The Commons: Stephen Harper requests your patience

Lots to laugh about in the House today—until it got serious


The Scene. Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper were debating the state of the aerospace industry. Suffice it to say, the Liberal leader feels the Prime Minister isn’t doing enough, while the Prime Minister feels the Liberal leader is being silly.

Offering his second reply en francais, the Prime Minister switched in mid-answer to English. A witty retort seemed imminent.

“The Leader of the Opposition cannot support an economic plan earlier in the week and two days later say it is not working yet,” Mr. Harper argued. “That does not really have a lot of credibility.”

Ignatieff smiled.

“Mr. Speaker,” the Liberal replied, “I cannot help it if I am an impatient man.”

The Conservatives laughed and cheered.

“In terms of the leader of the opposition’s patience, he demonstrated a lot of patience in his long, 36 year return to Canada,” the Prime Minister mused at his next opportunity. “I would urge him to show that kind of patience in the future.”

The Conservatives laughed and cheered.

Lost, for the moment, was the brainteaser Ignatieff had snuck in between the chuckles.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “can the Prime Minister assure us that his infrastructure spending will benefit all Canadians, no matter where they live or who they vote for?”

The Prime Minister assured him he could. But Gerard Kennedy came up to double-check. “Can the minister tell us,” he begged of John Baird, “what measures the government is taking to make sure that federal infrastructure funds are being fairly distributed?”

John Baird reassured him there were. But Kennedy was back on his feet, this time with damning statistics. “Mr. Speaker, I hear what the minister says, but the facts say otherwise,” he said. “Of the 26 projects announced so far for the Building Canada fund, totalling over $1 billion, 75 per cent of the money has been diverted to Conservative ridings.”

An hour later, Baird would appear in the foyer with some hastily scribbled notes, but in this moment he had merely his wits about him.

“Mr. Speaker, this is quite remarkable,” Baird observed. “Just last week he was saying there was not one project out the door. Now he is citing 26 of them where he is unhappy with their distribution. The leader of the opposition says he is impatient. We have had quite a week.”

Jack Layton was, as usual, unimpressed. “Mr. Speaker, I will tell you who is impatient,” he said, “it is the 7,000 people who have lost their jobs in the nine days since the government tabled its budget in the House.”

The proceedings grew less hilarious from there.

“Mr. Speaker, TD Bank forecasts 325,000 jobs lost this year and an increase by one-third in the unemployment rate to 8.8 per cent,” John McCallum reported. “At the same time, the Parliamentary Budget Officer says the government is exaggerating the employment impact of its budget.”

“Mr. Speaker, in announcing the public transit tax credit the Conservatives promised 220,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emission reductions,” Martha Hall Findlay noted. “Will the Minister of the Environment please confirm that after $635 million the results have been in fact negligible?”

“Mr. Speaker, according to the child care resource and research unit, since the Conservative government came to power in 2006 child care space expansion has evaporated,” explained Michael Savage. “The government’s plan to create spaces was a dismal failure.”

“Mr. Speaker, this government’s betrayal of women’s equality is now an international issue,” said Anita Neville. “In November, the UN was scathing in its condemnation of Canada’s record. Now it is the UN periodic peer review which cited serious concerns about Canada: failure to address violence against aboriginal women; failure to uphold the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination obligations; no strategy to eliminate poverty and homelessness.”

And that was just the Liberals.

A day that had begun so jovially was now testing one’s ability to carry on. All seemed lost. Doom appeared nearer.

Various Conservative ministers rose to respond, if not quite answer.

Baird opted for mockery. “It is no wonder so much of those results are going to Conservative ridings,” he said. “There is an awful lot of them in B.C.”

Jim Prentice went with humility “Mr. Speaker,” he said of the environment department’s inability to positively affect the environment, “we continue to work on this.”

Lisa Raitt tried scorn “The truth is there,” she said of a report on nuclear safety. “I invite Canadians to read it and not listen to the constant fear mongering from the other side of the House.”

