Question Period’s 10 best moments in 2013

From water theft to military funding to Arrested Development, we recap the highlights


 

You don’t normally look to Question Period, the daily yelling match in the House of Commons, if you want to see politicians at their best. Sometimes, they fumble around. Other times, they look nervous or angry or silly or bored. Occasionally, they look sharp. We recall 10 moments from the past six months that draw on the emotional range of our duly elected federal representatives. Enjoy.


10. Conservatives talk about Americans stealing Canadian water

 

Lobbed questions from the government backbenches are a QP staple. Conservative MP Larry Miller hoped the government will support his private member’s bill, C-383, the Transboundary Waters Protection Act. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird happily confirmed the government’s support. Miller’s question, unremarkable as it was, received an ovation from his colleagues. In his response, Baird openly joked about the softball of a question—not one of QP’s more decisive moments, but a reflection of the absurdity that sometimes consumes the chamber.


9. Keith Ashfield stands by “wonderful wife” remarks

 

NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie wouldn’t let Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield off the hook for remarks he made in New Brunswick, while promoting Budget 2013. Standing with an east-coast family, Ashfield had told one of the family’s daughters, Grace Moreno, that she’d “make a wonderful wife for somebody.” Leslie and others took exception to the remarks, while Ashfield—who claimed the remark was based on Moreno’s hospitality, and nothing else—said the criticism was out of context.

In QP, Leslie hammered away at Ashfield during QP. Ashfield replied that the issue had been dealt with, and retreated to talking points touting the government’s budget. Watch Conservative MP Michelle Rempel’s reaction to Ashfield’s remarks.


8. Tom Mulcair invokes Arrested Development

 

For the third Question Period in a row, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair pursued Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s contention that $3.1 billion in anti-terror funding had gone unaccounted for. Mulcair made a naked appeal to the Arrested Development crowd in his opening salvo aimed squarely at Prime Minister Stephen Harper.


7. When QP produced a real answer on veterans’ affairs

 

The NDP’s veterans affairs critic, Peter Stoffer, is known for giving his Conservative colleagues advance notice of a question he’ll pose during Question Period. He asked Heritage Minister James Moore about privacy concerns raised by a veteran. And then, in a genuine QP rarity, Moore stood and provided a real answer to the question.


6. Justin Trudeau pays for a verbal slip

 

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Heritage Minister James Moore spat questions and answers at each other to lead off Question Period. As Mulcair stood to ask his third question, the Conservative benches howled their disapproval. Speaker Andrew Scheer called for order. Someone called out pirate noises.

Finally, order returned. And then Scheer mistakenly called on Moore to answer the question—only Mulcair hadn’t asked it yet. A sheepish grin later, Scheer blamed the time of year for his slip.

With that silliness as a backdrop, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau rose to ask his first question of the day. He, like Scheer, slipped up. He accused the government of leaving questions “answered”—not, um, unanswered, which he eventually blurted out. The government side didn’t give him an inch. Howling ensued.


5. Stephen Harper’s stumbling response to Justin Trudeau

 

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, then the leading candidate to become his party’s leader, stood in the House and asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper about EI reform. The prime minister responded by stumbling over Trudeau’s title, twice referring to him—before he caught himself both times—as “Minister.” A rare slip up by Harper during QP.


4. Nathan Cullen and Peter MacKay taunt each other on military funding

 

Earlier in Question Period, NDP MP Jack Harris had questioned Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s voting record on various defence spending—namely, that he voted against millions of dollars for various military initiatives when the Conservatives sat in opposition. MacKay dismissed the question.

Later on, NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen stood and listed the various programs MacKay didn’t support in the 2004 budget, when the Liberals were in power. MacKay shot back that the military’s never been better funded than during the Conservatives’ reign. Cullen stood again and listed yet more things MacKay voted against. In his final response, the defence minister mistakenly referred to the NDP “government,” a slip the NDP was happy to applaud on their feet.


3. Brent Rathgeber asks a question

 

None of the major party leaders was in Question Period, and the various verbal bickering that day was mostly reduced to a repeat of past sessions. From the opposition came a few jabs about the Wright-Duffy affair, the arrest of Saulie Zajdel, and the Canada Job Grant. From the government, largely via Heritage Minister James Moore, came retorts about NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s driving habits, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s speaking talents, and various accusations levelled at Liberal—and formerly Liberal—senators.

And then, newly independent MP Brent Rathgeber stood to ask a question. The man who represents Edmonton-St. Albert, from the far corner of the House, motored through a question about why the government moved so aggressively to reform its temporary foreign workers program—not a top-of-mind issue since the Senate expenses scandal, and all its various moving parts, broke. But important to Rathgeber, who says the TFW program is essential to Alberta’s economic prosperity.

The NDP benches whooped, and they stood to applaud.

Kellie Leitch, the parliamentary secretary to the human resources minister, responded. She fell back on her boilerplate defence of government reform to the TFW program, and then went after the opposition for not supporting it. Meanwhile, Rathgeber listened from his corner.


2. Tom Mulcair and Stephen Harper face off on the Senate crisis

 

“On what date and at what time was the prime minister informed that Nigel Wright has made a payment to Conservative Senator Mike Duffy?”

With no preamble, not even a “Mr. Speaker” to preface his question, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair posed his first question of the day to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He asked the first 16 questions for the NDP side, and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau posed the first six Liberal questions. As far as these things go, Question Period was compelling. Mulcair spared preambles to all but a couple of his questions, and kept Harper on his feet much longer than normal.


1. When Pat Martin asked about the Zombie Apocalypse

 

Winnipeg MP Pat Martin asked Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird about ongoing preparations for the Zombie Apocalypse. Enough said.


 

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