Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is question period. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We livestream and liveblog all the action.
Conservatives and Liberals ran an audible and, for much of a jobs-obsessed question period, mostly laid off each other (here’s why, probably). A long line of New Democrats didn’t play so nice. They complained about the latest American company (Wrigley) to hatch a plan to lay off hundreds of Canadians (383) in an important place (Toronto). Tory ministers saw it all coming, and the fight was on. Some days, that fight is passive, or maybe passive aggressive, or occasionally even congenial. Today’s flavour: nakedly aggressive.
The NDP’s Peggy Nash observed that Target’s liquidation sale starts tomorrow, and 17,600 of its Canadian employees will soon be without jobs. She wanted a government jobs plan to impress her. Employment Minister Jason Kenney had none of it. “We’re all concerned for the employees of Target, but is the NDP suggesting that taxpayers should subsidize this failed American retail outlet in Canada? We don’t believe so.” Neutralized.
The NDP’s Mike Sullivan, a Toronto MP, blamed the Tories for the impending closure of Wrigley’s chewing gum plant. Industry Minister James Moore badmouthed social democrats who govern in Canada. “If you want to create a small business under an NDP government, it’s quite easy,” said Moore. “You start a large business, and you just wait.” Eep.
The Tory-NDP 45-minutes hate crested as Brian Masse, a New Democrat from Windsor, Ont., posed his second question to Jeff Watson, a Tory from nearby Essex, Ont. If the pair of southwestern Ontarians enjoys each other’s company outside of the Commons, it’d be a minor miracle. At issue was the long-unresolved question of who would pay for a customs plaza at a new crossing between Detroit and Windsor. Prime Minister Stephen Harper claimed in 2012 that the Americans would pay for their own plaza, but U.S. President Barack Obama offered no money for the project in his latest budget proposal. Vehicle tolls could cover the cost.
This afternoon, Masse quoted Watson’s former confidence that the Yanks would front the plaza bill and told him, not so politely, to eat his words. Watson replied that Masse never supports budgets that provide funding for the new bridge. Masse defended his voting record, arguing the budgets were bad for the country. Watson said voters would dump the New Democrat in the next election. Mercifully, the House eventually moved on.
But let’s celebrate that spirited attack on collegiality. Let’s immortalize the finger pointing and head-shaking. Let’s have Masse and Watson argue, in slow motion, in perpetuity. Have a beer together, gents.
NDP MP Brian Masse Tory MP Jeff Watson
Liberals don’t understand why Conservatives won’t more effectively watch the watchmen. “Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government refuses to introduce a robust system of parliamentary oversight to make sure that our security agencies are working properly,” said Dominic LeBlanc, in French, on Tuesday. “In fact, it even described this oversight as useless red tape, and yet all of our closest allies have such a system in place. Can the government explain why it considers this oversight to be wasteful, when our allies see it as an essential part of keeping people safe?”
One might naturally conclude that Liberals think a “robust system of parliamentary oversight” is an “essential part of keeping people safe.” Yesterday, Leader Justin Trudeau reserved his third question for the same issue. “Why has the government left parliamentary oversight out of its current anti-terror bill?” he asked, citing Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s past support for parliamentary oversight—but using softer language than LeBlanc a day before.
Today, Trudeau revealed that Liberals would support Bill C-51, the latest anti-terror bill, even if the legislation ignores more oversight. He said the bill is what Canadians want, and he’s loath to see their protection punted around as a “political football.” Then, he dangled a carrot in front of the country: “We have committed to bringing in robust oversight and appropriate review if we have the honour of forming government in the next election.”
For now, most of Parliament seems content to swallow hard and trust that the country’s spies aren’t reaching too far into the rest of our lives.