Chuck Strahl chose denial. “I would invite the member to study the statements of someone from her own home town, David Matas, an international human rights lawyer from Winnipeg, who viewed Canada’s presentation,” he told Neville. “He called it exemplary. He went on to say in fact, it is better than any other country in the whole world.”

But it was not until another Conservative asked Gerry Ritz, the agriculture minister, about the pressing matter of poultry inspection that the government confidently asserted itself.

“I can assure the member,” Ritz said, “that this government will not introduce any program that does not meet due diligence and sound scientific facts.”

Hurray for that. Everyone and everything else might be a shambles. But no doubt our ability to scrutinize feathered livestock shall remain the envy of the Western world.

The Stats. Infrastructure, seven questions. Taxation, five questions. Employment, four questions. The environment, three questions. The aerospace industry, child care, nuclear safety, personal debt and food safety, two questions each. Supply management, government contracts, harbours, Sri Lanka, women’s rights, mining, veterans and Aboriginals, one question each.

Stephen Harper and Ted Menzies, six answers each. John Baird, five answers. Jim Prentice and Diane Finley, three answers each. Gerry Ritz, Chuck Strahl and Lisa Raitt, two answers each. Denis Lebel, Tony Clement, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Christian Paradis, Gail Shea, Josee Verner, Bev Oda, Gerald Keddy and Greg Thompson, one answer each.


The Commons: Stephen Harper requests your patience

  1. ROFL – LMAO : perfect I was waiting for just such stuff Stevie and Iggy zinging it back and forth. This is way better than Dion. What the heck is QP without some decent back and forth digs at each other. Thank God I don’t have to listen to Dion stand up rail and rant and well whatever he was doing half the time but the Igster … well this guy is another story – he just earned poltical cookie from me didn’t win the round but he got a point. Keep up the good work Iggy – I can’t wait to get home and watch CPAC I want to get the whole exchange as there are always some little goodies happening just off side of centre stage.

  2. “Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper were debating the state of the aerospace industry. Suffice it to say, the Liberal leader feels the Prime Minister isn’t doing enough”

    Christ on a pogo stick! Iggy is deluded if he thinks the PM, which really means taxpayers, isn’t doing enough about the aerospace industry. Four of the top five companies that receive corporate welfare are all in Quebec and all are connected to aerospace industry. Not sure what more we are supposed to do.

    Aaron, are our MPs getting better at questions/answers or are you just cherry picking the best exchanges? From your reports, it seems that MPs have indeed raised their game a bit since Dion got the heave-ho.

    • I don’t think there’s been a major aerospace company in the history of the industry that hasn’t relied on government support more often than not. Brazil, the US & the EU all subsidize aerospace. Brazil is probably Canada’s main competition in aerospace, & they have no problem subsidizing if it means jobs in their country.

      Canada’s aerospace has always been centered around Toronto & Montreal, probably due to Avro, De Havilland & Canadair, the latter two now owned by Bombardier. Smaller firms tend to cluster around larger ones in this type of industry.

      I’m not sure if this is so much a Quebec/rest of Canada issue as it is a keep-people-working-in-a-vote-rich-area issue.

      I more or less agree with you, minor quibbles aside.

      • I am not impressed with argument that says other countries subsidize their aerospace industry, so we have to as well. We just continue to throw good money after bad.

        And Iggy is pandering to Montreal/Quebec voters, plain and simple.

    • Make matters worse, the subsidies amount to an amount that is strangely near the dividend they payout.

      Yeech, it is just transferring money into well dressed pockets of extortionists, and we allow it.

  3. Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper were debating the state of the aerospace industry. Suffice it to say, the Liberal leader feels the Prime Minister isn’t doing enough…

    What, is Harper supposed to head over to Bombardier with his nail-gun and no safety goggles and start putting stuff together himself? The 6.8 gazillion over the last few years to our aerospace parasites have not been enough?

    • Pshaw!

    • Well, I sincerely hope they have enough to complete their assembly plant in Mexico.

  4. Good summary there Aaron, thanks – and for the record, I called Baird’s “that’s because there are so many Conservative ridings” rebuttal. I called it in my head, but still.

