The Scene. For an omnibus bill, an omnibus question.
“Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives’ Trojan Horse budget will slash vital public services that Canadians rely on: food inspections, border security, research and development, housing, health care, employment insurance, Old Age Security. The list goes on and on,” Thomas Mulcair reported.
There were grumbles and objections from the government side.
“The Conservatives cannot even tell Parliament the details of their own proposals or how much they will cost. If the Conservatives are so proud of all these cuts, why are they hiding them?” the leader of the opposition asked, the first of three questions tabled with his opening opportunity. “Why are they ramming them through? If they are so good, why not study them?”
Here Peter Van Loan stood and asserted that which apparently renders all else moot. ”As a result of our Economic Action Plan, consistently opposed by the NDP, we have delivered for Canadians over 760,000 net new jobs so far,” the Government House leader sang. “Economic Action Plan 2012 continues on that path.”
It is a wonder we went so many years referring to that annual document of federal accounting as a “budget.” Such a dreadful word, it practically begged for Orwellian adjustment. It is further to wonder why the finance minister hasn’t been redubbed the Economic Action Minister. Or why the government has stopped with “economic action.” Why not the Bountiful Riches And Everlasting Happiness Plan for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Canada? Jim Flaherty could start calling himself Captain Awesome.
In any event, this was mere segue.
“It is a comprehensive plan to ensure our economic security through job creation, economic growth and indeed through balancing the budget,” Mr. Van Loan explained, “so that we do not go down the path that we see in Europe where the honourable leader of the opposition is suggesting we send Canadians’ billions in order to bailout Spanish and Greek banks.”
Mr. Mulcair stood with a correction. “Mr. Speaker, I will say it every time,” the NDP leader said. “That is an utter fabulation.”
Across the way, John Baird was confused. “What is a fabulation?” he wondered aloud.
Mr. Mulcair proceeded with his question. “In addition to all of these cuts and services to the public, Conservatives are carrying out an unprecedented attack on oversight and accountability in all sectors, slashing environmental assessments, gutting the Fisheries Act, cutting back on air safety, weakening foreign ownership rules, scrapping the Inspector General for CSIS, eliminating oversight by the Auditor General, and deep-sixing their own Accountability Act,” he reviewed, ticking off these points on his fingers. “This is not the agenda the Conservatives campaigned on last year. Is that why the Conservatives are trying so hard to make sure Canadians do not see what is in the budget?”
Now it was Mr. Van Loan’s turn to plead confusion. “Mr. Speaker,” he begged, “I am not sure what the words ‘utter fabulation’ mean.”
If nothing else then in his first few months as leader of the opposition, Mr. Mulcair has at least surpassed the government’s vocabulary. For the record, a fabulation is the “act of inventing or relating false or fantastic tales.”
“I guess it means I do not remember what I said last week,” Mr. Van Loan continued, a comment his Conservative colleagues enjoyed a great deal, “because last week the leader of the NDP said in this House in a question to me: ‘At the G20 meeting in April the Minister of Finance led the effort to block an international plan to resolve the European economic crisis. He told European countries ‘to step up to the plate’ and fix the problem on their own, as if our fate were not intimately connected to theirs…’ He then asked when we would come up with a plan.”
For the record, Mr. Mulcair had asked for “a real plan to protect and create jobs here in Canada.”
Mr. Van Loan continued with his interpretation, wagging his finger this way and that. ”He wants us to send billions to bailout Spanish banks, to bailout Greek banks,” the Government House leader explained. “We believe that our answers for the economy here via the Economic Action Plan 2012 are delivering for Canadians right here in Canada, not Spanish banks.”
The Conservatives stood to cheer and the NDP leader apparently now felt compelled to respond, or at least to fume in the government’s general direction.
“Mr. Speaker, our fate is intimately tied to what happens in Europe. We are not fortress Canuck,” he shot back. “When the Conservatives withdrew Canada’s application for membership in the Security Council, they did not withdraw it because they were afraid we would lose. They withdrew it because they knew we would be humiliated at the UN. The Canada they are projecting onto the world stage is unrecognizable to Canadians and unrecognizable to the world. That is the shame of the Conservatives.”
Barely pausing to breathe, the NDP leader went a bit red in the face. Now nearly out of time he quickly managed a question en francais about the budget before returning to his seat. The New Democrats in attendance stood to applaud when he was done.
Mr. Van Loan now moved to up the rhetorical ante.
“I appreciate he sees we are interconnected,” he offered. “I think the best way for us to help out the global economy is by ensuring the Canadian economy remains strong, not by sending our tax dollars abroad where good money is going after bad.”
So, apparently, does something like the fate of the world rest on the budget bill passing this House unamended.
The Stats. The budget, five questions. National Defence, the economy and fisheries, four questions each. Food regulations, three questions. Employment, Old Age Security, the environment, ethics, immigration and the G20, two questions each. Aboriginal affairs, military procurement, child care, taxation, the RCMP, veterans and concrete, one question each.
Peter Van Loan, Diane Finley and Peter MacKay, six responses each. Keith Ashfield, Jim Flaherty and Greg Rickford, four responses each. Pierre Poilievre, Dave Anderson and Jason Kenney, two responses each. Rona Ambrose, Vic Toews and Steven Blaney, one response each.