John Baird’s guide to polite conversation

The Commons: ‘So much for the Leader of the Opposition raising the tone of political debate in this place’

by Aaron Wherry

The Scene. In the 15 minutes before Question Period, John Weston stood and worried that a carbon tax would raise the price of Halloween candy. Then Cheryl Gallant fretted that a carbon tax would raise the price of wood. Then Lawrence Toet lamented for a carbon tax that would punish families and kill jobs. Then Pat Martin stood and attempted to shame a Conservative backbencher into rejecting his talking points. And then Kelly Block cried that a carbon tax would “hurt ordinary Canadians.”

All of this was supposedly something to do with the NDP and its leader.

When Question Period was finally called to order, Thomas Mulcair wanted to fret publicly about the Harper government’s handling of foreign investment.

“Mr. Speaker, let us look at the facts,” he offered with his second query. “The Conservatives are about to sell off a huge slice of Canada’s own natural resources to China. Investors are wondering whether the Minister of Industry will once again decide the fate of this deal behind closed doors like a thief in the night.”

This was apparently reference to the Industry Minister’s night owl tendencies.

“This uncertainty has already cost investors and pension funds tens of millions of dollars,” Mr. Mulcair ventured. “When will Conservatives listen to Canadians, to business leaders, to foreign investors and put forward the clear rules they promised Canadians two years ago?”

John Baird stood to report that the House’s honour had been besmirched. “Mr. Speaker,” he sighed, “so much for the Leader of the Opposition raising the tone of political debate in this place.”

Mr. Baird then spoke three full sentences before concluding thusly. “It is interesting to see the member stand and support the oil sands, something that he once called a disease and something that his own policies want to shut down,” he declared, wagging his finger. “That would be the real cost of an NDP government, a carbon tax.”

Mr. Mulcair was ready with a retort of sorts. “Mr. Speaker,” he shot back, “only a Conservative could consider a call to tell the truth and respect an undertaking to be a personal attack.”

New Democrat David Christopherson duly thumped his desk with his right hand.

“It is not only Conservative mismanagement of foreign takeovers that is causing economic uncertainty,” Mr. Mulcair continued. “The Parliamentary Budget Officer has just reported that next year the Canadian economy will grow by a mere 1.5%. That is $22 billion less than the finance minister forecast seven months ago. With crisis in Europe, uncertainty in the United States and flagging growth here at home, for once does the Conservative government have anything more to offer Canadians than ‘keep calm and carry on?’ ”

Mr. Baird was perfectly undaunted, proceeding to chop his hand and pump his fist and perform his routine. “Mr. Speaker, it is this government which presented a job creation action plan to Parliament earlier this year. It is this government which has weathered the economic storm for this country. It is this government, which at the bottom of the global recession, has seen the creation of some 820,000 net new jobs,” he sang. “While challenges remain in Europe, while challenges remain in the United States, this government’s strong economic leadership has been fundamental to more job creation, more economic growth, more hope, more opportunity. The only thing the NDP would want to do to that is bring in a $21.5 billion carbon tax on Canadians.”

Both men likely came with some feeling of victory.

The Stats. Employment insurance, six questions. Foreign investment, four questions. The economy, ethics, emergency preparedness, gas prices, the census and taxation, three questions each. The F-35, salmon and bilingualism, two questions each. The environment, immigration, pharmaceuticals, government services and science, one question each.

John Baird and Christian Paradis, six responses each. Ted Menzies and Candice Bergen, three responses each. Rona Ambrose, Pierre Poilievre, Randy Kamp, Jacques Gourde, Gerald Keddy and Gail Shea, two responses each. Peter Kent, Jason Kenney, Julian Fantino and Maxime Bernier, one response each.

John Baird’s guide to polite conversation

  1. ‘ “It is interesting to see the member stand and support the oil sands, something that he once called a disease and something that his own policies want to shut down,” he declared, wagging his finger. “That would be the real cost of an NDP government, a carbon tax.” ‘

    Question Period is yet another democratic tradition the Harper Conservatives treat with contempt. Instead of giving Canadians straight answers to the questions put before them, they spout off irrelevant propaganda thinking no one will notice. In the end all con men find out the hard way that people are not as gullible as they think they are…

    • Answering to a bunch of hippies, students, unionists and commies is beneath Mr. Harper’s standards. The NDP is a joke with a punchline waiting for 2015.

  2. “It is this government which has weathered the economic storm for this country.”

    Not really. Harper brought in a stimulus package that cushioned the blow from the Great Recession. He even bragged it produced “the strongest recovery on the planet” (however erroneously.) But the fact is the opposition forced the stimulus spending on the Harper Government which planned on implementing “job killing” austerity measures…

    Also in 2010, The Economist noted: “Much of the country’s resilience stems from policies—such as bank regulation and sound public finances—which predate Mr Harper.”

    “It is this government, which at the bottom of the global recession, has seen the creation of some 820,000 net new jobs”

    More creative accounting from the Harper Cons. Considering the unemployment rate is 1.2 points higher than before the recession and there are 300,000 more people unemployed, the Harper Conservatives have killed more jobs than they created. There are 300,000 net job losses…

  3. When will john Baird denounce the coming Apartheid legislation by the next Putin Super Jewish Con .????????????????? No Con party money is no. one

  4. This government has made of mockery of the entire parliamentary process. Why bother to even pretend any more? Send all the MPs home until 2015 – they serve no useful purpose under a government of one-person rule.

    Those tory MPs who stand up to read PMO diatribes must feel really proud of themselves. Phone call for Mr Harper – the 1940s wants its propaganda back.

    • Actually many, many MPs are not actually that proud of themselves at all, or at least the public perception of them.

      This leads to the second major trend: the consistent observation from the MPs that the greatest frustrations they faced during their political careers came from within their own political party. Although our interviews did not specifically ask about political parties, time after time the MPs articulated how decisions from their parties’ leadership were often viewed as opaque, arbitrary and even unprofessional, and how their parties’ demands often ran counter to the MPs’ desires to practice politics in a constructive way.

      Here is a link to the rest of the Samara Canada report.

      • Yeah, but you’ll notice the HoC isn’t filled with Independents. Which it ought to be if the MPs thought to be proud of themselves.

        • Getting elected is expensive.
          Take private money out of the process, and you’ll see a house filled with Independents, who can then take it upon themselves to choose the best leader from all of them, not just the ones from their own party.

        • We agree, then…..excellent!!

  5. The Government’s performance during question period borders on the ludicrous. It is all a farce. These men and women who are paid the big bucks and are elected to represent caring, concerned and thoughtful Canadians treat us all with such disrespect when they utter these inane responses to legitimate questions.

    • Very true. Taxpayers pay members of the government to stand up and account for their actions and policies. Instead of doing their jobs they turn Question Period into an Conservative infomercial. They also do the same with the $100M/yr of taxpayer money they waste on self-promoting “Action Plan” ads. I’ve never seen a government abuse taxpayer dollars the way the Harper Conservatives have. They have absolutely no ethics whatsoever.

    • Love it – you should have some t shirts printed up for the press gallery.

  6. A carbon tax is a good tax. What will it take for Canadians to get this?

    • A lobotomy.

      • So you’re saying you get this?

    • Many Canadians do get this. However, many Canadians do not vote.

      The CPC is hoping to increase the connection between those two groups.

  7. Government members could just as easily end every response with “Carthago delenda est!” without any loss of relevance.

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