The Commons: No questions asked

Just as there haven’t been answers these last few weeks

by Aaron Wherry

The Scene. From the far southwest corner of the room, Conservative MP Wai Young wondered aloud whether New Democrat MP Rosane Doré Lefebvre had children.

“Do you have children?” she asked, loudly, of Ms. Doré Lefebvre, who stood in her spot in the opposite corner.

“Do you have children?” Ms. Young repeated.

“You don’t have children!” she concluded.

Ms. Doré Lefebvre was, at the time, attempting to challenge the Heritage Minister on his opposition to an exhibit about sex at the local science museum. Apparently Ms. Young objected to Ms. Doré Lefebvre’s criticism. Apparently Ms. Young considered the question of whether or not Ms. Doré Lefebvre was currently raising children to be somehow relevant to this discussion.

Afterwards, Nathan Cullen rose and suggested that perhaps Ms. Young’s comments were inappropriate and an apology thus in order. Eventually, and shortly after first declining to do so, Ms. Young did apologize. The House then moved on to a discussion of when and how a member might properly use the adjectives “stupid” and “ignorant.”

This seemed about right. A fine end to a brutish couple of days—yesterday and today—that capped a few weeks of futility

“Mr. Speaker, laws on government secrecy exists to protect real national secrets, not embarrassments to the Prime Minister,” Thomas Mulcair said this afternoon of a report that had the RCMP investigating a leak of F-35 information to the Globe and Mail. “The Prime Minister might take issue with the truth but it does not justify calling the cops, it does not justify intimidating reporters and it certainly does not justify attacking freedom of the press. Is this the point we have reached in the country, having police investigate journalists who are only doing their jobs?”

James Moore was the day’s stand-in for the Prime Minister. “Mr. Speaker, that is not at all what happened,” he said. “The government has an obligation to protect sensitive information, and the Clerk of the Privy Council took appropriate action.”

The Heritage Minister might’ve returned to his seat here, but then what fun would that have been?

“Since the leader of the opposition raised the question of ‘national embarrassments’—”

Note: The leader of the opposition had not actually done this, unless Mr. Moore means to imply that the F-35 is a national embarrassment.

“—I am wondering when the leader of the opposition will apologize to Western Canadians for suggesting that the strength of the Western Canadian economy is ‘a disease on Canada,’ ” Mr. Moore segued.

There were moans of “shame” and various other groans from the government side.

“He even admitted yesterday that he had not even been to the oil sands in Western Canada,” Mr. Moore continued. “He attacks Western Canada, he attacks our energy industry, he attacks all of the west and the great work that is being done by Western Canadians to contribute to Canada’s national unity. He should be ashamed of himself.”

Mr. Mulcair stood and stared down the Heritage Minister. “Mr. Speaker, they are leaving the largest ecological, economic and social debt in history on the backs of future generations,” he shot back, wagging his finger. “We know what the problem is. It is the way we are developing them. No one is saying we should not develop the oil sands. We are saying—”

The Conservatives howled and the Speaker stood and called for order. Even with his microphone turned off, the NDP leader kept going, his words inaudible, but fiercely delivered. Across the way, John Baird sat smiling at the show.

The Speaker turned the floor back over to Mr. Mulcair and the bearded New Democrat turned to his actual question. “This is not run of the mill Conservative secrecy. It is vindictive, it is vicious and it is illegal,” he ventured. “One government department went so far as to check the home address of Globe and Mail reporter Daniel Leblanc. Why? Why is the public service being enlisted to run a witch hunt on journalists?”

Back to Mr. Moore. “Mr. Speaker, that is not at all what happened,” he protested, “and the leader of the opposition is not going to change the subject.”

There was laughter from the New Democrats.

Barely three questions into the afternoon, the business of Question Period was apparently over.

Mr. Moore continued his harangue. “It is unconscionable for someone who wants to be the prime minister of the country—”

The New Democrats applauded this noun.

“—to be so utterly irresponsible.”

The Conservatives applauded this adjective.

Mr. Mulcair rose for a fourth turn, not even bothering now with a question. “Mr. Speaker, 500,000 good paying manufacturing jobs have been lost because we are not enforcing legislation. We are not enforcing the navigable waters act. We are not enforcing the migratory birds act. We are not enforcing the Fisheries Act,” he said, ticking off the failures on his fingers. “We are allowing these companies to use the air, the soil and the water as an unlimited free dumping ground. Their model for development is Nigeria instead of Norway. We know what we want: it is sustainable development to protect future generations.”

The NDP leader variously wagged and pointed. The New Democrats stood to cheer when he was done.

James Moore stood and sighed. “Mr. Speaker, there he goes again attacking the west and he has not even been there,” he said, wagging his own finger.

To finish his lecture, Mr. Mulcair took a fifth turn. “Mr. Speaker, Conservatives are destabilizing the balanced economy that Canada painstakingly built up since the Second World War, sacrificing the entire manufacturing sector and all other export sectors because the Canadian dollar is being held artificially high because they are failing to enforce environmental legislation,” he explained. “The high number of U.S. dollars is bringing the Canadian dollar too high, hurting all export sectors. That is the result of choices. Their priority is the unbridled development of the oil sands. We stand for sustainable development in this country.”

He chopped his left hand and pumped his right fist. The New Democrats stood again to cheer. The Liberals, for some unexplained reason, were in hysterics.

“Mr. Speaker, I notice the Liberal Party is seeing the resuscitation themselves and the meltdown of the NDP leader as he tries to divide Canadians over the economy,” Mr. Moore quipped. The Liberals applauded.

