The Scene. “Mr. Speaker, this spring we saw the Conservatives abandon the very principles they claim they came to Ottawa to defend,” Thomas Mulcair declared this afternoon. “Ramming through their Trojan Horse budget bill.”
“Wrong!” called Conservative MP Jeff Watson.
“Gutting their own Federal Accountability Act,” Mr. Mulcair continued.
“Wrong!” chirped Watson.
“Treating their backbench MPs like a rubber stamp,” Mr. Mulcair went on.
“Double wrong!” Watson cried.
“Using closure a record number of times,” Mr. Mulcair proceeded to general grumbling and mumbling from the government side, “electoral fraud, slush funds and, of course, ministers travelling the world staying in luxury hotels and taking $23,000 limo rides on the taxpayers’ dime.”
On all of this the leader of the opposition had two questions. “How can a former member of the Reform Party defend this behaviour?” he asked. “This summer, will the Prime Minister just shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic or will he get his Conservative cabinet under control?”
This being the last Question Period for nearly three months, it was now Mr. Harper’s turn to impart best wishes for the summer ahead.
“Mr. Speaker, we just had one of the most legislatively productive periods,” he proclaimed, “and the NDP members, by deciding they will oppose everything and filibuster everything, have proven themselves to be the least influential opposition in terms of legislative agenda in the history of this Parliament.”
Now he thrust his left fist in his pants pocket and his right fist began to bounce up and down assuredly. “Canadians elected us to focus on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity,” Mr. Harper explained. “That is what we are doing. That is why the Canadian economy continues to have superior performance.”
The Conservatives lept up to cheer their man. “More! More!” they called. Peter Van Loan looked positively giddy.
The last day of any sitting is tradition-bound: the proclaiming of great achievements, the airing of dire grievances, the feats of rhetorical strength. The New Democrats have many complaints: the questions of ethics and spending, the limiting of debate, the cutting and the changing of this and that, the “disdain for parliamentary institutions” and the “environmental, economic and social debt” that is being accumulated. The Conservatives hum their mantra: jobs, growth and prosperity.
It seems at this point to be something of a tie, with so much still to fight for regardless of today’s desire for summation.
“In the interest of taxpayers,” Rona Ambrose offered this afternoon of the fighter jet procurement, “we will not move forward with a purchase of any new aircraft until we have received the conclusions of the secretariat.”
“Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have had over six years,” protested the NDP’s Matthew Kellway. “The CF-18s need to be replaced, but they just cannot get the job done.”
He proceeded to playact the drama. “ ’It’s the best plane in the world.’ ‘No, it’s just a developmental project.’ ‘The AG is right.’ ‘No, the AG is wrong.’ ‘We haven’t spent any money, except for the $700 million.’ ‘That minster is in charge.’ ‘No, it’s the other guy.’ ‘No, now it’s this minister in charge.’ ”
He gestured in succession to Julian Fantino, Peter MacKay and Ms. Ambrose.
“Why have the Conservatives turned defence into an Abbott and Costello sketch?” he chided. “Who is on first?”
Mr. Kellway’s fellow New Democrats were delighted with this and stood to cheer.
Up came Mr. MacKay to declare his disappointment. “Mr. Speaker,” he scolded, “I can say who is not supporting the military and it is that member and his party.”
“Ahhh,” mocked the New Democrats.
“What we get is claptrap and insults,” he continued. “The member from Winnipeg referred to war toys. However, C-17s brought compassionate aid to Haiti. Those are not war toys. There has been a lot of work that has been done in Afghanistan to protect those men and women’s lives who are doing so much for Canada. That is an insult to our soldiers.”
The Conservatives stood to cheer this.
“Mr. Speaker, I thought that minister was on the bench,” Mr. Kellway shot back.
There was much grumbling and complaining from the government side.
“Mr. Speaker, instead of turning this important project into a comedy of errors, the Conservatives could have just committed to an open and transparent competitive process,” Mr. Kellway continued.”That would have guaranteed the best plane for the best price with the best benefits to our economy. Instead, we get more of this ducking and diving with no answers to some very simple questions. When will the comedy team get the hook? When will the Conservatives get a new act together to replace the CF-18s?”
The Defence Minister stood and, jabbing the air with his finger, assuredly launched into a sermon. “Mr. Speaker, rather than respond to this comedy routine, I want to remind the member opposite and members of his party that this government believes strongly in investment for the Canadian Forces, giving them the protective equipment they need to do the important work at home and abroad and investment for the Canadian economy,” he pronounced, apparently feeling that this dispute was a matter of memory.
“I am extremely proud of the work of the Canadian Forces,” Mr. MacKay proclaimed. “I am proud to be part of a government that has brought the Canadian Forces out of decade of darkness under the previous Liberal government to a decade of delivery under a caring, compassionate, Conservative government.”
The Conservatives stood again to applaud. A few moments later, with everyone back in their seats, Bal Gosal leaned forward and gave Mr. MacKay a pat on the back.
Mr. Mulcair had opened QP with a request that Mr. Harper replace Mr. MacKay as Defence Minister. And amid much speculation of a shuffle, it is variously said that Mr. MacKay might be in line for a new assignment. If this was his last display as Defence Minister, he departs on a typically self-confident note. But if he is not responsible for this file in the fall, the official opposition will not doubt try to claim some degree of influence.
The Stats. Aboriginal affairs, eight questions. Military procurement, six questions. The government, three questions. Mortgages, the environment, employment, ethics and national parks, two questions each, Bilingualism, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the coast guard, crime, Internet access, the military, sealing, Multiple Sclerosis, science, Old Age Security and Quebec, one question each.
John Duncan, seven responses. Stephen Harper, six responses. Michelle Rempel and Christian Paradis, four responses each. Rona Ambrose, Peter MacKay and Diane Finley, three responses each. Pierre-Luc Dusseault, two responses. Tony Clement, Keith Ashfield, Jason Kenney, Peter Penashue, Colin Carrie and Gary Goodyear, one response each.