for her shameful flyer being sent into native ridings
      * Hedy Fry suggesting that MPs should be vaccinated first
      * Bob Rae suggests that the government is killing people
      * Liberal senator invites a lawsuit by claiming that CTV is being paid by the Conservatives to broadcast propaganda
      * Liberals put out a press release containing only the latin jibberish sample text you see on legal documents and such

      If our media were half as interested in playing "gotcha" when it's the Liberals instead of the Conservatives, they'd probably be polling below the NDP at this point. What a train wreck of a party. Donolo must be a bit intimidated by the challenge he's facing.

      • you forgot firing the liberal chief of staff by remote control without even the decency of a face to face first meeting – how woul you like to turn on the news only to discover you've been fired! – talk about tacky. Last but not least the ever present poll numbers showing that the poor showing does not seem to be temporary but part of a constant trendline.

    • "his comments yesterday accusing the govt of killing Canadians with H1N1"

      Must have missed the part where Rae said the government is 'killing Canadians' – do you have a link?

  11. If I could caption the picture of Bob Rae above it would be the following, "Hey don't blame me, I can't help the everyone else wanted Iggy instead of me!"

  12. Do you get paid by the Liberals directly Wherry, or do you work pro bono?

  13. Rae looks as happy as a young girl in spring. Iggy is away and the Rae conspiracy to overthrow him-Rae is working with the old fart, Chretien- is unfolding as planned, unlike his conspiracy to work with Jack Layton to overturn an election.

  14. How could anyone believe this man? He lied on the Jim Rutherford program, by saying that Iggy never signed the coalition agreement. Then he insisted that the coalition wasn't upsetting to Canadians. Perhaps not to Toronto's massive lefty population and their very own Toronto Star, but to the rest of the country it was a bit concerning.

  15. Rae is certainly loosing something, such as being an honest statesman whom the people can put their trust in. This guy will tell a bold face lie, search for a nuanced position on an issue, backpedal, and do it all with certitude.

  16. Why is the Transport Minister answering questions on Health?

    • Small point recognizing that he is NOT NOW the health minister, Clement was the health minister in Ontario during SARS so he does have some expertise to offer on pandemics. I don't think the Conservatives are trying to protect her, she seems quite capable and has been in the public eye just fine.

      Bob Rae is a sad answer to whatever question was posed to his contsituents, either that those who occupy the centre of the universe (Toronto to the rest of us) really need to consider their own separatist movement.

      • Toronto is no longer the center of the universe, it barely makes a mark anymore.Rae would be a useless leader, for the liberal party, and for the country.

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