    • I know from personal experience that Alberta & Saskatchewan have a lot of crumbling infrastructure (outside of Ralph Goodale’s riding) as well as a lot of conservative seats. The Sask Party has been preparing a lot of infrastructure projects with various degrees of shovel-readiness. (After 20 years of Tory budgets from the provincial NDP, we finally get a NDP budget from the right-wingers). They’re to be paid for with provincial oil revenues, but federal money will speed things up. The main delay is finding qualified workers after decades of neglect. Calgary, Edmonton & Fort Mac all have a lot of projects ready if there is ever a level of government that is willing to pay for them.

      I’m kind of wondering if there is a correlation between how conservative an area votes and how willing it is to collect taxes to do public works. Sort of like the grasshopper & the ant.

      If I was a right-wing researchy type, I’d be wondering if Liberal strongholds have had more federal infrastructure spending over the years & don’t need as much spending now. (And if I was a LPC researchy type, I’d be looking at whether or not these strongholds have a large industrial tax base which needed this infrastructure spending to keep producing jobs & tax revenue to counter this argument.)

      Show me a government that doesn’t reward its ridings, and I’ll show you . . . Well, I’m not sure what there would be to show. Nothing, perhaps. As long as it doesn’t turn into outright punishment of ridings that didn’t vote for them, I’m relatively okay with it. Governments alternate, so ridings that get federal largesse should alternate.

      Of course, most of this infrastructure stuff is supposed to be provincial & municipal jurisdiction.

  5. More non answers from the government.

  6. Something tells me Iggy’s “36 years away” will be a common thread from the government side of the house.

    I wonder how long it will take for them to have a graphic of a shrugging Ignatieff with a world map behind him.

    • Well, that’s certainly juvenile enough for the Tin Hat brigade at CPC Digital Headquarters. Probably won’t be long.

      Do you think the advert will include a puffin or some racist remarks about hip-hop music and urban culture too?

      • Yeah, these guys are stupid enough to believe 36yrs OS Canada making a name for yrself as a writer, journalist and academic is an insult!

        • I get the reference (I’m waiting for the CPC to engage in cattle rustling any day now), but I suspect “Tin Foil Hat Brigade” might be more accurate. I’m welcoming you all to join my Tim’s Hat Brigade, because you see things better after a double-double. Gotta counter the effects of the latte-lovin’-‘lectuals. (Right next to the KKK on the Keyboard).

          It might take a while for them to find a map of the world. Would they know where to start looking? If they were capable of historical irony they could use one of those 80’s polar projection ones with the USSR in Liberal Red looking like it takes up half the world’s land mass.

  7. Fdr built a railway.
    Why not use coal emmissions to grow algae to subsidize affordable energy.

    • We have a “lake” next to downtown Regina that’s often shovel-ready where algae is concerned. It’s even partly not in a Conservative riding.

  8. Harper, who’s dictates and schemes were mapped out by Yanks Flanagan (not tommy) and Muttart; whose prose was the work of Crocodile Dundee, and who professed that before he was PM, he had barely been beyond our own borders. Of course, his economic degree from Calgary wouldn’t get him a job spray painting Bombarier hubcaps in Mexico City, so that may explain that.
    I think its a grand idea to signal disdain for Ignatieff’s accomplishments abroad. That should show everyone with an ounce of inspiration that lowered expectations aren’t just for the federal gov’t; it applies in your own home, too.

  9. I don’t see any particular improvement. There was not one direct question that demanded a precise answer – it all looks like the same old talking points and posturing. Non-questions will always get non-answers.

  10. Shorter NL: I don’t care how rich we get, Newfoundland & Labrador just wouldn’t be Newfoundland & Labrador if we don’t enshrine have-not status forever.

    Shorter NL, Bonus Edition: Equalization is all well and good, but when will you folks from Away realize that we are a little more equal than others, by jeesus.

  11. With regards to areospace, maybe the government should support high school programs such as aviation technology. Might call upon more people to study and become interested hence more research done in the future. I know for one the Aviation Technology program at St. Robert CHS has been sucessful and is well regarded.

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