The minister proceeded then to lecture Mr. Mulcair on the proper behaviour of an opposition leader. “If the leader of the NDP would at least have the dignity of going to the west and actually visit the people whose economy he says is a disease in this country, he might start the pathway back to a little dignity for the leader of the opposition,” Mr. Moore scolded, “because the fact is western Canada is driving the Canadian economy. We are the future. We are creating jobs for all of this country and we are very proud of it.”

The Heritage Minister pumped his fist and the Conservatives stood to cheer.

Apparently enjoying this, Mr. Baird rose and asked for unanimous consent for more questions.

But just as there haven’t been answers these last few weeks, now there weren’t questions being asked.

The Stats. Employment, seven questions. Military procurement and poverty, five questions each. National Defence, three questions. The oil industry, two statements and one question. The G20 summit, museums, immigration, abortion and veterans, two questions each. Political fundraising, business, airports and the Arctic, one question each.

James Moore, 11 responses. Kellie Leitch and Leona Aglukkaq, five responses each. Julian Fantino, four responses. Peter Penashue, Vic Toews, Jason Kenney and Rob Nicholson, two responses each. John Baird, Tim Uppal, Maxime Bernier, Denis Lebel and John Duncan, one response each.

The Commons: No questions asked

  1. Well James Moore doesn’t have children. Perhaps he should attend the exhibition in Ottawa instead of condemning sex as an ‘insult to taxpayers’.

    What a bunch of fuddy-duddies. They have a 50′s view of everything.

  2. What’s it going to be like when the Cons return from Chicago to tell Canadians – we’re giving this much $$ to the Afghan army and oh btw, we’re going to war with Iran in support of our Israeli and American friends? After that every important issue eg environment, will be gone, off the table while the Cons desperately try to get us to support the troops, so the troops can come home and not get disability pensions. Shame and a Pox on all of Them.

  3. Did Ignatieff ever see the tar sands? or was he ‘just visiting’? Would it consequently validate Mulcair’s position if he did visit? Or would he be ‘just visiting’?

    Mordor needs better promotion as a tourist destination.

    • Mordor. LOL. Yeah one can imagine 7 fun-filled days and night spent on a bitumen sands vacation. Lounging by the tailing ponds. Watching flocks of birds flee in terror from sound cannons. Majestic scenery of processing plants and smokestacks belching filth into the sky. Choking on the fumes. Yes no politician should dare criticize the oil sands until they get a load of that…

      • Take a trip from la loche to anzac beautiful country. La loche is high crime though. Nature will reclaim even tailing ponds dont underestimate mother earthT

        • Although one really can never be sure what a Conservative means, until he abuses you for misunderstanding the language he used, I’m certain that Alberta has some lovely landscapes. The context however seems to be about the Oil Sands,themselves. And Mother Nature has very subtle and strong ways of correcting things. AGW will also be corrected.

          • Civilization will be corrected. By the end of it no one will be talking about a global population problem.

          • That’s a very fined tuned correction. Yes, It will fix with us or without us.

    • My friend said he saw a moose taking a piss on the road to Fort McMurray. He insisted we turn around and I was out-voted. There was a moose alright, but it wasn’t taking a piss.
      Would’ve funded an anemometer small biz.

  4. “he attacks all of the west…”

    Apparently even a Con MP from BC thinks “the west” doesn’t include Canada’s most westerly and populous western province. The biggest attack directed at the province on the west side of the continental divide has come from Conservatives and their determination to shove pipelines and tankers down our throats.
    Never mind the high dollar, climate change and the Con’s softwood lumber agreement, all of which have been bad for BC’s forest industry.

  5. the speaker has lost control of the house. It appears that andrew scheer is way over his head in his position and does not have enough respect from the mp’s to do his job. A good speaker is imperative to civility during question period and the mp’s are running roughshod over this speaker.

    • Why do you think the CPC chose him

      • All parties chose him, not just the Conservatives.

        • Who has the majority of votes?

        • If Parliament is prorogued, do they get to vote for Speaker again? And, do you think they’d vote the same way now?

          • A new parliament would require a vote for speaker.

  6. The Dutch Disease is an economic theory. Theories do not attack people. They are an analysis of the facts. The facts are that over the past 6 years the dollar has risen far about its OECD fair value of 81 cents US and in the process 500,000 good-paying jobs have disappeared and $20B trade surpluses have turned to record $50B trade deficits (-3% GDP.)

    When the Liberals were in power there was balance to the economy and all provinces prospered. Since it is impossible to cram all Canadians into a few resource-heavy provinces, I hope Mulcair stands his ground against the hackneyed right-wing outrage. Because they are not going to stop with unfettered bitumen. Fact is Mulcair needs to put the Harper Cons on the defensive for destroying the economy in the rest of Canada.

  7. If I worked with somebody and everytime they were asked something they screamed indignantly, made up stuff about the question and refused to answer, I like to think action would be taken. I am not saying the CPC is alone or the first to be less than forthright, but surely this is just new levels of bafflegab.

  8. BTW, Mr. Wherry, Lefebvre.

    • Well that was dumb of me. Thanks. Fixed.

  9. Aaron, you failed to mention that Ms. Young finally apologised after she was chastised by Denis Coderre who rose on a Point of Order to point out that Members have the right to ask questions and that it doesn’t matter if they have children or not.

  10. I imagine Ms. Young’s suggestion that the raising of children was relevant to the discussion of the sex exhibit at CMST had something to do with (Tory) Senator Nancy Ruth’s suggestion that the Minister’s lack of children was a potential source of his discomfort.

    Of course, a cynical person might conclude that what Senator Nancy Ruth really meant to imply was that it was the Minister’s lack of personal experience with the subject matter of the exhibit that causes his anxiety.

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